How to Get Rid of Mold From 8 Common Surfaces

Places in your house where mold can lurk

before and after of mold remover

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 1 - 2 hrs
  • Total Time: 2 - 8 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Mold spores are everywhere around us, in every type of climate. Mold is a fungus and some mold types are extremely beneficial to mankind (think of penicillin), while others can be quite dangerous. Though it's impossible to get rid of all mold forever since it's always in the air, you can control and remove mold yourself in most instances by using a little elbow grease. Read on to learn how to get rid of mold on just about any item in your home.

Dangerous Mold vs. Mildew

The most common type of mold found in homes is mildew. Mildew is a surface mold that grows in warm, damp places like your bathroom and on fabrics and books stored in damp basements. Mildew begins as a gray or white powdery colony. It will turn black or brown if not removed promptly and often looks like soil accumulation. To test if the surface is covered with mildew or just dirt, dab the stain with a cotton swab dipped in household chlorine bleach. If the stain lightens or disappears after two or three minutes, it's mildew. If not, it's probably just dirt.

If you detect a musty smell anywhere in your home, then you have a high concentration of mold. It can be coming from a hamper filled with damp towels, from a damp crawlspace under your home, or from carpets that have mold growing in the padding. If you smell that odor, it's definitely time to take action to get rid of the problem.

All mildew is mold, but not all molds are mildew. Mildew can discolor and slowly harm surfaces but there are much more dangerous molds that can damage the structure of your home. If you see a black or green mold that is fuzzy or slimy and the drywall or wood underneath is soft or crumbly, there is irreversible rot, and the mold and the damaged surfaces must be removed immediately. 

Products That Kill Mold

  • Chlorine bleach: Sodium hypochlorite or regular household bleach works best to destroy mold and remove any discoloration. It is quite harsh and should be diluted before use.

Warning

When working with bleach, use caution to avoid the inhalation of dangerous fumes. Bleach should never be combined with ammonia.

  • Hydrogen peroxide: Less harsh than chlorine bleach, hydrogen peroxide (3% to 10% solution) will kill mold and lighten stains. While it does have a bleaching effect, it works more slowly than chlorine bleach but has no fumes or residue.
  • Distilled white vinegar: Vinegar is acidic and slowly breaks down the structure of mold and kills it. Vinegar is relatively gentle, but mold stains may remain and additional scrubbing with a household cleaner may be needed. 
  • Baking soda and borax: Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and borax each have a high pH that inhibits the growth and survival of mold. Both products are inexpensive, non-toxic, and easy to mix with water. Borax will work better than baking soda for removing any lingering stains, but it is not as effective as a stronger cleaning product.
  • Rubbing alcohol: Rubbing alcohol may not be as strong as other ingredients to kill mold. But when it is diluted with water in equal parts, rubbing alcohol cleans surfaces without any damage and can help to inhibit the growth of mold and mildew on fabric, leather, and paper.

When using any of these products, do not rinse away the cleaning solution completely. Leaving a bit of the cleaner will help inhibit future mold growth.

Safety Considerations

Brushing or shaking items when cleaning them can potentially aerosolize mold spores. Always wear PPE (personal protective equipment) when working with mold. PPE includes the following items:

  • Safety glasses
  • Gloves
  • Protective clothing
  • Respirator (or at least a face mask)

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

Fabric

  • Hard-bristle brush
  • Soft-bristle brush
  • Washing machine
  • Bucket or utility sink

Leather

  • Soft-bristle brush

Books and Papers

  • Container with lid

Appliances

  • Funnel

Tile and Grout

  • Bucket
  • Measuring cup
  • Hard-bristle brush

Carpet

  • Utility knife
  • Spray bottle
  • Scissors
  • Wet/dry vac

Interior Walls

  • Bucket

Exterior Surfaces

  • Bucket
  • Measuring cup
  • Hard-bristle brush
  • Soft-bristle brush
  • Power washer (optional)
  • Garden sprayer attachment (optional)
  • Garden hose

Materials

Fabric

  • Laundry disinfectant
  • Oxygen bleach

Leather

  • Distilled white vinegar or rubbing alcohol
  • Leather soap or Fels Naptha Soap
  • Soft cloth
  • Leather conditioner

Books and Papers

  • Silica gel or cornstarch
  • Soft paintbrush or cloth
  • 1 to 2 rolls waxed paper (depends on size of book)
  • Hydrogen peroxide

Appliances

  • Chlorine bleach
  • Hydrogen peroxide (optional)
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Soft clean rags or paper towels
  • Paper towels

