controlling mold growth in the home

controlling mold growth in the home
What are molds and how do they grow?
Molds are fungi, usually microscopic in size, that
occur in nature in large quantities. They reproduce by
releasing spores into the air that settle on surfaces and,
under the right conditions, grow. Growths of mold can
often be seen in the form of a discoloration, ranging
from white to orange and green to brown and black.
Mold can sometimes be detected by its musty odor. Mildew is a common mold.
When mold spores settle on organic or contaminated
surfaces and when other conditions of temperature, humidity, shade or darkness, and oxygen supply are conducive,
they germinate and develop new colonies of mold. Even
surfaces from which mold has previously been removed
can have mold growing again if the conditions are right.
What are the conditions that support mold growth?
■ Molds thrive on organic materials like natural fibers (such as cotton and wool), paper, leather, wood,
or surfaces coated with the slightest amount of organic matter such as food, grease, and soil. Molds
that continue to grow can eventually eat away the
organic medium that is their source of food.
Wooden structural materials and textiles can deteriorate when mold is allowed to thrive on them.
■ Molds grow best in warm temperatures, 77 to 86
degrees Fahrenheit, though some growth may occur
anywhere between 32 and 95 degrees.
■ Molds require moisture. Moisture can come from
water leaks, flooding, capillary movement (wicking
from one area to another), high relative humidity,
and condensation. The moisture may be in the host
material, on its surface, or in the form of humidity in
the air.
Relative humidity levels above 70 percent appear
to be optimal for fungal or mold spore growth. A
lower relative humidity level reduces the rate of
mold growth as the mold goes dormant but does not
stop growth and development entirely. In fact, at low
relative humidity levels, there is increased spore
release into the air.
Materials that are exposed to a constant leak or
have been soaked and not dried thoroughly can support mold growth. Some molds can take hold and
form a new colony in one or two days on damp materials. When the relative humidity is low, the temperature is too high or too low, or the organic material is gone, molds go dormant. But when the relative
humidity gets high, they can regenerate.
■ Molds require oxygen, but not light, for growth.
Mold growth can continue indefinitely without light.
What are the health effects of exposure to mold?
We are all exposed to many kinds of mold both inside and outside the house. However, some people seem
to be more sensitive to mold and have allergies to some
types of mold. These people may suffer from cold-like
When people are experiencing these symptoms, it is
difficult to know if they are the result of exposure to
molds or have other causes. When breathed, some mold
spores are small enough to go deeply into the lungs and
cause serious illness. It is not healthy to live in a home
with high levels of mold.
How do I know if there is mold in my house?
Many times, mold can be detected by a musty odor.
Although mold spores are too small to be seen, colonies
of mold growth are sometimes visible on damp walls and
musty-smelling textiles. Mildew is one type of mold that
can often be seen.
In most cases, it is not practical to test for mold
growth in a house. There are no standards for "acceptable" levels of mold in a dwelling, and when testing is
done, it is usually to compare levels of mold spores inside the house with levels outside the house. It is generally better to look for mold in those places where conditions promote mold growth.
Where would mold be most likely to grow?
Generally, mold may be found anyplace where moisture or relative humidity levels are high. Wet or damp
Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service
basements may have mold growing on the walls, floors,
carpeting, or on materials stored in the basement.
Moisture from the earth can migrate through concrete walls causing them to remain damp. Water standing in sump holes, condensate from an air conditioner
or dehumidifier, leaky pipes, or water seeping into the
basement are all sources of moisture that can support
mold growth.
Basement carpeting often has mold growing on or
under it if the carpeting is installed on a concrete floor
that remains cool and damp. Materials stored in a damp
basement may have mold growing on them. In particular, firewood stored in the basement puts moisture into
the air and is an excellent medium for mold growth. The
mold spores can then spread throughout the house.
Crawlspaces built over uncovered earth can have
mold problems when the moisture in the ground causes
dampness in the space. Crawlspaces that are sloped incorrectly and have water pooling in them are particularly
likely to have problems.
Mold can often be found growing in the bathroom.
If an exhaust fan is not used during bathing, large
amounts of moisture can remain in the shower or tub
area. Soap scum on bath and shower walls, even on ceramic tile or fiberglass, is a nutrient source for mold
In the laundry room, unvented clothes drying produces high levels of relative humidity that support mold
growth. Damp towels and clothes in laundry hampers,
washers, or dryers can develop mildew growth.
