How to Clean Mold

So, you’ve found mold in your home and you want to know how to clean it safely or whether you even should clean it yourself.

Whether you should clean it yourself or call in a professional depends on more than one factor, one of which is the size of the mold.

If the mold covers a small area or a moderate area, you can clean it yourself.  A “small” area means there are less than three patches of mold covering less than a square meter each.

A “moderate” area of mold is more than 3 mold patches of 1 square meter each or a mold patch larger than 3 square meters (about the size of a sheet of plywood).  With proper precautions, you can clean a moderate area of mold yourself, but we recommend you have moderate amounts of mold assessed by a professional.

Any mold larger than “moderate” should be removed by a professional.

How to Clean Mold Safely and Successfully

Protect yourself.
Wear gloves, safety goggles and a mask – a disposable dust mask from any hardware store will do.  Make sure small children or anyone with a health problem are not in the area.

Find the Source and Fix It
Mold can’t grow without moisture, which means that if you don’t fix the source of your mold problem, the mold will simply grow back.  Investigate and fix leaking pipes or worn seals and perform any other maintenance necessary to reduce moisture in your home.

Cleaning Small Areas of Mold

If the mold is dry, you might want to vacuum the area before scrubbing with a HEPA (High Energy Particulate Air) vacuum cleaner or a vacuum that’s vented outside.

Washable Non-Porous Areas
Scrub washable areas that have small amounts of mold with an unscented detergent solution, sponge the area and then dry it quickly. Using unscented detergent will allow you to smell residual moldy areas.  Drying quickly removes moisture that would allow the mold to grow again.  Bleach is not recommended because it won’t properly disinfect the area and releases its own toxins into the air.

Moldy Drywall
If the mold is located on the painted paper face of the drywall, clean it with a vacuum cleaner and scrub with unscented detergent, drying quickly as you would with a non-porous area.    Sometimes however, mold grows through the paint into the material underneath the paper layer of drywall.  If that’s the case, it’s best to simply cut the drywall out and replace it since you cannot clean it properly.

Wood Surfaces
Vacuum with a HEPA or externally vented vacuum cleaner.  Scrub with an unscented detergent solution, rinse and dry quickly.  If the stain doesn’t come off, you may have to sand the surface and refinish.   Sanding should be done with a sander/vacuum combination so the vacuum picks up the spores released by sanding.

Vacuum and scrub concrete the same way you would any other surface.  Concrete is porous though so this may not always work.  You may need to try a solution of 1 cup TSP (trisodium phosphate) to 2 gallons of warm water.  Stir for two minutes.  Caution:  TSP must not come in contact with skin or eyes.   Saturate the area with the TSP solution for 15 minutes and then rinse with clear water and dry thoroughly.

Very Porous Material
You cannot clean mold from carpeting, mattresses, sofas or other very porous materials.  Remove these items, wrap in plastic or place in plastic garbage bags and dispose of these items.

Cleaning Moderate Areas of Mold

Clean these areas the same way you would cleans mall areas of mold; however it is recommended that you seal off the area by taping plastic in place in order to contain the mold spores released into the air to the area you are cleaning.

When to Call a Professional

You should call a professional when mold area is larger than 3 square meters (roughly the size of a sheet of plywood).  Mold that persistently reappears after cleaning may need to be removed by a professional.  You may also need a professional if your home is damp overall or if you have someone living in the home with health concerns such as asthma or other problems that can be aggravated by poor air quality.  Finally, if the mold is toxic, you shouldn’t remove it yourself because toxic mold can release toxins into the air that might make susceptible people ill.

Unfortunately, you cannot tell if a mold is toxic simply by looking at it.  If you need to be sure, call a professional or order a home test kit, a simple, highly effective way to know what type of mold is in your home.

Fighting Mold — The Homeowners’ Guide