The Complete Guide to Mold Removal Best Practices

Lawrence Bonk
Written by Lawrence Bonk
Updated April 6, 2022
A woman sitting in the living room
Photo: Tom Werner / DigitalVision / Getty Images

Highlights

  • Mold is a fungus that thrives in humidity and darkness. 

  • Some mold varieties, such as toxic black mold, cause extreme health conditions in some people.

  • Professional mold remediators specialize in eliminating mold infestations.

  • Several home remedies exist for minor cases, such as using antimicrobial cleaners.

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Nothing drives terror into a homeowner’s heart more than mold. This wretched fungus easily and quickly reproduces, emits a foul odor, and causes all kinds of health problems, with toxic black mold leading to especially egregious ailments. How to get rid of this not-so-fun-gus for good? It’s best to hire a local mold removal company so it can properly handle the situation before it spreads. For less severe cases, though, try out one of the DIY removal methods detailed in this mold removal guide.

Who Removes Mold in the Home? 

Local mold removal pros handle mold infestations. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends hiring a pro for growths that cover more than 10 square feet and outbreaks that feature significant water damage. Mold remediation is on the expensive side due to the work's labor-intensive and potentially dangerous nature, with a professional mold removal costing between $1,100 and $3,300, depending on the outbreak severity and job complexity. 

Ways to Kill Mold

Professional mold remediation involves mold removal via eliminating the source through sanitization, containment, and even demolition in extreme cases. It's a complex process meant to remove existing mold and ensure it never comes back. Mold remediators also handle cleaning the impacted area and disinfecting the home via various methods. They use specialized equipment, like powerful wet/dry vacuums and air scrubbers, but they also rely on common household detergents and antimicrobial cleaners. 

We highly recommend hiring a pro to remove an entire outbreak due to how easily spores spread and reproduce. But it’s possible to remove mold on your own in less severe cases, like when you see a little patch in your shower and you caught it in the early stages. 

For effective mold removal, use a multipronged approach that involves the actual elimination and ample cleaning and disinfecting. Mold is susceptible to antimicrobial cleaners, vinegar, bleach, ammonia, and regular old detergent soap.

Preventing Mold in the Home

Removing visible mold is just the first step, but long-term prevention is the ultimate goal. Here are some considerations and tips to help prevent mold from returning or growing in the first place. 

  • Fix any outstanding issues: Don’t dillydally and repair any leaks or obvious causes as soon as possible. 

  • Repair insulation: Mold loves the porous holes and gaps in insulation. Replace old insulation with expanding foam to prevent mold. 

  • Hold off on painting: Don’t paint any walls until you’re certain of long-term remediation. Paint applied over infected surfaces allows mold to grow unchecked, peeling the paint in the process. 

  • Keep an eye on it: Every now and then, check in on those problem areas. If mold keeps returning, it likely falls back on a pre-existing issue in your walls, HVAC system, or pipes.

  • Use mold-resistant building materials: Consider using mold-resistant building materials for renovation projects to prevent future mold outbreaks. Construct walls with pressure-treated wood, rigid insulation, and paperless drywall. 

Steps to Remove Mold on Your Own

Mold in window corner
Photo: fotoduets / Adobe Stock

If you're in the midst of a smaller case of mold and intend to go the DIY route, here are the necessary steps worth taking to clean minor mold issues so it doesn't come back. 

Identify the Source 

Take time to identify the source of the mold and confirm its presence. After all, spending an afternoon removing mold only to find it growing again the very next week is no fun. 

  • Use your eyes and nose: Most mold is black, yellow, green, or white, so look around your home for any discolored patches. Also, the nose knows. Mold is odorous, with a mildewy smell. 

  • Check out any damp areas: Mold loves dampness and moisture. To check out any mold breaks in your home, start by investigating known damp areas, like bathrooms, basements, and even attics. 

  • Test for mold: In most cases, if it quacks and walks like a duck, you have a moldy duck. For extra assurance, purchase a mold testing kit and perform the test yourself. These kits identify mold, and some even go further, telling you what type of mold fouls up your home. Or even better, hire a mold testing pro near you to ensure they get the job correctly. 

  • Investigate leaks: As previously stated, mold loves moisture. Leaks are a common cause of unchecked mold growth. Check all of your pipes for obvious leaks, following them to the source.

  • Repair underlying issues: Before you remove any mold or hire a pro, fix the underlying issues. Leaky pipes? Call a plumber. Cracks in the roof? Fix them. You get the gist. Otherwise, mold can come right back.

Wear Safety Gear 

There's a reason pros sometimes charge thousands of dollars for remediation. Protect yourself by wearing the appropriate safety gear while interacting with the fungus. Don rubber gloves whenever you're spraying or scrubbing impacted areas and a protective N95 respirator or high-quality mask rated for mold spores. The very act of removing mold disturbs the spores, sending them into the atmosphere, so practice extreme caution. 

Use Antimicrobial Sprays

Once you gear up, attack and eliminate the mold. It's susceptible to simple antimicrobial sprays, so start there. Use a scrubbing brush for hard surfaces, and switch to a rag when removing mold from porous surfaces like drywall. Work slowly and methodically, tossing the removal tools (brush and rag) after finishing. As a note, mold causes staining that may not alleviate with removal. 

Homemade Remedies

Beyond antimicrobial sprays, try several homemade DIY mold removal agents. 

  • Undiluted white vinegar is great for hard surfaces found in bathrooms and kitchens. 

  • Bleach also works, but don't use it routinely during mold cleanups, according to the EPA. Mix 1 cup of bleach with 1 gallon of water, applying as necessary.

  • Mix ammonia and water to create another helpful DIY cleaning agent. Go for a 50/50 solution here, spray impacted areas, and wait two or three hours before rinsing with water. 

  • Never mix ammonia and bleach together to avoid a potentially dangerous breathing hazard. 

Ventilation Is Key 

Mold loves stiff, unmoving air and moisture, so proper ventilation helps with long-term removal. Open up all of your doors and windows to let in a strong breeze, allowing it to circulate throughout your home as necessary. Also, put out fans in problem areas to assist with this ventilation and dry out any lingering moisture. 

Invest in a Dehumidifier and Air Purifier 

Fans are a crucial tool to help dry impacted areas and assist with ventilation, but consider investing in dehumidifiers and air purifiers to prevent it from growing and spreading. Dehumidifiers regulate your home's moisture levels, staving off regrowth, while air purifiers pull out any spores floating in the air. Make sure you clean the dehumidifier thoroughly after use and toss any used and moldy air purifier filters. 

As a warning, get a dehumidifier and not its counterpart, the humidifier, as the latter helps mold to grow and propagate.

Pay Special Attention to the Bathroom

Thanks to the damp and humid conditions, your bathroom is a breeding ground for both mold and mildew. Give your bathroom a bit of extra care during your mold removal procedure, and toss infected shower curtains in the trash. Scrub tiles vigorously, and after you finish, leave the window and door open with a fan going to assist with drying. If your bathroom is especially humid even during the best of times, consider installing a dehumidifier. 

Clean, Disinfect, and Toss Moldy Items

Throw away all of your cleaning tools after use, such as any brushes, rags, and rubber gloves. Also, toss out any paper items—like craft materials, books, and photographs—once infected as the porous nature of paper resists mold removal. The same goes for kitchen appliances, especially ones that actually touch food. Finally, thoroughly clean and disinfect every infected surface, including the clothes you wore during removal.

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