Using a humidifier sometimes raises the relative
humidity high enough that mold will grow. Particularly
in the winter, high relative humidity in areas where
there is little air movement results in condensation on
cold walls and subsequent mold growth. Dark patches of
mold can sometimes be seen inside the upper corner of a
closet on an outside wall or behind furniture placed
against outside walls. Window condensation can result
in mold growth where the moisture runs onto the sill or
wood trim.
Mold growth can be found on kitchen walls if
household cooking involves large amounts of boiling
water and no exhaust fan is used. The cooking spatters
and grease film on walls are the source of nutrients for
the mold, combined with the high humidity levels in
those areas. Floor-level pans that collect the condensate
from automatic defrosting refrigerators often have mold
growing in them.
New construction materials, such as new wooden
wall studs and floor joists, drywall compound, and masonry materials emit moisture into the home while the
construction components dry.
Unvented combustion heaters, such as kerosene
heaters, emit large amounts of humidity into the air with
the exhaust gases.
Spills or leaks, such as a sink or toilet overflow onto
carpet and other flooring materials, can cause those materials to become moldy.
Flooded and fire-damaged houses that have had
water soaked into carpeting and other materials often
have mold growth starting in those materials within a
day or so after being soaked. Some materials can wick the
moisture beyond the original wet spot. Plaster, drywall,
insulation, and flooring materials are all likely to wick
the moisture into the wall cavities and to larger areas on
walls and floors.
How can mold growth be controlled?
Two strategies help prevent mold growth:
■ Keep it Clean
■ Keep it Dry
Where mold growth has already started or is likely to
start because of contamination from flooding or other
moisture problems, not only clean and dry the surfaces
but add a third strategy:
■ Disinfect It
Keep It Clean
■ Keep surfaces and household textiles clean because
mold grows on materials contaminated with soil and
grease. Use a grease-cutting solution of detergent and
water to wash hard surfaces like walls and floors to
remove organic material that supports mold growth.
Trisodium phosphate is an effective cleaner for
removing grease. Commonly called TSP and highly
alkaline, it can sometimes be found in paint and
hardware stores for washing walls in preparation for
painting. Precautions should be taken when using
strong cleaners such as TSP: Wear rubber gloves, and
avoid breathing the powder or getting it in the eyes.
Rinse with clear water to remove any cleaner
residue. Dry quickly and thoroughly using fans and a
dehumidifier, if possible.
■ Store textiles dry and clean. Dry soiled textiles can
be kept for a few days before washing. Store clean
textiles in a closet or container that discourages the
growth of mildew.
■ Filtration of indoor air with an air cleaner can
sometimes be effective in removing mold spores
before they settle on damp surfaces and colonize.
Some mold spores are large enough that standard
furnace filters remove them. Some types of electrostatic air cleaners also remove mold spores.
Keep It Dry
■ Reduce the moisture produced inside the home.
Discontinue using a humidifier if relative humidity
levels are high (over 50%). Use exhaust fans vented
to the outside when taking baths or showers or when
Wipe down shower walls with a squeegee or
sponge after bathing. Vent clothes dryers to the outside. Do not use unvented kerosene or gas heaters.
Repair all plumbing leaks. Do not store firewood
inside the home.
Dehumidify humid areas. A dehumidifier, air conditioner, or furnace will help to dry the air. Increasing
ventilation by opening windows or installing vents
may help if relative humidity level is lower outside
the house than inside. It is particularly important to
dehumidify or ventilate the house when new construction materials have been added.
Increase the air flow in problem areas. Move furniture a few inches away from outside walls so that air
flow will decrease the problem of condensation on
the walls.
If mold is growing in closets, keep closet doors
open to promote air flow. Closets should not be overfilled, as this will reduce air circulation in the closet.
Louvered closet doors aid in ventilation. Circulating
fans may help with air flow in problem areas.
Keep textiles dry. Always dry textiles that are damp
or wet before storing, and do not store laundry in
damp places. When cleaning textiles, follow the recommendations given on the care label. Quickly and
thoroughly dry the products.
Although plastic bags may be desirable to protect
textiles for short periods of time, they should not be
used for long-term storage because condensation may
occur in the bag. Cloth bags or fabric, such as sheets,
draped over stored textiles allow ventilation, provide
protection from light and soil, and prevent condensation in storage.
