DIY Mold Removal
Reducing Mold, Mildew & House Odors
The Mold Is Winning
I have serious problems with our shower and I haven't been able to determine what to do. I have researched your web site and I am still not sure what to do. I have a shower that has incredible amounts of mold on it. I have scrubbed it with so many different types of cleansers with minimal results. I have used ZAP (a restorer) with little success. I even took a sander tool on the hand drill but I was afraid I would ruin the tile. Since the mold is in the grout, if I scrubbed and scrubbed off the mold, then could I put a caulk that was mold resistant on top of the grout?
I was told to put in an exhaust fan to prevent future mold; I will have to contact an electrician to do that. (I have also used bleach but there is no ventilation in there so I must be careful.) Also, this shower is in our bedroom and my allergies have been very bad; I think the mold is responsible. Any advice to help me get rid of the mold and keep it out? Thanks for everything.
Personal Favorite Ways to Deal with Shower Mold
I personally favor two products (not to be used together) for cleaning disgusting showers:
- X-14. In my humble opinion, better than the others and better than straight bleach. Yes, it has fumes, so apply it in the morning open the door to the bedroom and open all the windows in the bedroom, then close the bedroom door to the rest of the house. That should take care of most of the "black" molds.
- Lime-away. I like the squirt bottles, but they also make it in a spray. This will take off hard water deposits (which could actually seal-in mildew) as well as kill off lots of pink sludgy molds.
Both of these are very hard on the hands. Try to keep them off any chrome and rinse well once they've "worked their magic." Also, never mix different chemicals together when cleaning.
Of course the more environmentally friendly cleaning products would be vinegar (that will get the hard water) and baking soda (used like a cleanser). Probably don't want to use them at the same time either or it'll get messy.
Using the Good Toothbrush on the Mold
Mold allergies are the pits. Ventilation in your bathroom will help a great deal. Until you can get the electrician in, try opening windows and doors in surrounding rooms to get some fresh air into your bathroom. When you do put a fan in, invest in a heavy duty one. They make all the difference in getting your walls dry after a shower or bath.
If you haven't tried Soft Scrub with bleach, I have found it works well in removing mold without irritating my chemical sensitivities too much. I've also found that spraying the grouting with hydrogen peroxide in between showers retards mold re-growth once it is scrubbed away. Peroxide costs 50 cents a bottle on sale and can be put into any clean, empty spray bottle you have around the house.
To clean grout, if you have a Sonicare type toothbrush they work great on grout. I've used mine on 35-year-old grout in my parent's kitchen and people asked them if they had replaced the countertop! Use sparingly, only three or four cycles at a time or you will burn out the unit. I dedicate a toothbrush head to cleaning and wash the base unit with dish soap before replacing the brush for my teeth. The Braun type electric toothbrush would also likely work well.
Found the Miracle Remover for Shower Mold
I had the same type of problem but with a fiberglass shower. I replaced the caulk with "mold resistant" caulk and it came back within months! I have used hundreds of dollars in cleaners (including ZAP), scrubbers and homemade remedies, not to mention the amount of elbow grease involved. I decided to take a chance on a commercial cleaner I saw at Home Depot. It was less than $2 for the spray bottle. It is NOT environmentally friendly, so take precautions when using it. It is wonderful! It cleared the mold and mildew in two, five minute applications with NO scrubbing! This small miracle is called Commercial Zep Mildew Stain Remover and comes in a 32-ounce spray bottle. Give it a try!
Check with the Professional Mold Services
See if your county extension office or health department can test this mold. Some difficult to get rid of molds are dangerous health hazards. There have been shows on TV about this problem. People had to abandon their house because this mold couldn't be controlled and caused serious health problems. Also, once you find out what kind of mold, perhaps they'll have better recommendations for elimination.
Vinegar is a Winner for Shower Molds
From everything I have been reading lately not only does vinegar clean your windows streak free but it also gets rid of mold and mildew plus it is supposed to keep it from returning. You can use it full strength with a bit of baking soda mixed in. I have not yet tried this, but you can bet it is next on my list!
Also you can look into a device called an "Air Dryer" I bought one from a company called Harmony a few years ago when I was living in FL and had a major problem with mold. I can tell you that the device will not cost nearly the amount a contractor will want to put in an exhaust fan. I had decided to purchase it when I had tried everything I could think of (except vinegar) and I even had an exhaust fan but nothing worked like the Air Dryer.
