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How to Remove Mold and Mildew

Three Methods:Attacking Mold BasicsUsing Different Cleaning SolutionsCleaning Less Common Surfaces and Materials

Mold and mildew can be tricky wherever you happen to live. Sometimes you see them, sometimes you don't. Sometimes they're black, sometimes they're white. Although you can buy products to combat mold, there are common household products likely to be in your home already that will do just as good of a job, if not better.

Method 1
Attacking Mold Basics

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    Know that mold is essentially caused by moisture. Mold is a moisture problem. If you clean up your mold but don't solve your moisture problem, you're just inviting mold to come back at a later date. Clean and dry water-logged or water-damaged areas within 24 hours to prevent mold from growing.[1]
    • Mold often presents itself in bathrooms (because of showers) and kitchens (because of sinks). Be sure to wipe away excess water on your sink and open windows in a bathroom after showering.
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    Call a professional if the mold growth is over 10 square feet. If you're dealing with some serious mold — over 10 square feet worth — it's best to call a professional for removal and cleanup.[2] Professionals will be able to use highly-effective cleaning agents and will have the proper protection against spore inhalation.
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    Consider throwing away absorbent or porous materials. Absorbent or porous materials, such as drywall or ceiling tiles, may need to be discarded if the mold damage is severe enough. Because mold can fill the tiny cracks and pores of these materials, it may be difficult to remove the mold completely. Cleaning, in this instance, will only temporarily inhibit mold growth; unless you remove the surface from your home completely, mold will keep coming back.
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    Don't paint over or caulk a moldy surface. This is a band-aid treatment, and an ineffective one at that. Surfaces such as walls or tiles that have been painted or caulked over won't take paint or caulk very well; paint or caulk will simply peel off because it doesn't have a clean surface to adhere to.
    • Make sure you clean and disinfect a moldy area completely before painting or caulking. Wipe away excess moisture and wait a day or two before painting of caulking, just to be sure.
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    Wear proper gear when cleaning. Because mold contains spores, which are air-borne particles, it's very important to wear proper protection when cleaning moldy surfaces. In most cases, mold is harmless, but there are many different types of mold, some of which can become a health hazard in intense cases. Be sure to wear:
    • An N-95 respirator. These are available at hardware stores across the country for relatively cheap.
    • Goggles, to protect your eyes from spore interaction.
    • Gloves.

Method 2
Using Different Cleaning Solutions

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    Try a mixture of bleach and warm water. Mix one cup of bleach for every gallon of warm water.[3] Grab a medium-bristled brush, dip it in the bleach solution, and attack the mold or mildew stain. Be sure to dry the surface off as much as possible, as moisture promotes mold and mildew growth.
    • For harder-to-reach places, put the bleach solution in small spray bottle first. Apply the bleach solution directly to the mold or mildew by spraying. Then attack with the brush as normal.
    • This solution is best used mold or mildew present in bathrooms, kitchens, and other household rooms with tiles or non-porous surfaces.
    • Bleach is very effective at killing mold and mold spores. The active ingredient in bleach, sodium hypochlorite, is also the main ingredient in many mold-removal products.
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    Use vinegar. Pour undiluted white or apple cider vinegar into a spray bottle. Spray the moldy surface with the vinegar and wash affected area thoroughly with a brush. Dry area completely.
    • Use the vinegar solution only on non-porous surfaces such as tiles — not on wood.
    • Unlike bleach, vinegar is non-toxic and does not give off heady fumes. A mild acid, vinegar is said to be about 80% effective at destroying mold, mildew, and their respective particles.
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    Use a borax solution to kill and inhibit mold growth. Mix about one cup borax for every gallon of warm water. Dip a brush into the borax solution and attack any mold growths vigorously. Wipe away excess borax and water with a clean rag.
    • Use borax only on non-porous surfaces. Tiled bathrooms and kitchens take borax better than wood surfaces do.
    • Although borax is toxic if ingested, it is a natural cleaning product that doesn't give off fumes and shouldn't contain additional chemicals. It is effective at both killing existing mold and preventing future mold growth.
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    Make good use of ammonia. First, make sure the product you use says "clear ammonia." Next, mix one part clear ammonia with one part water and pour into a small spray bottle. Hit moldy and mildewy surfaces with the ammonia solution, scrubbing away. Wipe away excess ammonia with a clean towel afterwards.
    • Make sure you never mix ammonia and bleach. Ammonia and bleach, when mixed, create a toxic chemical called chlorine gas.[4] It is harmful if ingested, even by fume.
    • For extra-tough mold or mildew stains, spray the surface with ammonia and let stand for several hours before scrubbing and wiping away.
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    Try using baking soda, either in a paste or by itself. Baking soda is both mild — meaning it's safe for your entire family and pets — and effective. It is renowned as a gentle household cleaner and helps deodorize (no wonder it's used as a deodorant). It can be used in two basic ways:
    • Mixed with water and vinegar. Apply two tablespoons of baking soda to eight ounces of water and mix thoroughly. Pour into spray bottle and attack moldy surface, such as bathroom tiles. Take another spray bottle filled with vinegar and spray over the same surface. (This should create a chemical reaction creates carbon dioxide.) Vinegar is often used along with baking soda because it kills a different species of mold.
    • Apply baking soda directly to moldy surfaces. This works especially well on porous surfaces such as wooden furniture or drywall. Allow the sodium bicarbonate to penetrate the damp surface and then wipe away.
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    Make use of hydrogen peroxide. Find a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution and add undiluted to a spray bottle. Spray the moldy surface with the hydrogen peroxide, let wait for at least 10 minutes, and then scrub off.[5] Wipe away excess moisture to prevent mold from resurfacing.
    • Hydrogen peroxide is a great alternative to bleach and other stronger cleaning solutions that give off heavy fumes and happen to be toxic. Hydrogen peroxide is also effective at removing stains caused by mold infestations.
    • Hydrogen peroxide can be used on a variety of surfaces. It can safely be used on clothes, floors, fixtures, walls, and even appliances. Just make sure to spot-test any areas before attacking them at scale, as peroxide can bleach clothing and other surfaces.