Desiccants such as silica gel can be used in
clothes storage areas to reduce moisture. Desiccants
are more effective in small confined storage compartments such as drawers and boxes. Adequate ventilation, such as in closets with louvered doors or doors
that are opened frequently, discourages mold growth
as does leaving on a light in the closet.
Prevent condensation problems by installing adequate insulation to keep walls warm. Installing
storm or thermal pane windows raises the temperature of the glass during winter months resulting in
less condensation on windows.
Reduce sources of moisture coming in from the
outside. Seal cracks in the basement walls and foundation. Slope the earth away from the house to promote drainage away from the foudation walls. Use
downspouts to direct rainwater away from the house.
Cover window wells.
■ Install vapor barriers in crawlspaces to prevent
ground moisture from entering. Crawlspaces that
continue to have high humidity need ventilation.
Clean It and Dry It
After a flood, fire, or water leak, walls and floors that
were soaked for more than a few hours may have absorbed large amounts of water. These areas must be
cleaned, dried, and disinfected. If necessary, remove the
wall board and flooring materials to dry out these areas.
Mold has been found growing in wet insulation several
months after a flood. Remove and discard wet insulation.
The insulation and the wooden studs may be wet for two or
more feet above the flood's high-water level because of
absorption by the materials and wicking to other areas.
Organic matter from flood water must be cleaned up.
Using a solution of detergent, water and trisodium phosphate, scrub all contaminated areas with a brush and
rinse thoroughly. Scrub any exposed wood in the wall
cavities with a detergent before disinfecting and drying.
Use fans, dehumidifiers, and air conditioners to dry a
wet area. If using a dehumidifier, empty the water collection pan frequently or drain it through a hose to a floor
drain. Mold can grow in the water standing in the collection pan. Air conditioners remove moisture from the air
and help promote drying. If the outdoor air is dry, leave a
window open to promote drying. Several weeks or
months may pass before soaked walls and floors are dry
enough to re-insulate and re-install wall board or flooring.
Discard Wet Materials That Cannot Be Dried Quickly
Carpets and carpet padding, draperies, mattresses,
box springs, and upholstered furniture that have been
soaked or stored in a damp environment are nearly impossible to clean and dry quickly enough to prevent
mold growth. Mold thrives under wet carpet or padding
and inside mattresses and upholstery. If these products
have only a small amount of mold growth on the surface,
they may be dried in the sun. Sunlight kills mold but it
may also fade textiles, therefore sun drying may be a
method of last resort in attempting to save items that are
about to be discarded.
Disinfect It
Disinfectants kill mold growing on hard surfaces,
such as walls and hard floors. Products that claim to be
disinfectants must be registered with the Environmental
Protection Agency and have an EPA registration number
on the product label. Only products with the EPA registration number have been tested as disinfectants. Read
labels and choose a product that disinfects and is appropriate for the material being treated.
One of the most effective and least expensive disinfectants is chlorine (sodium hypochlorite) bleach. Check
the label and use only bleach with 5.25 percent sodium
hypochorite. Following the directions on the label, a
bleach solution can be applied to hard, clean surfaces.
The walls should be thoroughly cleaned with a detergent
solution before disinfecting.
For many hard surfaces, disinfecting with a solution
of one cup of bleach to one gallon of water is effective.
The area must be kept wet with the bleach for 10 to 15
minutes to kill the mold. If the surface is porous like
wood, the bleach solution may need to be reapplied to
keep the surface wet for the required time. If large areas
of a basement need to be disinfected, a garden sprayer
can be used to apply the bleach solution to the walls. If
the walls have been contaminated with sewage, increase
the proportion of bleach to water.
During a long drying period (such as after flooding),
it may be necessary to use the disinfectant every few
days until the wood is no longer damp. The bleach solution kills mold only for the few minutes before the
bleach evaporates. Because mold spores in the air that
settle on the wet wood can germinate and develop a new
colony of mold, a surface will not remain mold-free just
because it has been treated once with bleach. Covering
wet wood with wall board or flooring material will not stop
the mold growth, as mold does not need light to grow.
After a flood, test whether wooden studs in the walls
are dry enough to reseal the wall cavity by inserting a
moisture probe into the wood. If the level of moisture in
the wood is above 12.5 percent, continue drying the
wood before resealing the wall cavities.
