Mold + Mildew: Cleaning and Prevention

How to Remove Mold From Your ApartmentMost of us have found ourselves ferociously scrubbing a pesky spot of recurring dirt in the corner bathtub before realizing, "Ew! That's mold!" Coming to terms with what you have found may be the biggest feat. Once you know, don't worry -- there are tricks to annihilate mold and mildew whether it's lurking on carpet, tiles or wood floors.

First, you'll want to know the difference between mold and mildew, which are both fungal growths. Molds are microscopi fungi that most commonly grow by feeding on clothes, paper or damp surfaces. Mildew permeates when exposed to humid, dark conditions.

To prepare for the dirty work, invest in some rubber dishwashing gloves and a surgical mask to make sure you are safe (though less-than-stylish) on the job.
Mold in the Shower

One effective way to remove mold is combining 2 teaspoons of tea tree oil and 2 cups of water into a container with a spray top. Shake and then apply to moldy patches on plastic shower curtains or ceilings. If necessary, repeat 2-3 times, but let the mixture dry and remain until the mold is gone. The scent will fade in a couple of days.

Tile Mold
If mold is creeping between your tiles, the first step is to use a tile cleaner, bristled brush and a smaller toothbrush to remove as much of the gunk as possible. But if that doesn't eradicate the fungi, try mixing commercial bleach and water (one part bleach to 10 parts water). Apply it and let the bleach soak in for an hour before rinsing off with water.

Carpet Mildew
Begin by creating a cleaning solution of 1 cup clear liquid laundry detergent and 2 cups water and set aside. Use a wet/dry shop vacuum to absorb the moisture in your carpet. Next, dab the impacted spot with a white towel, apply a cautious amount of the cleaning solution and scrub the carpet. (You don't want to add a lot of liquid -- that will encourage the mildew to multiply). Use the vacuum again to suck up some of applied moisture. You can also finish off the cleaning by spraying a water and ammonia concoction (1 cup of water to a 1/4 cup ammonia) on the area.

Mold or Mildew on Wood
To clean the wood of mold or mildew, take some soapy, warm water and a soft-bristled brush to gently scrub away the fungi. Leave it in the sun for about four hours. Then apply the same water and bleach solution (as used with the tile mold) with a toothbrush to the affected patch until gone. Clean off the solution and allow the furniture to dry for 12 hours. Afterward, coat the furniture with wood wax or a mildew resistant paint to prevent further problems.

Mold or Mildew on Varnished Wood
A slightly different remedy is needed with varnished wood. Use a piece of emery paper to scrape off the finish. Combine the following: 1 gallon of water, 1 cup of chlorine bleach, 8-10 tablespoons of trisodium phosphate. Cover the moldy area with the cleaner. Next, apply a secondary solution of 3 tablespoons of oxalic acid and a half-quart of water, which removes any staining that the mold has created on your wood piece. Wash clean.

After you tell yourself "job well done" and admire your mold-free surfaces, practice ways to prevent mold or mildew in the future:
  • In dark crevices, consider placing a 60-100 watt bulb -- it will ventilate and provide light, which makes it difficult for mildew to spread.
  • Open windows and use exhaust fans in kitchens and bathrooms when taking showers.
  • In mold-prone areas of your home, use rugs instead of carpeting and wash the rugs routinely.
For more tips on preventing mold -- and on how to avoid whipping out your rubber gloves and mask again -- check other tips from the National Association of Homebuilders.

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