Bathroom mold and mildew are not just unsightly and difficult to clean. They can also cause a range of health problems, and may even be a sign of structural concerns in your house. If you see telltale signs of small grey or black spots in your bathroom, it’s important to take steps immediately.
Mold vs. Mildew
Mildew is a fungus that appears as grey or white spots, and can be easily scrubbed away with a store-bought cleaner or a bleach solution.
Mold is a different species of fungus, may be black or green and appear to be fuzzy or even slimy. Mold can be more difficult to clean or remove, and is more dangerous to human health.
The reason that we tend to see the two lumped together as “mold and mildew” is that they both thrive in the same environments, so they often go (and grow) together. When we see one, we know that we have a hospitable environment, so it’s quite likely to find the other as well.
Mold and mildew prefer warm, moist, dark environments, and can thrive on a variety of surfaces. The bathroom, where we tend to use a lot of warm water and create a lot of humidity, can be a favorite breeding ground.
Signs of mold and mildew
Here are some common ways to identify the presence of mold and mildew in a home:
• Visual signs: Black, grey, white, or green spots that accumulate on moist surfaces. In small amounts, this may just look like dirt or dust.
• Unusual smell: A persistent musty smell is often a strong indicator of mold and mildew.
• Physical symptoms: Susceptible individuals may show signs of an allergic reaction. Runny nose, sneezing, red eyes, or even skin rashes and outbreaks can appear in some people. If these symptoms are eased when outside or away from the home, it’s a strong indicator of mold.
What to do if you find mold or mildew
What to do about mold and mildew depends a great deal on where it appears and how widespread it is in your home. Unfortunately, visible signs of mold and mildew may be only an outside indicator of larger problems. Mold can grow invisibly beneath carpets or inside walls, and treating and removing it can be difficult and expensive.
If a person with sensitivities or allergies lives in the home, it may be a good idea to do a DIY or professional mold test. While the Centers for Disease Control recommends that mold testing is unnecessary for homeowners, since it should all be removed regardless of what kind, a sensitive individual may benefit from further testing to help them avoid specific allergens in the future. Of course, once a sensitivity or allergy has been identified, it’s always best to see a physician for the appropriate treatment.
If you find mold or mildew in your home, it’s important to take action immediately. Not only do you need to clean and remove the active colonies, but it’s crucial to identify the source of the infestation and remove the root cause. Otherwise the problem may simply recur again and again. If mold and mildew are taking hold as a result of a water leak or other issue in the house, eliminating the root cause will not only prevent mold and mildew, but may prevent a host of other water-related damage to your home.
How to clean mold and mildew in a bathroom
Most often, homeowners will find mold and mildew appearing in the bathroom, taking hold on grout between tiles. Because this is so common, there are several ways to clean the affected area.
For mild infestations, simply spray the affected area with white vinegar and leave it to dry, before wiping the surface down with a damp cloth. Vinegar kills 82% of mold species, and is inexpensive, safe, and non-toxic.
For more severe infestations, or if there are stains and mold spores remaining after using vinegar, create a solution of one part bleach to two parts water, and a paste of baking soda and water. Spray the affected area with the bleach solution, and follow with a baking soda scrub. Bleach will kill mold and mildew spores, while both bleach and baking soda are effective for cleaning and whitening caulk.
Do not mix bleach with vinegar or any other cleaning agents to avoid creating toxic fumes. And use bleach in a well-ventilated area just in case.
How to treat the affected area
For most common occurrences of mold and mildew in bathroom grout, regularly spraying the affected area with vinegar, along with periodic cleaning with a bleach solution or commercial mold and mildew cleaner, may be sufficient to treat and control the spores.
If the grout is severely discolored from prolonged exposure to mold and mildew, it is a good idea to replace the bathroom caulk or grout. “Starting over”, so to speak, with a clean surface can eradicate old colonies, and make a bathroom cleaning regimen more effective.
How to prevent mold and mildew in the future
While ongoing spraying and cleaning may control mold and mildew, it’s a great idea to look at preventing it to begin with. Taking steps to make the bathroom a less hospitable environment will not only save time and energy on cleaning and control, but may also help prevent other moisture-related issues in the home.
Add ventilation. Installing and regularly using a good ventilation system will allow the bathroom to dry completely between showers and reduce overall humidity, making mold and mildew less likely to take hold.
Add a window. If you are considering a bathroom remodel, remember that a sunny window not only adds light and spaciousness to the room, but it can be a source of ventilation. And the sun’s UVA and UVB rays kill mold and mildew for added protection.
Buy a dehumidifier. Dehumidifiers are convenient appliances that draw moisture out of the air. If your bathroom lacks a fan or a window, a dehumidifier will dry the air and make the room less prone to mold and mildew.
Following these steps will help control mildew and mold in bathroom in your home and keep it from coming back. Controlling the environment with an exhaust or ceiling fan is easier and cheaper than mold removal. This will help preserve the look and health of your home for years to come.