■ Never mix bleach with ammonia or other household
cleansers containing ammonia. When cleaning with
chlorine bleach solution, wear rubber gloves and
protect skin. Avoid contact of the solution with the eyes
and skin and avoid prolonged breathing of vapors.
Some products will disinfect hard surfaces but are
ineffective for disinfecting textiles. To be sure that textiles that can be laundered are disinfected, use products
with the EPA registration number and with specific directions for disinfecting laundry. Two types of disinfectants
that are effective on fabrics are chlorine bleaches (5.25
percent sodium hypochlorite) and quaternary compounds. When caring for textiles, directions provided on
the care label should be carefully followed. Some textiles
are harmed by chlorine bleach and labels on those products indicate that chlorine bleach should not be used.
Liquid chlorine bleaches are safe for most fibers except
wool, silk, or resin coated fabrics, but often cause color
fading as do quaternary compounds. Test any disinfecting compound on an inconspicuous portion of the textiles before applying to the entire product.
Pine oil cleaners and phenolic cleaners are considered safe for textiles and are often recommended for
their disinfecting action. However, many formulations of
these compounds only reduce the mold and number of
bacteria and do not totally disinfect textiles. For example,
a pine oil cleanser should be at least 70 percent pine oil
to disinfect textiles. Most formulations sold are much
lower concentrations.
For some textiles, such as leather, none of the disinfectants discussed above are appropriate. In the table that
follows, additional details of methods for preventing
killing, and removing mold are suggested for both textiles and interior and exterior surfaces.
■ Remember, to prevent mold: Keep it clean and keep it
dry. After contamination, to prevent and remove mold:
Clean it, dry it, and disinfect it. Unless these methods
are used, mold may continue to plague homes.
To Prevent Mold Growth
To Remove Mold
Painted surfaces
inside the home
Keep surfaces dry and warm to prevent condensation. Clean surfaces to remove dirt and grease.
Provide adequate ventilation. Check the label of
the paint being purchased to see if a mildewcide
is one of the additives. Local paint stores carry
mildewcides to add to paint if extra protection is
needed. With wallpaper, use sizing and a wallpaper paste that is mildew resistant.
Scrub mildewed surfaces with a solution of one cup
of chlorine bleach to one gallon of water. A detergent
such as trisodium phosphate (TSP) or liquid
dishwashing detergent may be added to the solution.
Do not mix bleach with cleaners that contain ammonia. Rinse with clean water and allow to dry thoroughly before painting or papering.
Keep bathrooms as clean and dry as possible.
Wipe down shower walls with a towel, sponge,
or squeege after showering. Use a vented exhaust fan to pull moist air out of the bath during and after showering or bathing. Be sure the
fan is vented to the outside, not into the attic or
Scrub surfaces with a solution of one cup of liquid
chlorine bleach, one tablespoon of detergent that
does not contain ammonia, and one gallon of water.
Use a brush or old tooth brush to clean the grout.
Keep the surface wet for about ten minutes, then
rinse well with water. If the shower curtains can be
washed by machine, add chlorine bleach with the
detergent. Use a warm water rinse for plastic curtains
and hang while warm to allow wrinkles to fall out.
To Prevent Mold Growth
To Remove Mold
Painted exterior
Get rid of damp soil or heavy vegetation near
walls. Rearrange plantings for good air circulation around the house foundation.
Commercial fungicidal products will inhibit
mildew growth but may be toxic for humans and
pets. Follow instructions carefully.
Scrub mildewed paint with a solution of 1/3 cup
detergent that does not contain ammonia, 1 quart
chlorine bleach, and 3 quarts of water. Repaint with
a mildew-resistant paint.
shingles and fiberglass panels
Shaded areas are more likely to be affected by
mold than are sunny areas. Provide adequate
ventilation by removing vegetation growing
close to the roof. Clean the debris from the roof
using a garden hose and a stiff broom.
To prevent mildew growth, spray clean the roof
annually with a mixture of one part liquid chlorine bleach (5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite)
and nine parts water at the rate of one gallon per
30 square feet. Chlorine bleach can damage
some roofing materials. Test before using.
Shingles containing small zinc granules are
available. Zinc granules are a fungicide as they
dissolve. They are slightly more expensive than
other shingles.
Commercial fungicidal products will inhibit
mildew growth but may be toxic for humans or
pets. Follow instructions carefully.
