Mold infestations range in severity from a localized patch of fuzzy white mildew -- a type of mold -- to an extensive colony of toxic black mold, which is as dangerous as it is unsightly. Despite their differences, removal is the same for any of the species of mold that can grow on the wood paneling in your home. The key to success is removal of the source of moisture feeding the mold.
Determining the Source of Moisture
The type of mold you see growing as well as the location and size of the infestation provide important information about the moisture problem you have to correct. A few small patches of mildew on the surface of the paneling -- especially in the middle of a panel -- suggest high room humidity, which you can often correct with increased ventilation or a dehumidifier. Thick black mold growing around the seams and edges of the paneling, on the other hand, is often an indication of a leak -- a plumbing pipe may be dripping; you may have a hole in a wall or roof, or moisture may be seeping through the concrete foundation or floor.
Discard Severely Moldy Paneling
You may need to remove some paneling to get to the leak, and if you find that it's blackened on the back as well as the front, discard it. You can't kill all the mold permeating the wood pores, even with large amounts of bleach. You may also find blackening on the insulation -- which you should discard as well -- and on the framing. Wear a respirator and protective clothing while performing this part of the job, and seal off the room where you're working by covering doors, windows and air vents with plastic sheeting.
Despite the widespread belief that you should clean mold with bleach, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Health Canada both recommend using either plain water or a mixture of detergent and water. Use the same technique whether you're cleaning a small patch of mildew or a large colony of black mold: Scrub the mold until all the discoloration is gone -- taking care to wet it before scrubbing, to avoid spreading spores. Let the affected area dry completely, and before making repairs, you should vacuum with a HEPA-filter vacuum to remove any spores that may still remain.
Mold Remediation Guidelines
Because mold remediation involves the possibility of spreading spores to other areas, the EPA recommends doing it yourself only if the affected area is 10 square feet or less -- otherwise you should seek professional help. A large infestation often means that carpeting and furniture are also affected. After you've cleaned mold or mildew off of the paneling, repainting will help prevent a recurrence, as long as you wait for the paneling to dry completely first. Never paint over existing mold in an attempt to contain it -- it will continue to grow, and the paint will peel off.