How To Remove and Prevent Mold on Wood

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Mold likes to grow on wood in dark, damp places. It can be removed with various tools and cleaners, like a soft-bristled scrub brush, sponge, sandpaper, distilled white vinegar, and dishwashing detergent. 
Spotting or smelling mold growing on any surface is less than ideal—and seeing it happen to your wood surfaces can be even more upsetting. Mold can destroy the structure of wood quite easily if left alone, so it’s important to remove it as soon as you notice it. 
The cleaning process can be intimidating, especially since different types of mold can pose serious health hazards. That’s why the super app for home and car insurance, Jerry, has compiled this guide to walk you through the steps to remove mold from wood safely.
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Tools and cleaners you’ll need 

Mold can be pernicious. It often grows for a while before we even notice it. It can also spread very easily through microscopic mold spores that move through the air and aim to settle where there is little light and plenty of moisture. 
Sometimes the spores don’t find the right spot and die out—but other times they land right on the leg of that wooden table you’re storing in your kinda-damp basement. 
When you notice those mold spots starting to emerge, you’ll want to remove them as quickly as possible to avoid lasting damage to the wood. 
Before you engage in mold battle, you’ll need to prepare yourself with the proper tools and cleaning agents. You will need:
  • Safety gear: rubber gloves, protective eyewear, a high-grade face mask (like an N95), and long sleeved clothes 
  • Soft-bristled brush 
  • Soft cloth or microfiber cloth
  • Sponge
  • Spray bottle
  • Vacuum with a HEPA filter 
  • Mold cleaner: dishwashing soap, wood cleaner, distilled white vinegar, bleach, vodka, rubbing alcohol, tea tree oil, and borax can all work.
  • Sandpaper (optional) 
  • Wood stain, sealer, or paint (optional)
Pro Tip Borax is a useful cleaner on many surfaces, but keep in mind that it may damage porous and unsealed wood. 

How to remove the mold 

Once you’re armed with the right tools, you can begin the removal process. Since you may be working with bleach, it’s a good idea to wear clothes that you wouldn’t mind being stained
If possible, take the affected wood outside before beginning the cleaning process. If you can’t take it outside, make sure the area you’re working in is well-ventilated—with opened windows, ventilation fans, or air purifiers—and closed off from other areas of your home. 
Once you’re situated outside or your area is secure, go through the following steps for mold removal

Vacuum the mold

Not any old vacuum will do when it comes to mold. Make sure you’re using a vacuum that has a HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filter that can safely catch mold spores. Vacuum along the wood surface that has the mold and try to suck up as much as possible. 
Empty the vacuum outside and into a plastic bag for immediate disposal, and finish by thoroughly washing out the vacuum. 

Clean the wood

Your next step will be to clean the wood surface. Mix a cleaning solution of 1 tablespoon liquid dish soap with 1 quart of warm water. Put this solution on your sponge and wash the surface, but be careful not to oversaturate the wood (this leaves it in a condition ripe for more mold growth). 

Get rid of the mold

After you do a surface clean, follow it up with a stronger cleaning agent to effectively banish any remaining mold spores. 
If you’re just dealing with a relatively small amount of mold, distilled white vinegar over the affected area should do. Pour some vinegar into a spray bottle, thoroughly spray where the mold was, and let it air dry for at least one hour. Come back and wipe it down with a wood cleaner on a soft cloth. 
If the mold has taken over a large swath of the wood, you may need to call on a more serious liquid—bleach. Mix a solution of ½ cup bleach, 1 tablespoon dishwashing soap, and 1 cup warm water, and use your soft-bristled brush to scrub the solution over the mold. Let it air dry completely before wiping it down with a clean cloth. 
Sandpaper can also be used on the wood surface if the mold stains persist. You may wish to re-stain, paint, or seal the wood after sanding it down. 
You should seek help from a professional if you’re dealing with a mold-infected area that is 10 square feet or larger or in a poorly ventilated area like a crawlspace or attic. 

Types of mold

Not all mold grows equally. Some types can be quite hazardous to our health, while others are more innocent. All types typically cause some level of harm. 
Black mold, for example, is among the more dangerous types of mold. It has an ominous greenish-black color and can cause or agitate a number of respiratory ailments like asthma attacks, wheezing, and sneezing. 
Towards the other end of the mold-danger spectrum is mildew. This kind of mold is one of the most commonly found types in homes. It begins as gray or white and settles into a darker color eventually. Mildew only reaches the surface of wood, so it’s not as difficult to remove. 

How often should I clean mold off wood?

We know cleaning mold is a less than savory task that most of us want to avoid at all costs. However, mold can be quite damaging (both to the surface it settled on and to your health). 
You’ll want to clean mold off any wood as soon as you notice it. It will penetrate deeper and wear on the wood the longer it’s left to grow. 
Pro Tip If you have wooden outdoor furniture, it is recommended that you power wash (or hand wash) them at least once a year to prevent mold build-up. 

How can I prevent mold from forming on wood? 

Understandably, you’ll want to keep the mold from coming back after you’ve eliminated it. The most important thing to do is to keep things dry, since mold forms best in moist and damp conditions. 
Proper ventilation and even sunlight exposure can do wonders in the fight against mold. Check around your house for any leaks that could be contributing to damp wood and create a plan to get them fixed. Investing in a good dehumidifier will also help! 

Does homeowners insurance cover mold removal? 

Since mold growth is a gradual process, it’s generally regarded as a preventable problem and thus is not typically covered by your home insurance policy. However, you may wish to check with your specific policy for more details.
If you check your policy and decide you’re not happy with the details of your plan, head to Jerry to easily find one that aligns with your needs! 
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FAQs

You do not need a professional to remove small amounts of mold from wood unless you are affected by respiratory issues like asthma (mold can agitate respiratory conditions). 
If you’re dealing with an area of mold that is larger than 10 square feet or in a poorly ventilated space, however, you should call in a professional.
Mold growth thrives in dark and damp places like basements, bathrooms, and even kitchens. If moist wood sits in warm temperatures, mold can grow there easily.

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