To clean a mildewed roof, use a mixutre of three parts
liquid chorine bleach (5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite) and one part water at the rate of one gallon per
30 to 50 square feet. Discolored roofs should be
treated in strips, starting at the peak and working
toward the eaves. Any shrubs or plants below the
eaves should be draped with plastic to prevent contact with dripping solution. Dilute the solution that
drips on the ground by spraying it with water. If the
house has rain gutters along the eaves, a garden hose
laid in the gutters can be used to dilute the solution
as it runs through the eaves and downspouts.
The same treatment is also effective on fiberglass
roof panels like those used on greenhouses. Chlorine
bleach can damage some roofing materials. Test
before using.
Treated roofs are slippery when wet, so workers
should walk on a ladder or other support placed
on the roof. Avoic skin contact with the chlorine
bleach solution.
Wood shingles,
decks, and other
untreated wood.
Scrub surfaces with a solution of 1 quart chlorine
bleach, 3 ounces trisoldium phosphate, and 1 ounce
of detergent in 3 quarts water. Rinse thoroughly.
Rinse plants that have been splashed with the solution. If stains remain, increase the concentration of
bleach to water and re-treat. For stubborn areas, use
granular chlorine (calcium hypochlorite)—used for
algae control in swimming pools—mixed at the rate
of two ounces of chemical per gallon of water. Apply
with brushes or sprayers. Do not let bleaching solutions remain on the wood for more than an hour
before rinsing. Repeat the application several times,
if needed. Use these solutions out of direct sunlight.
Work quickly when mildew is discovered. Brush,
Keep fabrics dry. Dry wet textiles quickly and
shake, sun, and air mildewed textiles outdoors. Mithoroughly. Dry soiled, damp laundry before
placing it in a laundry hamper. Remove wet laun- croorganisms and stains that remain can be successdry from the washer immediately and thoroughly fully removed with chlorine bleach. Check the care
label to determine if chlorine bleach can be safely
dry it in a dryer or air dry. Clean all textiles before storing. Soil promotes mildew growth. Store used. Pretest an inconspicuous area of the fabric for
color change before using the bleach. Launder washin dry environments that are well-ventilated and
lighted. Do not store in plastic bags for long peri- able items with soap or detergent and chlorine
bleach, when appropriate. Send nonwashable items
Textiles finished with soil and moisture repellents to the dry cleaner and inform the dry cleaner of the
and bacteriostats are more resistant to soil, stain, mildew stain.
To remove stains on washable textiles that cannot
and microorganisms and, thus, more resistant to
be bleached with chlorine, use peroxygen bleaches
mildew growth than untreated fabrics.
containing sodium perborate or potassium
monopersulfate. Apply at the hottest temperature
safe for the fabric and leave in place for up to 12
hours. Apply all detergents and bleaches according to
the product instructions.
Some mildew stains cannot be removed and advance
mold growth may have rotted or weakened the material. These products cannot be salvaged and should
be discarded.
Clothing and
other textiles
Sealants are available for clean, dry wood. They
penetrate the wood surface and prevent moisture from penetrating the wood, inhibiting
mold growth.
Shaded areas are more likely to be affected by
mold than are the sunny areas. Provide adequate ventilation by removing vegetation
growing close to the roof or deck. Keep the
roofs free from debris that retains moisture by
washing with a garden hose and a stiff broom.
To Prevent Mold Growth
To Remove Mold
Aerosol sprays for leathers are formulated to prevent mildew growth. Pretest the product on an
inconspicuous area to determine that the color of
the leather will not change. Always apply according to package instructions.
A wax dressing will also help prevent mildew
growth. Some wax dressings also contain antimildew ingredients. Again, pretest the item for
color change before using.
Dry all leather products thoroughly before storing. Leathers should be dried away from direct
heat and where air is circulating. Always store in a
dry, well-ventilated place. Never allow a mildewed
leather to remain in storage with other leathers.
Dyes used on leathers are very sensitive to numerous
substances. Always test any compound to be used
on leather for colorfastness.
Moisten a cloth with diluted alcohol (one cup of
denatured alcohol to one cup of water). Wipe away
visible mildew. Dry in circulating air.
Leathers that have no protective finishes are harmed
easily by any cleaning compound. Cautiously apply
thick suds of mild soaps or detergents to remove the
remaining mildew. Wipe with a damp cloth and dry
in an airy, sunny place.