Tile and Grout

  • Chlorine bleach
  • Old towels

Carpet

  • Contractor's heavy-duty garbage bags or heavy plastic sheets
  • 1 roll duct tape

Interior Walls

  • Liquid dishwashing detergent
  • Chlorine bleach
  • Soft, non-abrasive sponges
  • Contractor's heavy-duty garbage bags

Exterior Surfaces

  • Chlorine bleach
  • Sponges

Instructions

How to Remove Mold From Fabric

If your home has been flooded and mold and bacteria have been left to grow for many days, it may be impossible to salvage fabric items. However, if mildew has developed due to dampness and is caught early, it can easily be removed from most fabrics.

  1. Brush Away Mold

    Begin by taking the items outside. Brush away as much surface mold as possible to prevent spreading the mold spores inside your home.

  2. Wash Item

    If the fabric is washable, use the hottest water recommended on the care label and add a laundry disinfectant product in with your regular detergent.

    Warning

    For fabrics that are dry clean only, brush away the mildew outside and then head to a professional cleaner. Identify and point out the stains; most fabrics can be successfully restored.

  3. Soak Item in Oxygen Bleach

    If stains remain, create a solution of oxygen bleach and water in a bucket or utility sink and allow the clothes to soak for at least eight hours. Oxygen bleach can be used safely on any washable fabric.

How to Remove Mold From Leather

Investigate your leather items throughout the year to see if they need to be cleaned of mold. If you find mold on leather clothes, shoes, or accessories, check the storage area or containers where your items were located. Those containers will need to be either tossed or treated for mold.

  1. Bring Item Outdoors

    Mold on leather coats, shoes, purses, and furniture should be removed outdoors, if possible.

  2. Brush Spores

    Use a soft-bristle brush to brush away the loose spores on the leather item.

  3. Wipe

    Wipe down the surface with a cloth or rag dipped in distilled white vinegar or rubbing alcohol.

  4. Wipe With Soap

    Finish with a good bar of leather soap and warm water. Alternatively, use Fels-Naptha soap on your leather.

  5. Dry Thoroughly

    Dry the surface with a soft cloth. Allow the item to air-dry completely.

  6. Condition

    Once completely dry, treat the item with a leather conditioner.

How to Remove Mold From Books and Papers

Mold will eventually destroy paper, but mold can be removed from books and paper. For expensive books and historically significant papers, consult a professional curator.

  1. Dry the Item

    Never try to treat damp paper. The mold will smear and become nearly impossible to remove. Allow the paper in books to air-dry thoroughly in the sun. Alternatively, place it in a sealed container with moisture-absorbent material like silica gel or cornstarch sprinkled between the pages.

  2. Brush Away Mold

    When the book is dry, head outside and use a soft paintbrush or cloth to gently brush away the mildew from the cover and each page.

  3. Insert Waxed Paper

    With scissors, cut to size waxed paper the same size as a page. Slide a sheet of waxed paper under each page to protect the page behind it.

  4. Wipe Pages

    Slightly dampen a clean, soft cloth with hydrogen peroxide and gently wipe down each page, allowing it to air dry completely before moving to the next page.

How to Remove Mold From Household Appliances

Appliances like washers, refrigerators, and coffee makers that combine moisture, heat, or food to feed mold need frequent cleaning.

  1. Cycle Chlorine in the Washer

    Clean a washer by adding a cup of chlorine bleach (or hydrogen peroxide, but do not mix these two ingredients) into the washer drum. Run a hot water cycle without any clothing.

    Tip

    Run a cycle of chlorine bleach or hydrogen peroxide (not both) in your washer once a month to keep mold at bay.

  2. Clean the Washer's Door Seal

    Inspect every nook and cranny of front-load washer door seals to be sure no mold is growing that can leave clothes smelling moldy. 

    Run a cloth dampened with white vinegar around the door seals and gaskets.

    Dry the seal and gasket with a dry towel when you are done.

  3. Wipe Down the Refrigerator

    When cleaning your refrigerator, you may find mold in hidden areas like produce drawers or drip pans.

    Use a rag or paper towels to wipe the inside of your refrigerator and freezer with distilled white vinegar to eliminate and inhibit mold growth.

    Wipe vinegar on the rubber door rims, seals, and gaskets, as well.

  4. Clean Out Coffee Maker

    The moist interior of a coffee maker is prime real estate for mold and mildew growth. Clean the coffee maker by using a funnel and pouring white vinegar into the maximum fill line of the water tank. Run a cycle with the vinegar (no coffee). Repeat if you spot a lot of mold or mildew at the top of the tank.

