How to Clean Mold Without Toxic Chemicals

If you discover large areas covered in mold, it's time to call in the professionals. (Photo: RioPatuca/Shutterstock).

All air, indoors or outdoors, contains some mold spores. It only becomes a problem when the mold growth is excessive, which can lead to harmful health issues.

Numerous studies have linked indoor mold to a host of upper respiratory problems, especially for people who are sensitive or allergic to it. For those people, mold growth can cause itchy eyes, a runny nose, headaches and even wheezing. For people with asthma, it can trigger an attack. Some evidence links indoor mold to the development of asthma in the first place.

So what do you do if you find this wonderful little growth in your home? Best to get rid of it — and fast. But there’s no need to kill mold with toxic and harsh chemicals like bleach or ammonia. If used properly, natural products will work just as well.

One way to kill mold is to use my all-time favorite cleaning tool: vinegar. Both inexpensive and nontoxic, vinegar is a winner when it comes to cleaning your home, and cleaning mold is no exception. Just spray it on the mold directly, let it sit for a few hours, and then scrub clean with a sponge.

The smell of vinegar is quite strong (my husband always tell me our house smells like a salad after I’m done cleaning) but it will dissipate within a couple hours. If it bothers you, add a few drop of essential oil (I like lavender) to make it smell better.

One good thing about adding an essential oil is that some oils have bacteria-killing properties, boosting vinegar’s natural mold-killing power. One good example is grapefruit seed extract, which also is an anti-fungal agent, making it an ideal partner for this purpose.

For another natural household cleaning agent that can help kill mold, try baking soda. You can mix it with some water or even with some vinegar (watch out, though; it’ll bubble at first). Work the mixture into a paste, spread it over the mold, let it sit for at least 15 minutes, and then scrub clean.

You can also use hydrogen peroxide, which is commonly used as a disinfectant, to clean mold naturally. Just spray some on the moldy surface, let it sit for at least an hour, and then scrub the surface clean.

Whatever you choose, it’s important to get the mold very wet first. This will help prevent mold spores from entering the air and possibly making your symptoms worse. To be safe, you can use a surgical mask while you’re cleaning the area.

If it’s a big job and you find mold in multiple places or covering a large surface area, call in the pros. Calling in a mold remediation expert is also a good idea if you think you’re having symptoms that may be caused by mold but can’t figure out where it is in your house. A specialist can test the air for mold spores and determine whether further investigation needs to be done.

Be sure to find out more about where mold likes to hide out in your house and how to prevent it from growing there in the first place.