Books or paper
Store books and papers in conditions that allow
air circulation and provide light. Chemical dehumidifiers, such as silica gel, will keep small
storage spaces dry. Burn a light bulb in an enclosed bookcase to discourage mildew growth.
Spraying books or papers with a fungicide according to product directions or wiping with a
cloth wetted with a solution of 3/8 ounce (11 g)
salicylanilide in one quart (0.95 l) of rubbing
alcohol to provide some protection.
Dry the item because mold and mildew on paper
products is easier to remove when dried. (Don’t try
to remove fuzzy or slimy mold.) Remove the items
from hot, humid or stagnant air and darkness, if
possible. (Do not place in an oven.) Lower the temperature and humidity and dry the items immediately, or freeze to buy time. (Never freeze photos or
negatives.) If the mold remains after freezing, expose
to one or two hours of sunlight to dry out.
Observe the following procedures as you dry the
item: Handle soggy paper gently. Place wet items on
paper towels or unprinted newsprint paper. Use fans
to circulate air around (but not directly at) the documents. Spread loose material in single layers. Use
waxed paper between every page of bound books,
place paper towels inside the covers and then intermittently throughout the book. Open the books and
stand them on edge. Replace the inserted paper towels as they become soaked and invert the book. Some
distortion and staining is probable.
Air-dry most photos, negatives, and slides face up,
placing blotting material beneath the photographs.
Avoid touching the surfaces. Photos that are stuck
together may separate after soaking them in cold
water. But once dried, they may not separate and may
need to be reprinted. Remove framed items, backing
first, from frames. If the items are not stuck to glass,
air-dry them. If the materials are stuck, dry them
intact with the glass side down.
After the item is dry, remove the dry and powdery
mold by brushing it outdoors. Remove stains that
remain by wiping gently with a cloth that has been
soaked with suds, and wrung out. Then rinse the
stain. For stubborn stains, use a chlorine bleach and
water solution. (Test in an inconspicuous area to determine if a bleach solution can be safely used.) Try to
not wet the paper and do not scrub. Air-dry the item.
To Prevent Mold Growth
Carpet and rugs
If carpet is to be installed in spaces where mildew
growing conditions are present, choose carpets
made of all man-made fibers (both face and
back). Concrete subfloor should be sealed. In
areas prone to flooding or moisture, install carpet using a direct glue-down technique (without
pad) to maximize drying and cleaning and to
prevent mildew growth. Use a dehumidifier to
reduce moisture.
In the case of a wet carpet, the following circumstances will determine the appropriate action to
prevent mildew growth: what caused the carpet to
get wet, the amount and source of the water, the
type and size of the carpet or rug, the location,
the kind of flooring, the method of installation,
and the cleaning equipment and service available.
Some carpet, (i.e. carpet contaminated by sewageladen flood water), can not be cleaned and
should be discarded.
The longer the carpet remains wet, the greater the
chances of damage, including shrinkage, color
change, and soil staining. Once the textile starts
drying, the longer it remains damp, the more
likely mildew will develop. It is important to
rapidly clean and dry the carpet.
For best results, call a professional rug and carpet cleaner who is equipped to clean and dry wet
rugs and carpets. Homeowner’s or renter’s insurance may cover the cost.
If you decide to clean and dry the carpet yourself,
take the rug and pad outside to a flat, clean area
such as a concrete driveway. Place the rug face
down to prevent wicking of stain to the face
yarns. Clean by hosing and applying a carpet
cleaning solution. If the carpet cannot be removed, extract as much of the water as possible
with a vacuum or hot water extraction unit. Care
should be taken to prevent electrical shock
when using a vacuum on wet carpet. If a carpet
has a pad, it may be impossible to extract the
water and the pad will need to be removed for
Dry the floor, pad, and carpet before reinstalling.
Smaller amounts of water in the pad can be removed by blowing air between the carpet and
pad. To do this, lift a corner of the carpet or attach a vacuum hose to the exhaust of the vacuum
and put it in the slit in a seam. A dehumidifier in
a closed room will pull water out quickly.
