Mold’s Top 5 Hiding Places
and How to Banish it from Your Home
Mold can hide in the most unlikely places, from your air conditioning system to under kitchen sinks, to dishwashers, to under the floor joists of your home. Why should it matter if mold grows? Mold can make you sick and can cause health problems from asthma and allergies to fungal poisoning to mental health problems! Here at Branch Environmental, we believe that nobody should live or work in a building that makes them sick. Come learn the top 5 places mold hides in your home, and how to prevent it from growing!
1. Air Conditioners
Your air conditioner is at the top of the list for mold hiding places. It is out of sight and out of mind, but also has a huge impact on the air you breathe.
Start by looking at the filter. You do check your filter regularly, right? You should be changing the filter at least 4 times per year or every 3 months. If there is any sign of dust it should be replaced. A dusty filter can harbor mold spores, and keep your system from operating effectively.
Keeping the filter clean is important, but we still need to dig a little deeper to find all the mold. The next step is to check the coils. The coils are inside the air conditioner unit, and they can harbor some nasty mold growth. Let’s stop right here. If you don’t know how to find the coils, you should probably call out a pro to do it for you.
Coils should be checked and cleaned at least once every year. Unfortunately, many people go for many years without a comprehensive HVAC service and cleaning. Don’t let this be you! Molds can cause problems breathing, asthma attacks, sneezing, coughing, itchy eyes and skin, and can cause mental health problems over the long term. Molds can also produce mycotoxins or ‘fungus poisons.’ Even if you are not allergic to mold you can be affected by mycotoxins.
2. Washing Machines
Washing machines are a perfect place for mold to hide, especially in the hot summer months. Warm moist air and the organic material (from clothing) make a perfect environment for mold to grow! Front loading washing machines are especially susceptible to mold growth because of the seal required when washing. If you look inside the rubber gasket of your front loading washing machine, you will probably find slimy mold monsters growing there! Top loading washing machines are also susceptible to mold growth.
To clean the machine: There are several homemade cleaners that are safer to use than commercial washing machine cleaners. To learn more about why commercial washing machine cleaners are not safe, check out EWG’s review of the top 3 washing machine cleaners here: Cleaner Ratings | Washing Machine Cleaner. EWG is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment. Check out their website at ewg.org.
The ingredients you will need to clean your machine are simple and include: hydrogen peroxide OR white vinegar and lemon juice. Warning: Never mix vinegar and peroxide! Lemon juice is safe to mix with vinegar. Both are acids and can help remove the mold. All 3 solutions have the highest safety rating by EWG.
To clean the gasket of a front loading machine: Using a clean spray bottle filled with undiluted white vinegar, spray around the interior of the gasket. Be careful not to spray yourself in the eyes! Be sure to spray the door gasket and window as well. Allow it to sit for 15 minutes to 1 hour. Clean the inside of the gasket with a scrub brush or an old toothbrush. Rinse with water or wipe clean with a rag or paper towel. Clean any removable compartments with hot soapy water, or if truly gross, soak in vinegar first.
To clean a top loading machine: Spray the surface inside the lid and around the top of the machine with vinegar. Allow it to sit for 15 minutes to 1 hour. Wipe or rinse clean after scrubbing with an old toothbrush or scrub brush. Clean any compartments that are removable in hot soapy water.
To clean the drum: Take 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide OR white vinegar (not both) and add it to the compartments of your machine. If it is particularly dirty, add a cup to the drum as well. If using hydrogen peroxide, run the machine without clothes on a cold water soak setting. Then, run the machine empty again on a hot water setting. Some machines come equipped with an allergy setting with extra hot water. If using vinegar, use the hot water cycle only. Allow the machine to air dry between washes by always leaving the door open.
To prevent future mold growth: Keep the door of the washer open to allow the machine to air dry. Keep the laundry room door open, if possible, to allow more moisture to escape. Clean the machine at least once a month using the steps above. Mold growth is higher in the summer when it is warm. So in the summer, you may want to clean more often.
Bathrooms are excellent places for mold to hide because of the high moisture of the room. To prevent bathroom mold, ventilate the room well and keep it clean. Periodically (3-4 times a year), check under sinks for moisture damage. To learn more about preventing bathroom mold see our post titled: How to Prevent Bathroom Mold.
Crawl spaces and basements are areas where we find a lot of hidden mold and water damage. These little used areas of your home are important to clean and inspect periodically. If you have a crawlspace, especially here in the Southeast, you’ve got a great hiding place for mold. It’s an area that does not get much traffic and stays damp and stagnant. On top of that, any small leaks travel down and end up in the crawlspace.
You should head down to your crawlspace at least once a year to check for mold and possible foundation problems. Pull back the floor insulation and look at the floor joists and decking. If mold is there, it will be easy to spot. Make sure you check throughout the crawlspace, and look especially carefully around the areas below the kitchen, laundry, and bathrooms.
It’s a good idea to call in the pros for crawl space mold. Because it’s a labor-intensive job to do really well, it is not better not to DIY. Be aware, crawl spaces are areas that a lot of companies know you won’t be going behind to check. If you see a deal that’s too good to be true, it probably is.
Kitchens are a great place for mold to hide. Think under sinks, behind refrigerators and stoves. Did you also know that mold loves to hide inside and around dishwashers?
