Mould removal at home
Help prevent the growth of mould and mildew in your bathroom
- What is mould?
- Types of mould
- Mould and your health
- How to remove mould from your home
- Preventing mould
- When to call in the professionals
What is mould?
Mould is a fungus that grows in damp conditions, where there is not much airflow. It can grow indoors or outdoors – basically, anywhere moisture accumulates, mould can and often will grow. Green, white or black mould is common, as is but it can range from grey to orange/brown. When it grows outside, it plays an important role in breaking down organic matter. Read more about other fungi here.
Recognising mould is not always easy. It can look like a stain, smudge or discolouration on a surface. Sometimes it can look like a fuzzy growth.
Mould spreads via spores – tiny particles carried through the air. They are so small you can’t see them, but you can breathe them in or get them on your skin after touching a mouldy spot.
Types of mould
As mould grows in moist environments without good airflow, some areas to keep an eye on include:
- Kitchens, bathrooms, laundries – especially if prone to condensation or high humidity
- Cupboards and corners – if not well ventilated
- Walls or windows – due to condensation caused by hot air on one side and cold on the other
- Walls and ceilings – mould on the ceiling will occur with insufficient insulation or a water leak
Mould and your health
Inhaling the spores produced by mould may cause health problems, particularly if you’re sensitive or allergic to it. Exposure to mould may trigger the following health effects:
Runny or blocked nose, sneezing
Wheezing or respiratory complications
While most people will not experience any health problems from coming into contact with mould, those with weakened immune systems, asthma, allergies or other breathing conditions may be more sensitive to these effects of mould exposure. Contact your doctor if you or a family member suffer health problems after exposure to mould.
How to remove mould from your home
It is best to remove mould as soon as it appears.1 If the affected area is small to medium sized, you may be able to remove it yourself.2
Step 1: Safety first
Before you begin removing mould, make sure that the area is well ventilated. To minimise exposure to mould, wear protective clothing, such as a shower cap, long rubber gloves, eye protection, overalls, suitable footwear and a P1 or P2 face mask (available from your hardware store) 2
Step 2: Remove the source of moisture
Identifying and controlling/removing the source of moisture is the best way to ensure the mould does not return. Check for common causes of mould such as:
- Leaky roofs and walls, including blocked gutters and downpipes
- Leaky plumbing
- Condensation from cooking, showering and clothes drying
- Areas with poor air circulation (e.g., cupboards and furniture against uninsulated walls)
An easy and cheap way to reduce moisture is to ensure the room is well ventilated by opening a door or window. However, if you identify more serious plumbing issues, call a plumber for repairs.
Step 3: Remove the mould
How the mould is removed depends on the area or item affected.
How to remove mould from showers and walls
For hard surfaces such as showers and walls, try cleaning the affected area with a mix of mild detergent, or vinegar diluted in water – four parts vinegar to one part water. If this doesn’t work, use a diluted bleach solution of 250 millilitres of bleach in 4 litres of water. Only use bleach in a well-ventilated area. Always ensure the surface is completely dry after you’ve removed the mould.1
To keep your bathroom clean and hygienic, try the Dettol Healthy Clean Bathroom Spray, suitable for use on sink & tiles, baths, toilet seats, sealed wooden surfaces, glass surfaces, bins, and floors.
How to remove mould from clothes and fabrics
Wash affected clothing, beddings and other soft fabric items (e.g., soft toys) in a washing machine on a hot cycle. If the items have been mouldy for several weeks (e.g., heavy jackets at the back of the closet), it may not be possible for all the mould to be removed and they may need to be disposed of.2
How to remove mould from soft furnishings
Soft furnishing that cannot be washed in a washing machine, such as on carpet or upholstered sofas, will have to be cleaned professionally. If this is not possible, they may need to be replaced.2
There are three key steps to preventing mould from growing in your home. These are:
1. Maintain proper airflow
- Use an exhaust fan in rooms with condensation like the bathroom, kitchen or laundry to prevent moisture build-up
- Open windows in good weather – this is the cheapest and easiest way to improve airflow
- Increase ventilation around furniture by not placing it flush against the wall
- Avoid placing mattresses on the floor or surfaces without adequate ventilation
- Maintain heating, ventilation and cooling systems according to the manufacturer’s instructions
2. Reduce humidity
- Try and limit the number of indoor plants or fish tanks
- Limit use of humidifiers or unflued gas heaters as they increase moisture in the air
- Vent the clothes dryer to the outside
- Use reverse cycle air conditioning and/or mechanical dehumidification if available
3. Control moisture
- Invest in fixing leaky plumbing and roofs and other building faults
- Ensure gutters are cleared and maintained
- Wipe up excess water caused by condensation such as on single glazed window or on shower glazing
- If using an evaporative cooler in summer, ensure sufficient exhaust openings to the outside of the building
When to call in the professionals
If the area affected by mould is large and dense, or you are having trouble getting rid of it or remedying the source (i.e., moist environment with poor airflow), then you may require professional assistance. You can get help by contacting:1
- The Environmental Health section of your local council
- An occupational hygienist
These professionals are certified, have the right equipment and get special training to provide mould removal services. For a fee, they can provide mould testing and consultancy services to help find the source of the problem and find a solution .1
Always read the label and follow the directions for use.
- NSW Health. Factsheet: Mould. Available at: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/factsheets/Pages/mould.aspx (accessed August 2020).
- Better Health Channel. Mould removal at home. Available at: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/mould-removal-at-home (accessed June 2022).