To Remove Mold
If a musty mildew odor is detected, stop its growth
immediately. Discard pads containing mildew. It is
nearly impossible to clean and destroy all the mildew in a pad. (Compared to carpet, padding is a
relatively low-cost item.) It is best to hire a professional rug cleaner or restorer to clean wall-to-wall
If you try to save the carpet yourself, you will have
best results with carpet that can be removed from
the floor. Apply rug shampoo with a carpet
shampooer according to the manufacturer’s directions. Remove all detergent used in cleaning. Detergent left in the carpet will accelerate soiling. Expose
mildew growing on the back of the carpet to the
direct rays of the sun. Paint the carpet backing with
a weak chlorine solution of 1/4 teaspoon of chlorine
bleach to one cup of water or another sanitizing
product applied according to the label directions.
Rinse several times.
After shampooing and sanitizing, dry rugs or carpets
quickly. Hang rugs on an outdoor clothesline or lay
them out flat in a warm, dry place. Use electric fans
to speed drying. Dry carpets and rugs thoroughly.
To Prevent Mold Growth
To Remove Mold
Upholstered furniture
and mattresses
Upholstered furniture and mattresses are thick
and porous and often filled with cellulosic and
foam materials that absorb moisture. Do not use
these products in areas that are damp, dark, or
have poor ventilation.
Upholstered furniture and mattresses finished
with soil- and moisture repellents and bacteriostats resist soil, stain, and microorganisms and
are more resistant to mildew growth.
Take upholstered pieces and mattresses outdoors
and brush the surface mold away with a broom.
Vacuum using an upholstery attachment on the
surface to draw out more mold. Discard the disposable vacuum cleaner bag immediately or empty the
non-disposable bag outdoors to prevent the spread
of mold spores. Place the mildewed item in the sun
for a few hours and air it thoroughly to stop further mold growth.
If the mildew remains, use the services of a professional upholstery cleaner. If you are doing the
cleaning yourself, sponge the item with thick, dry
soap or detergent suds and wipe with a clean,
damp cloth. Avoid getting the stuffing wet. Wipe
the furniture with a cloth moistened with a solution of one cup of denatured or rubbing alcohol to
one cup of water and dry thoroughly.
If the mold is growing deep in the padding of an
upholstered piece or mattress, nothing will eliminate the mold or odor except renovation by a
trained upholsterer or replacement of the item.
Annis, Patty J. Fine Particle Pollution, North Central
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Kansas State University, 1991.
Cleaning up your house after a flood. Ottawa, Ontario:
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, 1994.
Clean-up procedures for mold in houses. Ottawa, Ontario:
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, 1993.
How to prevent and remove mildew. Clemson, South
Carolina: Clemson University Cooperative
Extension Service, 1992.
Kelley, Bob, Missouri Extension Engineer, University of
Oatman, Laura, and Charles A. Lane. Mold and mildew in
the home. St. Paul, Minnesota: Minnesota
Extension Service, University of Minnesota, 1988.
Olson, Wanda, Mac Pearce, Donald Vesley, Pat Huelman,
Robert Seavey, and Kevin Janni. "Structural and
indoor air quality implications of flooded homes
in Marshall, Minnesota: Analysis of seven
homes." Paper presented at the Annual
Conference of the Sociology of Housing, St. Paul,
Minnesota, 1994.
Niemiec, Stanley S., and Terence D. Brown. "Care and
Maintenance of Wood Shingle and Shake Roofs,"
1994 PNW Plant Disease Control Handbook.
Oregon State University, 1994.
How to Prevent and Remove Mildew: Home Methods, USDA
Home and Garden Bulletin Number 68, 1980.
Prepared by Marilyn Bode, Housing Specialist, and
Deanna Munson, Textiles Specialist, Department of
Clothing, Textiles, and Interior Design, Kansas State
Reviewed by Betty Jo White, Professor, and Patty J.
Annis, Assistant Professor, Department of Clothing, Textiles,
and Interior Design, Kansas State University.
Brand names appearing in this publication are for product identification purposes only. No endorsement is intended,
nor is criticism implied of similar products not mentioned.
Publications from Kansas State University are available on the World Wide Web at:
Contents of this publication may be freely reproduced for educational purposes. All other rights reserved. In each case, credit Marilyn Bode and
Deanna Munson, "Controlling Mold Growth in the Home," Kansas State University, September 1995.
Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service
September 1995
It is the policy of Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service that all persons shall have equal opportunity and
access to its educational programs, services, activities, and materials without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age or disability. Kansas State
University is an equal opportunity organization. Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension Work, Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, as amended. Kansas
State University, County Extension Councils, Extension Districts, and United States Department of Agriculture Cooperating, Marc A. Johnson, Director.
File code: Clothing and Textiles—2
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