Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Fighting mold and mildew season

This time of year in the wet Pacific NW becomes a verdant time indoors as well as outdoors. And that means more moisture in the house and mold growth.

Since we don't have a fan in our bathroom and rely on opening the window, we always have a problem of mold growth on the walls and ceiling where the steam likes to collect and hang out all day, even with the window wide open.

I've tried a number of desperate measures spreading from toxic (bleach) to inert (vinegar) with varying levels of success. So, let me give you a few suggestions of how to fight mold in your home.

Bleach solutions - This is probably the most effective way of getting rid of mold for longer periods of time. Unfortunately, the environmental impact of using bleach is high, you have to deal with the fumes and it's possibly dangerous (atomized droplets of bleach landing back on your face as you spray the ceiling, anyone?) and generally toxic.

Tea tree oil - Although tea tree oil is rather expensive, you are using only a small amount. This is probably your best bet for a natural solution, but the smell is strong and some people have issues with tea tree oil. Mix two teaspoons of tea tree oil in two cups of water and place into a spray bottle. Spray onto moldy areas - do not rinse. This mixture lasts forever.

White vinegar - Using straight up vinegar (don't even bother diluting it) can be effective in removing mold, but it takes a bit of work and doesn't last very long. The smell isn't so great, although it's much better than bleach, and can sting so be careful if you're doing ceiling spraying. I recommend applying directly with a sponge. That said, this is an inexpensive solution to your mold problems. Used straight up, vinegar purportedly kills 82% of mold. You can always try adding an essential oil like tea tree oil to boost the mold killing.

Grapefruit seed extract - The one nice thing about this mixture is that it is odorless and a little goes a long way. Mix 20 drops into two cups of water in a spray bottle and get to work. Many people have reported success with using this, although I haven't tried it.

Lemon juice - Apply full strength with a sponge. The smell by far is better than any other option listed here, but it's only moderately effective. So, if you are short on mold patience and hate redoing your lemon juice application frequently, you might try something else. Like the vinegar, it works for a short period of time.

Hydrogen peroxide - If you are dealing with mold on tiles, try using one part hydrogen peroxide with two parts water. Spray on and wait an hour.

Clove oil - Clove oil is anti-bacterial and anti-fungal and supposedly can help remove mold. Add several drops of clove oil (about half a dozen will do) to a half-filled bucket of water and apply with a sponge. Not all of the mold will be removed immediately. It may take a few days to work, and the surfaces should be dusted off after the mold looks dusty.

Concrobium mold control - This is an off-the-shelf product that contains mostly inorganic compounds that leaves behind an antimicrobial film upon drying that encapsulates fungus microbes and prevents growth. Supposedly, it's inert and the salespeople will drink it to prove how safe it is. This stuff works fairly well and lasts longer than the other options, but mold is mold and it always comes back.

Other options - It might be better to prevent mold in the first place by providing the right mix of ventilation and dryness. If your mold problems are in the bathroom, installing an exhaust fan should help. You may want to consider getting a dehumidifier if you really have a bad mold problem or using a space heater to heat and dry up trouble spots.


Denise said...

Bathroom mold is a big problem for me too. I keep a little squeegee in the bathroom and after a steamy shower I squeegee the windows and the tiles so the condensation that has accumulated is reduced. Love your blog btw.

Unknown said...

At least you only get the mold and mildew...our paint bubbles and peels off - looks fantastic.

Big fan of tea tree and clove oils - great stuff!

Lisa said...

Thanks for posting this! I just posted last week about ways to stop using bleach. Tea tree oil is awesome, it even kills toxic mold and I have tested this!

The bathroom in this house was done wrong and had drywall in the shower (idiots!) and got moldy in behind the tile, so we tested and found it was toxic mold. We had the bathroom redone right and cleaned everything with tea tree oil and we just tested again a few months ago and NO toxic mold!

Mist said...

Like Denise, we keep a mini squeegee in our bathroom and just swipe down EVERYTHING. I have never had bleach in the house since the kids were born, and the vinegar didn't work for us. Our philosophy is just to keep things dry, dry, dry. It takes more time, but it's highly effective.

The kids love to use the squeegee. I'm not sure how old your kids are, but mine are still at the stage when cleaning is fun, so they love to help wipe everything down after their weekly bath. It's the husband that gives me the most trouble. :)

Leah said...

This is a great post. I grew up in Northern BC where the air is DRY. When I bought a house on Vancouver Island I was unprepared for the mold and mildew in the bathroom. I thought it was my problem as a housekeeper! I attacked it with bleach at first, guiltily. In the last couple of years I've learned to live with it, for the most part. Thank you for your suggestions, I am definitely going to try some of them.

Robj98168 said...

Bathroom mold? I just leave the door open and let the moisture go throughout the house- don't need a humidifier. My exhaust fan isn't that great to begin with!

mudnessa said...

