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How to Spot Mold and Mildew in Your Bathroom (And How to Get Rid of It)May 18th, 2021 by
Mold and mildew love damp, dark spaces. Granted, you probably wouldn’t describe your bathroom as “damp and dark.” Still, there are a surprising number of small, dark spots, even in the cheeriest of bathrooms. Plus, bathrooms have multiple sources of moisture—the sink, the tub, the shower and the toilet.
Those are the kinds of spots where mold and mildew tend to grow.
The longer mold and mildew are left untreated, the more damage they can do to your home. Not only that, but they’re not the safest thing for your family and pets to be around.
It’s important to know how to spot signs of mold or mildew in your bathroom and to know how to get rid of them.
In this article, we’ll go over what you need to know to determine if you have mold or mildew in your bathroom. We’ll also cover what you need to do to get rid of mold and mildew if you run across either.
5 Signs You Have Mold or Mildew in Your Bathroom
Mold and mildew need moisture to grow. Without water, there’s no danger of either. So in addition to looking for direct signs of mold and mildew growth, you should also look for signs of water damage.
Below are 5 common indicators that you have mold, mildew or water damage in your bathroom.
1. Visible Mold
We’ll begin with the most obvious one—visible mold. While this may seem too obvious to even be worth mentioning, it’s important for one simple reason.
Mold usually begins growing underneath surfaces. By the time you can see it, you probably have a severe problem.
The most common types of bathroom mold have a grey, black or dark brown appearance and a down-like or wooly texture. However, other common household molds can be green, white, blue or black, and they may be fuzzy or slimy looking.
RELATED: Different Types of Household Mold
2. A Musty Smell
Mold and mildew often grow in dark, damp places that are difficult to see. Places like above ceiling tiles, behind walls, or inside cabinets.
In some cases, you may be able to smell mold and mildew before you can see it.
When mold spores decompose, they emit a smell. It’s stale or earthy. If you notice a constant musty smell, even when your bathroom is clean and dry, you probably have mold, a hidden leak or both.
Ants like to live in moist wood. If you see ants in your bathroom, this may be a sign mold is growing beneath your floor tiles and decomposing your floorboards.
4. Soft Spots in Your Bathroom Floor
If your bathroom floor feels soft when you walk on it, this is usually a sign that your subfloor is rotting due to moisture and/or mold growth.
What would cause that? A hidden leak or some other water issue under your house. Either way, if the floor feels soft, it’s time to call in a professional to check for possible problems.
5. Wall Damage
Crumbling plaster, loose or cracked tiles, discoloration, blistering paint, or gaps in the caulk or grout are signs of water damage. Any one of these may indicate mold growth beneath the tiles or drywall.
Severe water damage may cause the walls to appear warped or the tiles to be loose enough to move when touched.
How to Remove Mildew
Mildew is easier to remove than mold because it only grows on the surface. It can usually be removed using common household cleaners.
Remove Mildew With Vinegar and Baking Soda
Because harsh cleaning products can carry health risks or damage surfaces, it’s best to start with a mild cleaner.
- Fill a spray bottle with white vinegar.
- Spray surfaces where you can see visible mildew growth.
- Leave the vinegar on for a few hours.
- After some time has passed, wipe it off with a moist cloth. (You can use an old toothbrush to get into tight areas.)
- Finish by rinsing the surfaces with water.
If you still have mildew after this step, apply a paste made from 3 parts baking soda and 1 part water. Then spray more vinegar on top. Scrub the area with a bristled brush and rinse with water.
Repeat this process until all the mildew is gone.
Try Hydrogen Peroxide for Persistent Mildew
If you still have a mildew problem after trying the vinegar and baking soda method, try spraying the mildew with hydrogen peroxide and then scrubbing the surfaces.
However, be aware that mixing vinegar and hydrogen peroxide can have toxic results. It’s important to rinse surfaces thoroughly after using vinegar before you use any other cleaning product.
And, of course, don’t use the same spray bottle for both substances.
Use Bleach for the Toughest Mildew Stains
If the hydrogen peroxide method fails to remove all the mildew, try a solution of 75% water and 25% bleach.
Once again, do not mix cleaning products. If you’ve already used hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, or any other cleaning product, make sure the surface has been rinsed thoroughly before using bleach.
Also, be sure to wear rubber gloves and eye protection.
How to Remove Mold
Because mold penetrates surfaces, it can be difficult to completely remove it yourself. Additionally, cleaning mold can cause it to release spores into the air and spread to the rest of your house.
If you have a large amount of mold in your bathroom, you may want to contact a professional to take care of the problem. If you decide to clean it yourself, wear gloves and a mask to protect yourself from mold spores, and work in a well-ventilated area.
Check out our complete guide on mold removal for more information.
Kill Mold With Borax
Soap and water may be enough to remove small amounts of mold. If that doesn’t get the job done, try mixing one cup of borax with one gallon of warm water.
Spray the borax solution onto the moldy surfaces. Then use a sponge, rag or scrub brush to remove the mold stains.
You can also use the borax solution to mop moldy vinyl or tile floors.
Clean Mold With Bleach
Bleach also works well to remove mold stains. But bleach should be avoided if you do not have a well-ventilated bathroom.
Always open a window or turn on the exhaust fan when working with bleach.
Mix 1 part bleach with 10 parts water to clean nonporous surfaces, such as toilets, tubs, sinks and showers. Do not use bleach to clean walls or ceilings.
Use Vinegar to Clean Porous Surfaces
Porous surfaces, such as walls or painted ceiling tiles, can be treated with a vinegar solution.
However, textured walls and ceilings will need to be scraped off. This is a task best left to the pros.
Know When to Call a Pro
Small amounts of mold and mildew are relatively easy to clean with common household items and a little elbow grease. Just be sure to put your safety first. Go slow, make sure there’s plenty of ventilation, and don’t attempt to take on a job you’re not comfortable with.
If mold and mildew keep coming back, or if you have a particularly bad mold and mildew issue, call a professional. And if you discover any leaks or water issues, be sure to contact a plumber to deal with those.