Method 3
Cleaning Less Common Surfaces and Materials

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    Clean mold or mildew from clothing. Use a brush to scrub off as much of the mold as possible. Make sure you do this outside so that you do not spread the mold to other parts of your house. Next, wash the clothing. (If desired, soak it in a bleach or stain-removal solution first. Dry the clothing in the sun.
    • If your clothing is not washable, take it to the dry cleaners and show them the stain. Ask them if they can't remove the mold or mildew.
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    Clean mold or mildew from leather. Use a brush to scrub off as much of the mold as possible. Again, make sure to do this outside. Dip a cloth in a mixture of one cup water and one cup denatured alcohol. Rub the affected areas with the cloth. Allow to dry fully.
    • Alternately, in lieu of denatured alcohol, you can use saddle soap.
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    Removing mold and mildew from books and paper. Make sure that the affected object is completely dry. If it is not, put it in a well ventilated area and let it dry. Take the object outside and use a dry cloth to wipe off as much mold/mildew as possible. Dip the cloth in a soap solution (regular dish soap will do fine). Wring it out as much as possible. Use said cloth to wipe off the rest of the spots. Rinse the soap off with water and set the object to dry.
    • If soapy water is not effective, try using a mixture of bleach or vinegar and water.
    • If there are multiple pages, be sure to spread them apart so that they do not stick together. It is a good idea to put the book or paper by a fan to speed up the drying process. To further ensure that the pages to not stick together, sprinkle some corn starch between each page while the book/paper is drying. Brush the cornstarch away once it is dry.


  • Using vinegar instead of bleach will kill the mold and is much better for the environment and you. You can use vinegar at higher strengths than bleach because it won't give you headaches or kill you, your children, or your pets. Just don't use both at the same time (see warning below).
  • If the mold or mildew is stubborn, you can add another 1/2 cup of bleach or vinegar to your mixture.
  • You can also spray the tile and mold with Shout. Let it sit until it wipes off easily with a towel or rag, and rinse with water.
  • For bathroom mildew odors, use stopper or restrictor valve in shower drain ("Mildont" is one trade name).
  • In Hawaii, there are serious mold problems and most people use Jomax and Bleach to wash their houses, driveways, etc.


  • Make sure you cover any items you do not want bleach stains on!
  • Make sure you do not mix the bleach and the vinegar together! It makes a fatal gas. Use one or the other, but not both together.

Things You'll Need

  • Everyday household detergent
  • Water
  • Gloves
  • Mask
  • Goggles

Article Info

Categories: Indoor Air Improvement