If you think black spots of mold only pop up in dark, dank basements, think again!
Any room in your home can be susceptible to these unsightly spores if there’s uncontrolled moisture. And while a small amount generally won’t make you sick, it’s important to get rid of mold quickly. “If left untreated, mold can spread to other household items and cause health problems for family members,” says Carolyn Forté, executive director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Home Care & Cleaning Lab.
The best thing you can do in your home is stop mold before it starts. The key to prevention is keeping the rooms in your house dry and cool. But sometimes, despite our best efforts, we find ourselves staring at those stubborn spots. When you’ve got a mold situation at home, here’s everything you need to know to handle it yourself quickly and easily.
Mildew vs. mold
Mildew is typically more visible during early stages and pops up as white or gray powdery dots. It may turn yellow or brown, but generally remains pretty flat. Mold appears darker, often in shades of red, green or black and can have a fuzzy texture. While mildew is typically less dangerous than certain types of mold (think black mold), both microscopic fungi can cause health problems and damage to your home. While the mold and mildew can be treated in similar ways, read our guide to getting rid of mildew if you suspect that’s the issue at hand.
Expert Tip: Mold spores can travel through the air when cleaning. Always wear long rubber gloves, protective eyewear and a face covering to limit your exposure when you’re treating mold yourself. If the moldy area is larger than approximately 2 square feet, call in a pro to have it removed safely.
How to get rid of mold on shower tile and grout
Mold breeds in warm, wet conditions, which can make it difficult to keep the shower tile and grout free of these stubborn spots. If they appear, you can erase them quickly and easily with the right cleaner.
Take safety precautions. Wear protection on your eyes and hands and if you are particularly sensitive to fumes, consider also wearing a mask. Open the window and flip on the bathroom fan for proper ventilation before you start.
Spray cleaner on mold spots. Apply a grout cleaner or mold remover according to the manufacturer’s directions.
Watch and wait before you scrub. In some cases you may not need to scrub at all: In our tests, Clorox Tilex Mold and Mildew Remover spray cleaned away stains after working for only a few minutes. And it kills 99.9% of mold and bacteria from non-porous tile in only five minutes. If spots persist, use a non-scratch scrub sponge or grout brush to scrub the spots away.
Rinse the area with hot water. Wipe dry or let it air dry with the shower curtain or door open to allow any built-up steam and moisture to escape.
How to remove mold from plastic shower curtains and liners
When mold strikes your shower curtain, it can be tempting to just toss it and start fresh. But there’s another way. Actually, there are two easy ways to save your plastic shower curtain or liner from these unsightly spots. (If your curtain is fabric, follow the steps for removing mold from fabric, below.)
Expert Tip: If you don’t have a handheld sprayer or the time, you can wash a plastic shower curtain or liner in your washing machine. Choose the delicate cycle with warm or hot water, then add laundry detergent and fabric-safe bleach. Wash it with some old towels to help with scrubbing and to keep it moving in the machine. Place it in the dryer on low heat for only a few minutes (Be sure to watch it!) to remove excess moisture, then re-hang it to finish drying.
Spray with cleaner from inside your shower. Put on your protective gear, ventilate the area, then apply a mold cleaner that’s safe for plastic, like Clorox Tilex Mold and Mildew Remover, while the curtain or liner is hung up. This allows you to easily see and spray spots, and excess cleaner will drip into the tub where you can more easily wash it away.
Wait up to five minutes for the stains to disappear. Mold spots should start to fade quickly. Make sure to move to a well-ventilated area while the magic happens and never let the cleaner dry on. Rinse it promptly.
Use a handheld showerhead to rinse completely. It’s best to do this from outside the shower since you’ll want to use the hottest water possible. If you don’t have a handheld sprayer, fill a cup with water and pour it on the curtain to rinse.
Leave it halfway open to dry. Position the curtain or liner so there are loose folds, which allows the surface and the shower itself to air dry completely.
How to remove mold from walls and ceilings
Natalia Kopyltsova / EyeEm//Getty Images
If you spot mold on walls or ceilings made of sheetrock or plaster, you can make them disappear without replacing any materials. But if mold appears on a very porous surface, such as a ceiling tile, it’s best to replace it right away.
Expert Tip: It’s important to wear eye protection to prevent cleaners from splashing in your eyes when removing mold from ceilings or overhead areas.
Clean the surface. Apply your protective gear and make sure the area is well-ventilated. Mix a little dish detergent, like Dawn Ultra Dishwashing Liquid, and water. Use a sponge or brush to apply the solution in small circular motions.
Rinse and let dry. Clean the sponge thoroughly, then dip it into clean water and wring it out well before wiping the surface clean. Let it air dry completely.
Follow with a solution of water and bleach: Mix ¾ of a cup of chlorine bleach with a gallon of warm water, or 3 tablespoons of bleach in 1 quart of water for smaller spots. Wearing rubber gloves, apply the water-bleach mixture to the stains with a sponge or cleaning brush.
