How to Clean Mold and Mildew From the Bathroom
Mold and mildew love your bathroom, and keeping them under control can be a challenge. You're most likely to find them growing in dark, unventilated corners and on surfaces that get the most moisture, such as the base of the shower stall.
Unless your bathroom contains a preponderance of wood features, the mold probably isn't toxic black mold -- which feeds on cellulose. Even if it is, though, control involves scrubbing, disinfecting and ventilating, as all mold control does.
What to Use
Mold removal involves scrubbing, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends soap and water for this. A gallon of water with an ounce or two of cleaning detergent is all you need. The disinfecting power of full-strength vinegar is useful for sterilizing, and because vinegar also dissolves mineral deposits, it provides a good one-two punch. Baking soda also disinfects and deodorizes. Make a paste with it, using water and a little detergent, for an effective abrasive for fixture handles and metal trim. If you opt for bleach -- which definitely kills mold -- use 1 cup per gallon of water.
General Cleaning Procedure
To clean hard, nonporous surfaces, such as fiberglass, ceramic and stone, wash them thoroughly with a detergent solution and a sponge. If you're cleaning moldy areas near the ceiling or on the walls that aren't actually wet, you should spray the mold with clear water before wiping it to prevent releasing spores into the air. Wear a mask and rubber gloves throughout the procedure. Handle mold in corners and along hard-to-reach edges by spraying vinegar or spreading baking soda paste and scrubbing. Test vinegar before spraying it all over your tile -- it's acidic, and may etch the finish or the grout.
Removing Stubborn Patches
Mold growing in tile grout can be especially difficult to handle. An effective method that's safe for the grout and the tiles is to spread baking soda paste on the affected grout and scrub it with a toothbrush. You can also spray moldy grout with a bleach solution, and then scrub and rinse with clean water. Avoid ammonia-based cleaning products when using bleach; the combination produces toxic fumes. If mold has blackened the caulking around the tub, shower or sink, you may be able to remove it by scrubbing with bleach, but in many cases, the only effective treatment is to remove of the affected caulk and recaulk with fresh silicone material.
Prevention Is the Best Medicine
Keep your bathroom well ventilated to prevent the humidity and condensation that feed mold. If your bathroom has an exhaust fan, consider connecting it to a timer so it will continue running for 10 or 15 minutes after someone uses the shower. In the absence of an exhaust fan, keep the door and at least one window partially open when no one is using the bathroom to create air circulation. Running a fan in the doorway keeps air circulating in the absence of a window. It's also a good idea to wipe down the shower stall, bathtub and any walls subject to moisture often to remove any mold that hasn't yet become visible.
Chris Deziel has a bachelor's degree in physics and a master's degree in humanities. Besides having an abiding interest in popular science, Deziel has been active in the building and home design trades since 1975. As a landscape builder, he helped establish two gardening companies.
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- RUDI TAPPER/iStock/Getty Images