Dishwashers are wonderful technology that help save us time and energy. However, they are also places with high moisture and food particles. The perfect environment for mold to hide and grow! There is a simple solution to the problem however. It requires a little elbow grease. (For you youngsters, that’s good old fashioned hard work).
To clean mold growth on or in your dishwasher you will need 2 simple ingredients: baking soda and white vinegar. Each of these ingredients has the highest safety rating on the EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning (EWG).
First, clean the outside of the dishwasher including: gaskets, seals, and the steam vent. Using a clean spray bottle filled with undiluted white vinegar (the same bottle you used for the washing machine), spray the areas that need cleaning and allow it to sit for 15 minutes to 1 hour. Wipe clean with a paper towel or rag.
Next, remove and clean behind the silverware rack, the filter, dish racks and any other interior removable parts with vinegar and a scrub brush; or wash them in hot soapy water before returning them to the machine.
Last, clean the interior of the dishwasher by adding a cup of white vinegar to a glass container on the top rack. Balance carefully. Sprinkle baking soda on the bottom of the dishwasher. Then, run the machine using a hot water cycle.
To prevent future mold growth: Clean the machine at least once a month. Allow the dishwasher to dry completely as often as possible.
Other Places Mold Hides in the Kitchen
Every month, you should empty the refrigerator, spray and wipe surfaces with white vinegar. Check gaskets for mold and mildew growth. Place a fresh box of baking soda in the fridge every other month to keep it smelling fresh.
Once or twice a year, pull out your refrigerator, so that you can vacuum and mop under it. Be sure to vacuum the coils as well.
Please note that all vacuum cleaners are NOT created equal when it comes to allergens such as dust mites. Vacuum cleaners equipped with a high-efficiency particulate air filter (HEPA filter) are vital when dealing with dust mites and mold. According to The Spruce, “true HEPA filters have a serial number assigned to them and have been proven to trap at least 99.97 percent of particles of 0.3 microns.” Which means they can trap mold, dust mites and their feces, pet dander, and other allergens you don’t want coming back into the air after vacuuming!
How to Clean
OK, you found some mold. What do you do now? With mold and mildew (a cousin of molds that is just as aggravating, but slightly less dangerous), there are three steps to take for remediation:
- Clean what you can see. Baking soda, white vinegar, and hydrogen peroxide are excellent cleaners and can help remove the surface mold and mildew.
- Always wear gloves, long sleeves, and an N-95 respirator when cleaning mold. Be sure to throw away anything used to clean the mold such as old toothbrushes or rags, as it may be difficult to remove the mold from them. You can soak old scrub brushes and toothbrushes in vinegar or hydrogen peroxide to clean them, but it depends on how dirty they are. When in doubt, throw it out!
- Caution: Do not mix hydrogen peroxide with baking soda or vinegar. For more information see our posts titled: A Simple Guide to Cleaning Mold and Disinfecting, Sterilizing, and Sanitizing is there a Difference?
- Prevent new growth. Keep areas of high humidity dry by ventilating rooms such as bathrooms, kitchen, and laundry rooms. Dehumidifiers may be helpful. For detailed, in depth information see our post titled: How to Prevent Bathroom Mold
- Get a professional inspection if you suspect the problem may be more than an isolated area. If you see areas larger than about ten square feet, or there is a musty smell you can’t identify, it may be time to call a professional. A professional mold inspection can ensure your problem is solved and not just covered up.
Remember, mildew is a surface dweller and easily removed. Mold grows inside of the food source (carpet, drywall, etc.), and can cause major health issues. If you clean up an area and the fungal growth comes back quickly, you may have a mold problem. A professional inspection can determine the true source of the problem and fix it.
When To Clean. When To Call.
Indoor mold growth can be prevented by controlling moisture and controlling humidity indoors.
You may be able to clean surface mold on the walls, ceilings or floors of your home that are less than ten square feet by using gentle detergents, vinegar, and water. For more information about cleaning mold yourself go to: A Simple Guide to Cleaning Mold.
If you are experiencing the health symptoms of mold contamination, or you have had water damage in your home (leaking faucet, roof, etc.) you probably need a mold inspection. If you see areas of mold larger than ten square feet, or there is a musty smell you can’t identify, it may be time to call a professional.
We’re Here When You Need Us.
Call Branch Environmental. We’re experts not only at mold removal, but at determining and remediating the underlying causes. From hidden mold sources to major contaminants. We can identify exactly what is going on in your home and rid it of environmental toxins, often for good.
Branch Environmental – Because nobody should live or work in a building that makes them sick.
For more information go to:
- Mycotoxins – World Health Organization
- Cleaner Ratings | Washing Machine Cleaner – Environmental Working Group
- Environmental Working Group
- How to Prevent Bathroom Mold – Branch Environmental
- Disinfecting, Sterilizing, and Sanitizing is there a Difference? – Branch Environmental
- A Simple Guide to Cleaning Mold – Branch Environmental
- Professional Mold Inspection Request – Branch Environmental
- What to Wear before entering a Home or Building with Mold Damage – CDC 2017
Blog information is NOT intended to provide or replace medical advice. NO information on this site should be used to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease or condition.
*We are an Amazon affiliate company and we do occasionally receive compensation for products that you purchase through links on our website.
Suggestions for products to use are just that, suggestions. You know yourself and your home best. Please do your own research on any product you use in your home or on your skin, and learn all the facts for yourself. Thank you.