Behind the Shower Tiles?
Mold in the tile grout is normal in older bathrooms however, what you're describing is severe. I would carefully try cleaning it with a mixture of chlorine and water (equal amounts each) and once it's dry try using a grout paint, which comes in a bottle (like shoe polish). I've done this successfully although my problem was not as severe. If you still have a problem after doing this I would seriously consider having a handyman take out a few tiles and determine if you have a water leak behind the tile which might be causing this problem. Mold can be a very dangerous thing particularly if you have allergies. Please keep the door to your bathroom closed when you go to sleep at night.
Herbal Solutions for Mold
How about an herbal solution, a mixture of about 2 cups of water with 2 teaspoons tea tree oil. It is an antifungal and will keep the mold down when sprayed on the walls and shower curtain. There are many books that offer good non-toxic household solutions.
A Great Supply of Mold Information
To restore your ceramic tile shower to near perfect condition, you are going to need several things. Get a new scrub brush that has stiff nylon or plastic bristles, a roll of paper towels, a gallon of chlorine bleach, a gallon of white vinegar, a spray bathroom cleaner or ultra mild abrasive cleaner, and your birthday suit. The stains and dirt have taken months to accumulate. Don't think you are going to complete this job in 30 minutes or less. The entire process is going to take place over a period of hours and possibly several days.
The first thing to do is to use the scrub brush to remove as much mildew, dirt, soap film etc. as possible from the tile and grout. Get into the shower and scrub well using lots of water and plenty of cleaner. Rinse often and do whatever is necessary to make the tile surfaces shine like a mirror. Don't worry that the grout is still gray with deeply embedded mildew since that will be addressed below.
After this cleaning process, you will probably have some dull stains that won't budge. These are very likely hard water deposits. You will remove those using some paper towels and white vinegar. Saturate some paper towels with the vinegar and place them over the hard water stains. Do this on the floor and any vertical surfaces. The wet paper towels will readily cling to vertical surfaces. Vinegar is a very mild acid and it works slowly but efficiently to dissolve the alkaline water deposits.
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Get dressed or put on your robe and go relax for a while. Stop back every hour to make sure the towels are still wet with vinegar. Pull away a towel and scrub the deposits. They may completely wash away. If they do not, pour fresh vinegar on the towels to continue the cleansing chemical reaction. Heavy deposits can take up to eight hours or so to completely melt away. The trick is to keep fresh vinegar on the towels.
Once you have all of the hard water deposits removed, clean the shower again to remove all traces of vinegar. It is now time to attack any residual mildew that has stained the grout. You are going to use the pure chlorine bleach and the remaining paper towels to accomplish this task. Saturate as many towels as necessary and put these in contact with the mildew stained grout. It can take hours and possibly days to bleach out all of the mildew in the grout. Be careful not to splash the chlorine bleach in your eyes or on any fabrics or carpets. It can harm you and it removes color from dyed fabrics.
Editor's note: Be sure all of the vinegar is washed away before using chlorine bleach because the two interact to create toxic chlorine gas which can be deadly, especially in an enclosed area.
If you are allergic to chlorine bleach or the chlorine fumes bother you, use oxygen bleach to remove mildew (www.oxygenbleach.com/). Use the same techniques as described above, it just might take a little longer. Oxygen bleach is color and fabric safe. It is also excellent for people who have septic systems. Chlorine bleach that escapes from the tub or shower into the drain system can kill beneficial bacteria in the septic tank. Oxygen bleach actually helps this bacteria!
To prevent the staining problem in your shower, it helps to understand mildew. It is an organism that requires food and water to live. Showers and bath areas provide the moisture and you provide the food every time you use soap, shampoo, cream rinse, etc. Even the dirt and oils you wash from your skin and hair are food for mildew. If you minimize or eliminate the food and water, you can eliminate the mildew.
The best way to defeat mildew is to clean the shower every two weeks. Every day after you have showered use a plastic cup to pour clean water down the sides of the tile. Then use a squeegee to quickly wipe down the tiles directing as much water as possible to the shower drain. These two simple steps will remove a huge amount of food and water from the shower each day. When you get ready to leave the bathroom, open the shower curtain or shower door. Keep the bathroom door open as well. You want as much air to circulate in the shower as possible. This will dry all bath surfaces quickly and rob any microscopic mildew spores of water.
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