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Mold and mildew seem to be a fact of life. And with humid summers on the way, the problem can get worse. Bleach is the defacto weapon of choice to kill mold but besides being a very harsh chemical that strips the color out of porous materials, the smell can be really annoying. There are natural solutions that work just as well without the problems.
First of all, don’t bother trying to revive anything that’s already full of mold. Toys, pillows, clothing, books, upholstered furniture or rugs – it really is best to get rid of them. Not even bleach can save saturated items.
If possible, you can try washing the item in hot water with a detergent containing Borax but if it’s been sitting around for a while, it will be tough to get rid of the musty odor. If it’s a rug or furniture, use one of the liquid only solutions below then use a steam cleaner with a solution especially made for mold removal. Note that you shouldn’t put your own mixtures in steam cleaners as it will void any warranty/might gum up the works.
For spot cleaning and prevention, try these natural ways to kill and prevent mold and mildew.
Borax works well on porous surfaces like wood and fabrics. Mix with water to create a paste to scrub the infected area. Let dry then wipe or rinse with water or vacuum.
Grapefruit Seed Extract
Mix 2 cups of water with 20 drops of grapefruit seed extract in a spray bottle. Spray the solution and leave to air dry or start scrubbing right away. If you’ve used this on fabric, keep it out of the sun to avoid fading.
Half a cup of hydrogen peroxide mixed with 1 cup of water can be sprayed on most surfaces to clean off mold. You can also use it undiluted on tile or other hard surfaces. If using on fabric or rugs, do a test area first.
Make a paste from baking soda and water then spread on the infected surface. Let it sit for a few hours then scrub it – and the mold – off.
Distilled White Vinegar
Alone or mixed with some baking soda, versatile vinegar also eliminates mold. You can use distilled white vinegar straight or mix with equal parts vinegar and water to make an all-purpose spray. Add an equal amount of baking soda to the amount of liquid (e.g., 1 cup of liquid to 1 cup of baking soda) to make a thick paste for scrubbing. Since it’s acidic, don’t use on delicate fabrics.
Pure Tea Tree Oil
Yes, it’s pricey but it’s probably the best of all natural mold killers. It also has a strong odor that some don’t like, so use this on small items that you can place outside to dry or small areas that have good ventilation. Add 2 teaspoons of tea tree oil to 2 cups of water to make a spray you can use on any surface. Mask the odor with white vinegar placed in bowls or use natural air fresheners.