The Best Way to Banish Closet Mold: A Comprehensive Guide

The scent of fresh air wafting through open closet doors is invigorating, but what if it’s replaced by a musty smell? This may be the first sign of mold growth, a common issue in closets and similar damp spaces, posing health risks, including allergic reactions and respiratory problems.  

Not all mold is dangerous.  Before you start you need to determine two things:

  1. What is the underlying cause of the mold?
  2. Is the mold something you need to be afraid of?

Why are closets such an ideal environment for mold? Primarily due to the lack of proper ventilation, high humidity levels, and damp clothes that trap moisture against the closet walls. Dirty clothes, wet towels, and damp towels tossed into a laundry hamper in the closet also create an ideal breeding ground for mold spores. A simple thing like leaving your washing machine door open can help air circulate and prevent mold. Moreover, leaky plumbing or water leaks in walls or ceilings can lead to water damage, further promoting the growth of mold.

So, what’s the best way to tackle this issue? The first step is identifying signs of mold. Black spots or dark spaces on the walls or on your clothing items can hint at a mold problem. A musty odor or a moldy smell is another strong sign. Even if you have the cleanest home, you’re not immune to mold.  It is easy to test the mold using a  kit like this

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I don’t recommend getting one that you do the test yourself. These are not very accurate. Get one that has to be mailed to a lab. The sample is easy to collect and then you send it off to be tested.

The next step is mold remediation (which is a thousand dollar word for cleaning it up). If you’re reading about mold there is NO DOUBT that all of the remediation companies would love to charge you a hefty fee to clean up your mold, but that’s not always necessary. That’s why I suggest getting it tested.

If the test comes back and tells you that your mold is toxic or black mold, it’s best to hire professionals. 

For DIY mold removal, you’ll need rubber gloves, a spray bottle, bleach or white vinegar, and hot water. Create a cleaning solution with one part bleach to ten parts water or equal parts vinegar and water. I personally hate the smell of bleach, so I used vinegar.

vinegar and water cleaning solution

Before you start cleaning, remove the affected clothing items. Moldy clothes and those stored in plastic dry cleaning bags should be placed in separate plastic bags to prevent the spread of mold. After this, wash them in hot water in the washing machine. For non-washable fabric fibers, direct sunlight can help get rid of mold.

Now, to the moldy closet. Remove any remaining items and thoroughly spray down the closet walls and closet floor using the bleach or vinegar solution. Once you apply the cleaner, let it sit for 10 minutes. If you find mold on a porous surface like wood, a stronger solution, such as hydrogen peroxide, can be more effective. Always patch test any cleaning solution on a hidden spot if it’s wood first.

Next get a solution of 1 part vinegar, 4 parts water and a few tablespoons of baking powder. Go back over the walls using a brush dipped in this solution to scrub off the mold. If you use bleach you will want to make sure the walls are completely free of bleach before you put clothes back in the closet. I wiped the walls down with water.

Once you’ve dealt with the immediate problem, focus on prevention. Closets, like most storage areas, are often dark and lack airflow, making them an ideal place for mildew growth. One of the easiest ways to prevent this is by improving air circulation in your closet space. Keep closet doors open whenever possible, install wire shelves instead of solid ones for better air flow, and consider using an exhaust fan if your closet is large or has an issue with high humidity.

Managing moisture levels is crucial too. Avoid storing damp or wet clothing items in the closet. Always ensure your clothes are dry before putting them in the closet. A dehumidifier or silica gel packets (I ordered these to hang in the closet) can also help reduce moisture. Closets designed with better ventilation and moisture control are a good idea if you’re considering a remodel.

I also ran my handy ozone machine inside the closet, because why not? I use ozone for so many things, like getting rid of paint fumes.

Finally, routine checks and cleaning are important. Regularly checking for signs of mold and promptly addressing any water damage from leaky pipes or water leaks can help prevent a full-blown mold infestation. Consider doing a deep clean every few months, especially in seasons with high humidity.

Keep in mind that even small amounts of mold can pose health risks IF it’s a certain kind of mold. Watch for any signs like skin rashes and more serious respiratory problems. If you have any concerns or if the problem persists despite your best efforts, it’s a good idea to contact a professional mold remediation service. It’s always a good time to make your closet (and your entire house) a healthier space.

Remember, mold needs organic material, a moist environment, and a lack of sunlight or air conditioning to thrive. By keeping your closets and other storage areas dry, clean, and well-ventilated, you’ll be taking the most effective ways to keep mold spores at bay and ensure a healthier living environment.

You might be interested in duct cleaning, is it worth it?

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