    Run one to two cycles of plain water to rinse the vinegar from the coffee maker.

How to Remove Mold From Tile and Grout

Bathroom humidity and body soil on surfaces create the perfect environment for mold growth. There are plenty of commercial cleaners that you can buy, but chlorine bleach and water are just as effective and much less expensive. While cleaning your bathroom's tile and grout, check above to see if there's a need to remove mold on the bathroom ceiling, especially in the shower stall area.

  1. Mix Bleach Solution

    Simply mix one part bleach to 16 parts water (1 cup of bleach to 1 gallon of water)

  2. Apply

    With rags and a brush, apply a liberal amount of the mixture to the mold-affected areas.

  3. Soak

    Allow the solution to remain on the moldy area for at least 15 minutes before scrubbing or treating a second time.

  4. Rinse

    Rinse with water and wipe dry, keeping windows open until fully dry.

How to Remove Mold From Carpet

Carpet with mold or a musty smell should be removed completely and replaced with new flooring or carpet.

  1. Cut and Remove Carpet

    Use your utility knife to cut the carpet and pad into small sections.

    Warning

    It's especially important to wear a respirator when handing carpet and padding to protect yourself from inhaling spores, loose carpet fibers, and other microorganisms embedded in the material.

  2. Mist Area

    Add water to the spray bottle. Lightly mist the materials and under-flooring with the water to help prevent the spread of airborne mold spores.

  3. Dispose of Carpet

    Place carpet and pad remnants in contractor garbage bags and close with duct tape for disposal. Or, wrap the carpet in heavy plastic secured with duct tape.

  4. Vacuum

    Use a wet/dry vacuum to thoroughly clean the area and allow to air-dry for several days before replacing flooring.

How to Remove Mold From Interior Walls

If the mold is fuzzy and black, it may be much worse than just unsightly. The area should be opened to check for structural damage. It's vitally important to wear safety glasses and respiratory protection when working with any mold, but especially black mold.

  1. Mix Solution

    To clean off mold from porous surfaces like wood and drywall, a detergent should be added to a bleach and water solution to help it adhere. In a bucket, mix 1 part dishwashing detergent, 10 parts bleach, and 20 parts water.

  2. Apply

    Apply the mixture with a sponge, trying not to over-saturate the surfaces.

  3. Dry

    Do not rinse away the mixture. Allow the solution to air-dry thoroughly before making any needed repairs.

  4. Dispose of Materials

    All building materials should be bagged in heavy-duty plastic bags and disposed of properly.

How to Remove Mold From Exterior Home Surfaces

Chlorine bleach is quite effective in cleaning all types of house siding, concrete, brick, and stone, but be cautious. Always wear safety glasses, gloves, protective clothing, and a respirator. The bleach solution will cause color loss on any type of fabric. Bleach is also harmful to plants and lawns. Be sure to cover any vulnerable plants with heavy plastic sheeting.

  1. Mix Solution

    In a bucket, mix 1 cup of chlorine bleach with 1 gallon of water.

  2. Apply

    Use a garden sprayer or power washer to apply the solution to the moldy surface. For smaller surfaces, scrub by hand with an abrasive sponge or brush (soft- or hard-bristle brush depending on the surface).

  3. Apply More Water

    Wet the moldy areas with plain water using a garden hose or by hand, then the bleach and water solution, and allow it to work for several minutes.

  4. Scrub

    If the mold lightens, move to another area. If stains remain, scrub the area and then reapply more bleach and water solution.

  5. Dry

    Allow to air-dry completely.

  6. Rinse Surrounding Area

    Rinse down nearby planted areas with plain water to dilute any solution that may have splashed onto the plantings.

When to Call a Professional

If mildew infestation is caught early, you can easily handle it with household cleaners. But for extensive mold problems, consider hiring a professional. The rule of thumb is if the mold covers 10 or more square feet, call in a professional. Removing large mold colonies requires exposure to heavy-duty chemicals and proper disposal of infested building materials. Local public health departments can offer advice on mold testing and refer you to an expert mold remover.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. What is Mold? US EPA.

  2. Mold Course Chapter 1. Environmental Protection Agency.

  3. How to Prevent and Remove Mildew. University of Missouri Extension.

  4. How to prevent and remove mildew — home methods. University of Missouri Extension.

  5. Dry Wood Framing in Flooded Homes before Rebuilding. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

  6. Mold Cleanup in Your Home. Environmental Protection Agency.