Let sit for five minutes, then scrub. Give the water bleach solution time to penetrate the moldy spots, then move the sponge or brush in small circles to gently agitate the area.
Rinse completely and air dry. Use warm water to wash the area clean and blot dry with a clean cloth before letting it air dry.
How to get rid of mold on fabric
When clothing, towels or stored fabrics are exposed to humidity or dampness for a prolonged period, mold can appear and flourish. Follow these steps when you find mold on fabric items that are machine washable.
Expert Tip: If you find mold on fabric that is not machine washable, take it to your dry cleaner for help removing these stubborn spots.
Brush off the excess mold. First, bring the item outside to prevent excess mold spores from getting inside your home. Apply your protective gear, then gently move a dry cloth, brush or paper towel back and forth a few times over the area to loosen and free any mold from the surface.
Treat spots with liquid laundry detergent. Rub a drop or two in with your gloved fingers. Wash it in the washing machine on the hottest setting safe for the fabric, adding chlorine bleach or non-chlorine bleach, as specified by your item’s care instructions. (Check the care label to be sure.)
Air dry. Avoid tumble drying the item until you are certain the mold spots are removed.
How to remove mold from wood
In areas where there’s higher humidity and poor ventilation — such as the kitchen, bathroom or basement — you may discover mold on cabinets, vanities, furniture or paneling made of wood, especially if the surface is losing its finish or seal.
1. Vacuum up any loose spores. Apply your protective gear and make sure the area is well-ventilated. Using a vacuum with a HEPA filter, go over the spots a few times with the soft brush attachment.
2. Sponge on a soapy solution. Mix a few drops of dish detergent with some water and dab the solution onto the surface with a sponge, being careful not to saturate the wood. Rub gently to remove mold spots.
3. Rinse with a clean, damp cloth. Dip a cleaning cloth into clear water and wring it out well before wiping the surface clean.
4. Follow with a clean, dry cloth. You don’t want the wood to stay wet for long, which could damage the finish, so work quickly and wipe dry any remaining moisture.
How to prevent mold growth in the first place
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “There is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment; the way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture.” Even if you clean the mold, it will come back if the room is humid and poorly ventilated or if there is excess moisture from a leak — even a small one.
That means prevention is the only permanent remedy for mold. After you’ve repaired the leaks and gotten rid of any moisture problems, you can create an environment where mold can’t grow with these tips:
Add a dehumidifier or two to your home. To prevent mold growth, humidity levels should not exceed 50%. Make sure you’re running a dehumidifier that’s right for the area you’re treating. A dehumidifier with a 10-pint removal capacity is ideal for a 500-square-foot room. You’ll need an additional 4 pints for every additional 500 square feet after that.
Vent moisture-generating sources to the outside. Bathroom fans and clothes dryers should have vents to the outside.
Open doors and windows during showers. This will aid your bathroom exhaust fan during and after showers by allowing moisture to escape.
Dry or squeegee the shower after use to remove as much excess moisture as possible.
Leave your shower open after showering. When your curtain or door is closed, moisture takes longer to evaporate and dry.
Stretch out the shower curtain after showering so it dries quickly.
Reseal bathroom tile grout lines. Repeat the sealing process every year to help waterproof your walls and floors.
Avoid storing items in damp places. This may mean keeping linens, books and furniture out of your basement or attic if air-tight storage containers aren’t an option.
What are natural remedies for removing mold?
Please see the helpful infographic below for help fighting mold in your bathroom.
If you’re looking for a natural solution to remove mold, hydrogen peroxide and vinegar are two options to try. Keep in mind, though, that they may take more time to work than bleach and may not remove stains or be as effective on all types of mold or on all surfaces:
Hydrogen peroxide: Pour a 3% solution of hydrogen peroxide into a spray bottle and apply it to the affected area. Let it sit for 10 minutes, then scrub the mold away.
Vinegar: Pour undiluted white vinegar into a spray bottle and apply to the moldy area. Let it sit for an hour, then wipe the area clean with water and allow it to dry.
When do I need a mold removal company?
If the moldy area is widespread and larger than approximately a 2-foot by 2-foot area, call in a pro to have it removed safely. When you’re contending with more than a few mold spots, it could be a sign of a bigger moisture problem. Call a contractor who specializes in water damage restoration or waterproofing to assess and address the issue.
Contributing Writer and Analyst
Jamie Kim is a consumer products expert with over 17 years of experience in areas of product development and manufacturing. She has held leading roles at both mid-size consumer goods companies and one of the most notable and largest apparel brands in the world. Jamie has contributed to several of the GH Institute Labs, including Kitchen Appliances, Media and Tech, Textiles and Home Appliances. In her free time she enjoys cooking, traveling, and working out.
Taryn Mohrman is a freelance writer with over 15 years of experience writing for major consumer magazines, retailers and digital outlets, including buybuyBABY, Woman’s Day, Parents and Redbook. She also specializes in content strategy and business development for B2Cs and startups, and has served as a consultant for companies in the home, fashion, beauty, tech, kids and gifts industries.