Mold and mildew are forms of fungi and, unfortunately, they are everywhere -- or at least their spores are. When conditions are right -- meaning they have food, oxygen and, most important, water -- the spores grow roots, and a mold colony develops. Thousands of strains exist, and the mycotoxins that some generate can cause health problems for sensitive individuals. Bleach and vinegar kill mold, but cleanup with soapy water is also effective.
Bleach for Nonporous Surfaces
Bleach has long been the go-to disinfectant for mold control, but it isn't necessarily the best mold-control product you can use -- its high surface tension prevents absorption into porous materials, such as wood, tile grout and paper. It is an effective mold cleaner for nonporous surfaces, though, such as tile and fiberglass. To kill mold on these nonporous surfaces, mix a solution consisting of 1 part liquid chlorine bleach to 10 parts water in a spray bottle. Spray the affected areas and wipe them clean with a cloth or sponge. Wear a respirator and keep the room ventilated while using bleach, and avoid mixing it with any household cleaner that contains ammonia -- the combination creates toxic fumes.
Soapy Water for Most Surfaces
Rather than using bleach, federal authorities such as OSHA, FEMA and the EPA recommend cleaning mold off of hard porous surfaces with a solution of detergent and water. The objective is to remove all visible mold rather than trying to kill all the roots, which is virtually impossible, anyway. You don't need a strong detergent solution -- even cleanup with plain water is effective -- so use one proven safe for the surface you're cleaning. Add 1/2 cup of laundry detergent or 2 ounces of dish soap or household cleaning detergent to a gallon of water for a solution that will get the job done.
All-Purpose Bathroom Cleaning
Mold is most often present in the bathroom, and limescale and soap streaks are often just as prevalent. Vinegar dissolves scale, and it also kills 82 percent of mold spores, making it a good all-purpose cleaner for your bathroom. Use it full-strength, pouring it into a spray bottle and spraying the walls and all the fixtures. Allow it to remain on streaked walls and glass for 30 minutes before rinsing it off to give it time to dissolve the streaks. To get rid of excessive buildup on fixtures, make a paste with vinegar and borax, and leave it on overnight.
One way to prevent mold from growing is to regularly spray surfaces with disinfectant -- either full-strength vinegar or a 10 percent bleach solution. The most effective control strategy, though, is to keep everything dry, because mold can't grow without moisture. If your house is humid, increase air circulation with a fan or some other means of ventilation to promote evaporation. If mold is growing in a particular location, it could be fed by a leak in the roof, the wall or a water pipe; find the leak and fix it. When a leak has blackened the drywall, remove and discard the affected drywall to prevent the mold from spreading.