If you’ve got a stale, musty odor in your basement, you may have a small water leak. Coupled with poor ventilation, the still water can quickly lead to mold build-up. And that mold can cause skin reactions, nausea, allergies, asthma attacks and other serious health issues.
Mold is fairly easy to kill on smooth materials such as tile, but it can be more difficult when it hides within the porous surfaces of wood, carpet and drywall. Bleach is highly effective at killing mold spores and is the active ingredient in most mold sprays, but it cannot penetrate porous surfaces. Bleach also produces toxic fumes that can be harmful to inhale.
The fizz of hydrogen peroxide
The effervescent nature of hydrogen peroxide makes it more effective than chlorine bleach at reaching and killing mold on porous surfaces. It is also inexpensive and readily available at grocery stores and pharmacies.
Once you’ve tackled the mold stains, you can absorb any lingering odors naturally with salt water, lemon slices or vinegar. And to prevent musty odors from building up again in the future, be sure to fix any leaks and consider investing in a dehumidifier to keep the room dry.
Here’s how to tackle the mold.
Remove mold contamination
If your home is severely mold-infested, it’s best to call a professional who can properly test the mold and recommend solutions or test for mold yourself with an at-home kit. Ensure the professional you hire inspects any air ducts that have come into contact with the mold.For less severe mold issues, start by opening doors and windows to allow fresh air inside the room. Do not use fans if the mold has already begun to grow, as they can spread the spores to other parts of the house.
Put on a pair of latex gloves and goggles for protection and remove all wet items such as carpeting, rugs, toys, furniture and ceiling tiles. Remove wet baseboards and dry wall up to 12-inches above the water or mold stains. And remove and discard wet insulation, then check inside the wall for mold. (Rigid insulation can be disinfected and reinstalled.)
When mold accumulates behind unfinished drywall, inside unpainted wood, underneath carpets or other places that spray solutions simply cannot reach, the material will likely need to be replaced.
Clean and disinfect wet items
First, put on a pair of latex gloves and goggles for protection.Disinfect glass, plastic and metal surfaces with a solution of equal parts hot water and 3% hydrogen peroxide (found in supermarkets & drugstores). Scrub the solution into rough surfaces, such as concrete, with a stiff brush. Let the solution sit for 15 minutes and wipe dry.
Disinfect porous items such as wood and fabric with just the 3% hydrogen peroxide (no additional water). Let the solution sit for 15 minutes and rinse clean. **Have a specialist handle items of sentimental or monetary value, as hydrogen peroxide is a bleach and may discolor fabrics and other materials.
Leave non-porous materials to dry over several days and monitor for mold growth and odors. If mold develops, discard the item.
Remove stubborn mold stains
Spray surface mold with 3% hydrogen peroxide and let it sit for 15 minutes, before wiping dry. Repeat as necessary, or scrub extra-stubborn stains with baking soda.
Absorb lingering odors
Once you’ve dealt with moldy items, place bowls of vinegar, lemon water or salt water around the room to absorb lingering odors. Let the bowls sit a few days until the smell is gone.
Since the salt, water, lemon slices and vinegar will absorb the odor-causing bacteria, they should not be used in food or drink afterward. Rinse water and vinegar down the sink and discard lemons in the trash or compost.
Keep the room odor-free
Once the mold is gone, you’ll want to keep the room dry with a dehumidifier and/or proper ventilation to prevent the mold from returning. You can also keep sachets of volcanic rock around the room. (Volcanic rocks are readily found in home and garden stores or online.)
The odor-causing bacteria will be absorbed into the porous material of the volcanic rock for up to three months. When the volcanic rock begins to lose its odor-absorbing abilities, place it in the sun for three days to recharge.