I have mold growing behind the caulk around the tub, where the tub meets the shower walls. I killed it all pretty good with tea tree a few months ago but still had the nasty looking dark stains, it has started to grow back again. I am renting and will probably just "paint" over it when I move out because I'm pretty sure thats what they will do anyways, and did do before I moved in, so at least I wont be charged.

Any natural suggestions for rust stains in my bathroom sink, it was leaking and they took forever to fix it and now there is a bad ring of rust. I tried lemon juice and salt, didn't work. It's a white porcelain sink, really don't want maintenance to come in with massive amounts of chemicals.

Creative Life Studio said...

Mold... SEASON? It's pretty much a year-round factor for us here in FL and only in the last two months have I succumbed to the bleach. :( We have a bathroom like yours (no fan, one small window - what were the builders THINKING?!) and our shower grout was getting blacker and blacker and blacker despite nearly daily attempts with the straight vinegar, leaving doors open, etc. This is not to say that the vinegar didn't actually work. I could see the gross black stuff run down the walls. It's just that it came right back within a few days.

I hadn't heard of the tea tree or clove oil alternative and maybe I can try that for every other cleaning.

That said, I had to come to terms with the bleach. This shower is the only place in my house that I use bleach and with the amount I use, I just have to be okay with it if I don't want a disgusting and even dangerous shower.

Erika said...

Wow... I was just thinking about this! I've tried baking soda and vinegar, but the nasty stuff comes back days later. We do try to keep our shower curtain open 'til the moisture escapes the bathroom... but I'm certainly going to try the tea tree oil! I also have clove oil, which I can try before I resort to bleach. If anyone's interested, I posted a poll on my blog about what to do when faced with cleaning with chemical cleaners...

Happy mold hunting!


Unknown said...

Thank you so much for this!!! We just bought an older home and there is no fan in the bathroom, so weekly we are dealing with mold. URGH!!!

Anonymous said...

I lived in a Tropical Rain Forest mountain for ten years. People ask what that is like.
It's wet, and moldy, so moldy that mold grows on top of other mold. The molds are all different colors, and when they are outside, they can be really artsy. But inside, it's chlorine time I am afraid to admit. Also, the body collects molds from living years in a jungle. But we shall spare you that explication today.

Anonymous said...

I've read that borax actually kills mold spores. Anyone try it? I don't have a mold problem, so I haven't tested it out, but the DIY sites talk about it.

maryann said...

We don't have a huge issue issue with mold, just some spots along the caulk edge of the tub. I usually just use borax on these and it works fine to remove it. I only have to clean it about once a quarter. I recently read that vodka works but haven't tried it yet, they said the stronger proof the better.

Anonymous said...

Will tea tree oil work to keep shower curtains mold/stain free? We have an old claw foot tub and use 7th Generation shower cleaner and wanted to try making up a homemade concoction instead.

Kristijoy said...

We have no bathroom exhaust either and instead place a fan blowing air outside in an open window to vent the bathroom, and usually another window with a fan pulling air in, in the next room, since we don;t want the moisture in the rest of the house at all. This works fantastically.

We also squeegee down the shower after everyone has used it.

In the kitchen too since there is no fan for the oven exhaust wither, so to keep the kitchen from fogging up, we do the same fan trick and there is no condensation build up on the windows (which makes for moldy mouldings.)

This is in an old victorian with 10 foot ceilings. So moving air is important.

It also helps that neither my S.O. or my roommate take particularly long or hot showers as well.

And we're in Portland.

My S.O. has a severe mold sensitivity (not allergy, non histamine or immune response) to mold gasses, so you can imagine how hard it is to keep thing real here. (in fact, he and I will be moving sometime soon to a place without carpet, another mold culprit.)

We use many of the above methods for keeping other things, not just the bathroom mold free too. he is a big fan of baking soda, tea tree oil and vinegar.

It's important to remember that if you don't keep mold in check, or if you have severe water damage in the building in which you live, mold can make you very sick and you can develop allergies to it, or sensitivities, like my SO.

I lived in Monterrey Ca before living in the PNW and Monterrey gives this place a run for moisture in the air, it's foggy year round. Mildew is rampant and affects buildings, closets, windowsills, everything.

I developed an allergy while at school there. My S.O. lived in an apartment below someone who would let their bathtub over flow repeatedly and management did nothing to stop the tenant or fix the water damage and before he knew what was happening, he was sick from mold and now life is super hard for him. Any mold will make him sick.

So mind the mold, it just seems harmless.

Anonymous said...

We have the same mold problem, but I have found that having a plant (we have a Peace Lily) in the bathroom somewhere helps soak up the moldy smell. Plus, the moisture is good for the plant, so in conjunction with something like vinegar (what I sometimes use) it helps.

I'll have to try the grapefruit seed oil. That sounds interesting.

mold removal products said...

It is really time to fight mold and mildew in our place since the sun is starting to shine. It would be the best time to remove them.