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How to get rid of mold

Mold in the window corner. Hand in rubber protective glove with microfiber cloth trying remove it.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

How to get rid of mold is a question on a lot of people’s minds these days, and for good reason. Indoor dampness and mold have been linked to a range of negative health outcomes, including wheezing, coughing, allergies, respiratory tract infections and the exacerbation of asthma. Ensuring your home is free of mold is essential for your health. 

Believe it or not, most mold isn’t actually visible but rather airborne, so you should take any signs of mold or dampness in your home seriously. But how to get rid of mold? The best way to manage mold in a home is to eliminate or limit the conditions it needs to grow, including available water and nutrients found in dirt, dust, and other crumbs around the home. 

While the best humidifiers are wonderful for pumping moisture into dry air during the colder months, they aren’t an ideal choice if you have a home that’s prone to mold. Dehumidifiers, on the other hand, can do a great job of pulling excess moisture out of the air to prevent mold growth. Here we will look at ways to get rid of mold, including cleaning techniques and eliminating dampness. 

How to get rid of mold

According to a study published in Indoor Air, indoor dampness and mold can take a serious toll on our health, triggering a pro-inflammatory response in the body that can contribute to a range of respiratory diseases. In order to stay healthy, ridding your home of mold is essential.

Mold can be very damaging to your health, so ensure that you are wearing proper protective gear when cleaning it up. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that anyone cleaning up mold and potentially breathing in mold spores, should wear an N-95 face mask, gloves, and goggles. 

According to a 2004 report by the Institute of Medicine, there are several signs of water problems that you should watch out for, including peeling paint, wet spots, wrinkled wallpaper, cracks in plaster, and warped wood. The report also recommends thoroughly examining parts of the home more susceptible to mold growth, including basements, crawl spaces, attics, foundations, and areas that are often wet, like bathrooms and kitchens. 

man spraying mold in his house

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Any mold growth on surfaces that can be cleaned should be effectively disinfected. Materials that can’t be cleaned should be thrown out. Hard surfaces like ceramic tile, glass, concrete, and stone can be disinfected of mold, but, depending on the level of contamination, materials made of paper, gypsum board, textiles, or other soft porous material should be discarded. 

According to the EPA, mild detergent can be used to effectively clean mold. Using a chemical cleaner, like chlorine bleach, is not recommended for routine cleanups but can be used in more serious situations. 

To prevent mold growth, the EPA recommends that indoor humidity be kept below 60 percent, and ideally between 30 and 50 percent. A humidity meter is an inexpensive tool that measures how much moisture is in the air. If you find that humidity in your home is exceeding 50 to 60 percent, a dehumidifier can be used to pull extra moisture out of the air. Air purifiers help with mold too, so you may find that investing in one of these alongside a dehumidifier is really beneficial. Check out our guide to the best air purifiers for more information.

How to get rid of mold in a bathroom

Depending on how many people live in your home and how often they take showers and baths, the bathroom can be in a constant state of dampness. It’s most important to run the bathroom fan or open a window while showering to take that moist air out of the house. 

If you see signs of mold, ensure that you increase the frequencies of cleaning all surfaces in your bathroom. If there is still moisture collecting on windows, walls, or pipes, make sure you thoroughly dry the wet surfaces after showing.  If you find it difficult to manage moisture in a bathroom, consider using a dehumidifier to control the humidity and prevent mold growth. 

Any water-damaged areas and items in your home must be dried within 24 to 48 hours to prevent mold growth. If you see the potential for mold growth, act fast to prevent it. Mold can damage any surface it grows on. 

Mold being cleaned off bathroom wall

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How to get rid of mold under a sink

Similar to bathrooms, excess moisture can accumulate in kitchens from cooking, washing dishes, boiling water, and more activities. Run an exhaust fan or open a window when cooking or dishwashing to let humidity escape. 

If you notice any water damage under sinks, make sure to check for water leaks. Sinks often have leaks where the basket drain seals to the sink or at the water trap. You can figure out where a leak may be by plugging the drain, filling up the sink, checking for leaks, then releasing the water, and watching for leaks. 

To clean existing signs of mold, scrub it with detergent and water and then let it dry completely. This may mean not using the sink until everything is bone dry. 

Have a look at our guide to what causes dampness in a house for a more in-depth guide to damp and more ways to fight it.

How to get rid of mold smell

If your home smells damp, but you don’t see any visible mold, there may be hidden water damage. Check the backsides of walls and paneling, the undersides of carpets, and around pipes and ductwork for signs of mold. Removing large amounts of mold is not recommended, as this likely will release mold spores throughout your home. In this situation, make sure you work with an experienced professional. 

Excess water can enter your home during a rainstorm or other heavy rain or a frozen pipe may burst. In any of these emergency situations, you must act fast to dry wet areas as soon as possible. These emergency measures could include turning off your home’s water main, unclogging drains, running dehumidifiers in affected rooms, or pumping or vacuuming water out of your home. 

It may seem counterintuitive, but according to the EPA, increasing the heat in your home can stop dampness. Warm homes have less condensation. Having good insulation and double glazed windows keeps the heat indoors and doesn't create cold surfaces for condensation to form. It’s also important to never paint or caulk over existing mold. The paint will likely peel and the mold will get worse, increasing smells. 

Ensure that fresh air can flow easily through your home. Mold can form in humid areas with still air. Leaving a gap between furniture and the walls will allow fresh air to circulate around them. Cupboards and cabinets should be opened and given a good airing out to prevent moisture accumulation. 

You can have a look at our how does condensation happen for a more in-depth guide to condensation.


References

A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture and Your Home. (2022, March 25). US EPA. Retrieved April 20, 2022, from https://www.epa.gov/mold/brief-guide-mold-moisture-and-your-home

Holme, J. A., Øya, E., Afanou, A. K. J., Øvrevik, J., & Eduard, W. (2020). Characterization and pro-inflammatory potential of indoor mold particles. Indoor Air, 30(4), 662–681. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32078193/

Institute of Medicine. (2004, May 25). Damp Indoor Spaces and Health. The National Academies Press. Retrieved April 29, 2022, from https://nap.nationalacademies.org/catalog/11011/damp-indoor-spaces-and-health

What are the main ways to control moisture in your home? (2021, November 4). US EPA. Retrieved April 29, 2022, from https://www.epa.gov/mold/what-are-main-ways-control-moisture-your-home

Lindsay Lafreniere is a freelance writer, editor and podcast producer. Lindsay has more than eight years’ experience working in communications, journalism and media relations, including in corporate, non-profit, government, hospital and university environments. Lindsay has worked for various media including broadcasting at the CBC, and in documentary production and magazine publishing at the Walrus, and has also held positions in academic and government communications and corporate online marketing. Lindsay received a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and English from Victoria University in Canada and a Graduate Diploma in Journalism from Concordia University.