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Mildew and Mold on Walls: How to Clean It and Repaint

An unpleasant surprise most commonly found on the ceilings of bathrooms and in the corners beneath your sink, mold on walls not only looks unwelcoming but could also cause health problems for people with compromised respiratory systems, like severe allergies and asthma.

Mold on Walls

While out in nature molds are a necessary player in the cycle of life, you certainly don’t want them in your home. But don’t call a professional just yet; there are some DIY remedies that could help you rid yourselves of these pesky fungi—even on painted drywall—without having to stretch your budget.

Read on to learn more about how to get rid of mold on walls!

Difference Between Mold and Mildew

First of all, though, let’s clarify the difference between mildew and mold, and if there even is any.

For the purpose of scrubbing away mold on walls, mold and mildew are practically the same thing: fungi that grow in moist, humid areas.

Technically, mildew on walls is a surface mold, and usually manifests as small gray or white powdery splotches on both vertical and horizontal surfaces. Because it’s a surface mold, it won’t burrow into the material of your walls or furniture, and thus is easier to clean.

Mold, on the other hand, can appear in a variety of colors (usually black, yellow, blue, white, orange, purple, or green), and spreads through the air when it releases spores that are carried around by hosts (like humans and animals) until it deposits in a new moist location. Its texture is either fuzzy or slimy (gross!). Mold on walls is worse than mildew on walls because it can cause structural damage to the surface it grows on, and some types of mold—like black mold—can even be dangerous to your health.

Dangerous Molds and Health Risks

As mentioned above, some rare types of mold on walls can cause moderate to severe health issues for individuals with low immune systems, like young children, elderly, and individuals with compromised immune systems because of other unrelated health concerns.

Coughing due to mold on walls

Touching or inhaling the spores released by molds on walls might cause traditional allergy symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, headaches, coughing, sore throats, and red eyes, but it can get worse. Some otherwise healthy people might have significant allergies to mold, and interacting with these fungi could bring on even nastier and potentially dangerous reactions, like skin rashes, shortness of breaths, lung irritation, and asthma attacks.

Bottom line? Treat mold and mildew on walls as quickly as possible!

Causes and Symptoms of Mildew and Mold on Walls

Since you’ve just learned that mildew and mold grow in moist, humid areas, you’ve probably already guessed that mildew and mold on walls form when there’s consistent moisture in a particular spot for long periods of times. Typical areas include basements, shower walls, laundry rooms, storage spaces beneath kitchen sinks, and windowsills.

The clearest symptom of mold or mildew growth is colorful patches growing unnaturally along moist surfaces. There are, however, other signs as well, like peeling paint (that will ruin an even layer of paint!), bubbles/bulging on drywalls, areas of discoloration, black streaks, and musty smells.

How to Remove Mildew and Mold From Walls

You’ve identified white or colorful spots growing in a humid corner of your home. Now what?

First of all, plan your attack strategy by gearing up with protective clothing. In all likelihood, your mold on walls isn’t the toxic type, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. To this end, we suggest you wear a mask, rubber gloves, and long sleeves to avoid breathing mold in, or it having any contact with your skin. Don’t wear your favorite sweater, or jeans—after the mold removal operation, you should plan on immediately washing or tossing your work garments.

Wearing PPE while addressing mold on walls

Bleach is usually the go-to killer product to solve your mold on walls problem. Open nearby windows—you could even set up a fan—to encourage ventilation and avoid breathing in too many fumes. Cover nearby furniture to protect it from accidental spillage. Next, mix bleach with three parts water. You can apply it to the wall by filling a spray bottle, or just using a sponge or old rag. Whatever method you use, douse the affected area completely.

If the mold has grown plentifully, let the bleach solution soak for a couple of minutes. Next, take a scrub brush (one you plan on tossing) and get to work! Depending on how deeply the mold has rooted itself, you may have to repeat the operation in the coming days or weeks. If the problem returns, you can consider mixing your bleach solution with a store-bought mold remover, which you can easily find at a hardware store or online.

Mold can also grow on painted walls. In this case, make sure that the mold hasn’t grown enough to damage the structure of the wall, in which case it might need to be replaced. If it hasn’t, you could try a natural remover before resorting to the more aggressive bleach. Mix two tablespoons of borax, one-fourth cup of white vinegar, and two cups of hot water. Follow the directions above, letting the solution sit for 10 minutes. Then, spray again, and this time simply wipe the solution away and dry the area as best as you can.

If the mold comes back, try applying undiluted white vinegar, and then follow the same directions as above. The smell will be unpleasant, but it usually goes away after the vinegar has dried.

Cleaning mold on walls with bleach or venegar

After you’re done scrubbing, check to make sure you haven’t missed any spots, and then dry the area with a towel or rag. We recommend tossing anything that came into contact with the mold on walls—you never know how well those fungi might cling to your cleaning tools.

If you apply these cleaning instructions on drywalls, the mold will likely be killed, but stains might remain. Before repainting, seal the area with an interior wall primer, and then repaint with mold-resistant paint.

How to Prevent Mold and Mildew on Walls?

Though the process above has proven itself time and time again, the truth is that the best antidote to mold on walls is preventing the growth of mold and mildew in the first place. Though the EPA says that there’s no way to completely get rid of mold and spores from indoor spaces, there are some easy tips you can follow to stop them from growing.

  1. It goes without saying that any liquid spillage, including plumbing leaks, should be mopped up immediately. Even just a brief delay gives the puddle time to soak further into whatever surface it is in contact with, which makes it more difficult to dry later on, and turns it into a perfect home for mold and mildew.
  2. Though we all love our hot showers, ideally you should wash or bathe with the door open, a fan running, and/or a window open for ventilation. This helps avoid the accumulation of too much water vapor, which is what then deposits on surfaces, causes water damage, and becomes inviting to mold and mildew.
  3. Dry the walls of your shower after every shower.
  4. Clean rooms with running water like bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms weekly with aggressive cleaning products, or store-bought mold cleaners.
  5. Don’t leave damp towels hanging around—hang them in well-ventilated areas, if not directly outside, so they can dry rapidly.
  6. Consider purchasing a dehumidifier if you live in a very humid area, or put a container of moisture-absorbing desiccant in the areas of your home that accumulate the most moisture to help prevent mold on walls in the future
  7. Use mold-resistant or mold-killing primers, sealers, and paint when remodeling.
  8. Use insulation in walls, roofs, and around windows to fight back condensation and keep mold and mildew outside, where they belong.
Using a dehumidifier to reduce mold on walls

Recommended Products for Fixing and Preventing Mold and Mildew and Repainting

Here are some recommended products for removing mold on walls and preventing its reappearance:

Wrapping Up How to Clean Mold on Walls and Repaint

Now that you’ve learned how to clean mildew and mold on walls, you’re ready to fight these annoying fungi with easy, in-home remedies, followed by more aggressive treatments depending on how deeply the mold is rooted into the surfaces of your home. Remember that prevention is the best solution, because some painted surfaces, like drywalls, might be so damaged by the mold that the only way forward is replacing them.

Once you’ve cleaned the mold, you’re ready to repaint the wall and make it look as good as new. Realized that the problem with your painted wall isn’t mold? Check out this Paint Problems Guide for common paint problems and how to fix them.