No More Spores: How to Get Rid of Mold
Finding mold in the house, or hearing that your tenants found mold, is always a dreaded moment. Not only is it unsightly and disturbing, but it can pose health risks and damage your real estate property when left untreated. It also can be the sign of bigger issues; always deal with mold right away.
Although most kinds of mold are relatively harmless, some types of mold are more dangerous than others. Here are some of the most common kinds of mold found in residential property:
- Aspergillus: There are many different species of aspergillus. It mostly appears black or dark green, but it can be various other colors as well. It often forms thick layers on walls, featuring long flask-shaped spores. These kinds of mold can cause allergic reactions or respiratory issues. In rare cases, such as individuals with mold sensitivity, it can cause more serious health issues.
- Alternaria: This mold often appears dark green or brown and has a velvety texture. It is most commonly found in moist places like showers; the presence of Alternaria can indicate nearby water damage. It spreads quickly and can cause asthma symptoms.
- Stachybotrys: This is known as the dreaded ‘black mold’. It appears slimy and is a black or dark green color. Black mold will grow in places that are humid and damp for many weeks at a time. It is very toxic and can cause serious health issues, especially with prolonged exposure. Always call a professional immediately if you see this type of mold on your rental property.
- Cladosporium: This mold appears as small black or green “peppery” dots. It is often found on fabrics and can cause respiratory problems or allergic reactions.
In most cases, you can remove mold yourself, but it’s important to do it properly. Depending on where the mold is, you should have a professional come in to do a mold test to ensure the mold isn’t spreading in unseen places like behind wallpaper or in the air vents. The EPA recommends hiring a professional to clean the mold if it occupies an area larger than 10 square feet.
Getting Rid of Mold
Before you start treating mold, it’s essential to address the underlying cause. Mold needs food and moisture to grow. It will eat a variety of household materials like wood, particle board, gypsum, and organic fabrics. If you find mold in places that are normally wet, like in a shower or bathtub, then there probably isn’t a maintenance issue causing it. In these cases, you can simply be aware of moist spaces and do your best to keep them dry. Always turn on a fan in the bathroom when you shower and be wary of where you place plant holders.
If you find mold on the walls or in any place that shouldn’t be wet, this could be an indication of a leak or even water damage. You have to address that issue before removing the mold, otherwise it will just grow back, and your property’s structural integrity could be at risk.
If you’re ready to get at it, always don the proper protective gear. Wear long sleeves and pants, gloves, an N95 mask, and goggles. You don’t want to inhale any mold spores, so it’s important to limit your exposure to the mold as much as possible. Additionally, you don’t really want to be in contact with strong cleaning chemicals.
Cleaning Products and Solutions to Kill Mold and Remove Stains
There are a variety of cleaning products you can use to kill mold. Typically, any cleaner specifically designed to target mold will do the trick. But you can also use:
- A bleach solution: Mix about a cup of bleach in a gallon of water, or any mixture of about 1 part bleach to 15 parts water.
- White vinegar and hydrogen peroxide: A 50/50 solution of vinegar and peroxide kills mold excellently and is more natural than bleach, but may not be as strong of a stain remover.
- Baking soda and borax: These high-pH substances inhibit the growth of mold and can be easily mixed with water to create a cleaning solution. Borax can also be an effective stain remover.
For cleaning hard surfaces like bathroom tile or painted walls, simply apply bleach solution (or other cleaning solution) with a rag and let it sit for about 15 minutes. Then rinse it with water and wipe it dry. Be sure to air out the room you’re cleaning in.
For porous surfaces like drywall and wood, the mold can actually grow in thick layers. First use a vacuum or soft bristled brush to remove any mold spores. Then apply the bleach solution using a spray bottle or rag, covering the area completely but not oversaturating. Add dishwasher detergent to the bleach solution to help it adhere. Do not rinse or remove the cleaner, simply let it soak in. If this isn’t effective, wood can be sanded down until all the mold is removed. Drywall is more fragile; it’s important to not get it too wet or scrub too hard. In fact, it’s often easier to just replace the moldy drywall than clean it, and if it’s already soft, it can’t be saved. The vinegar and peroxide solution may be less damaging than bleach. Above all, ensure that the mold is completely dealt with before repainting. You may have to call a professional if you’re not certain that all the mold is gone.
If you have moldy furniture or clothing, first take the item outside and brush away all of the mold spores. If the fabric can be bleached, bleach it. If possible, it’s best to run it in the washing machine on the hottest water setting. Otherwise, you can scrub it by hand. If it can’t be bleached, you can use the vinegar peroxide mixture. If there are still stains afterwards, create a mixture of oxygen bleach (hydrogen peroxide and baking soda) and water and soak the fabric for 8 hours.
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