Here, we get expert-approved tips on how to identify the type of fungus and keep it out of your spaces for good.
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master bathroom with marble vanity and clawfoot tub
Credit: Pieter Estersohn

If you've ever dealt with mold in your home, you know the considerable challenges it poses: It's unsightly, it can grow on almost any surface, and it's hard to get rid of. According to Dr. Greg van Buskirk, the co-founder and chief science officer at Sensitive Home, there are three common types of household mold: cladosporium, aspergillus, and stachybotrys. Cladosporium often grows in green-and-brown shades on textiles (think carpeting and upholstery), in addition to beneath sinks; aspergillus comes in many species and colors and grows on damp surfaces, like shower stalls (even though this type is allergenic, it is relatively harmless unless a person is immune compromised). "Stachybotrys (called black mold) is most likely found on cellulose materials, such as wood or paper on drywall," he continues. "It starts out as small black spots and spreads, and it's toxic and can cause multiple symptoms such as headaches, nosebleeds, and fatigue."

Here, our experts explain best practices to avoid mold growth—and how to remove it if it is currently inside your home.

Assess the damage.

"The very first step a homeowner should take is to assess what sort and extent of a problem is present—it's not fun or easy to do, given the unpleasantness of the problem," Dr. van Buskirk says. The best way to do this is by getting to the root of the issue. "If you can determine the source of moisture, for example, a drip or a leak that you can stop, it will save you a lot of future grief," he adds. "If it is more an issue of general humidity—such as in a bathroom shower—then it would be good practice to wipe down the walls and tub between showers to allow for quicker drying."

Air out your home.

Damp environments can produce mold spores, so keeping an eye on the humidity levels in your home is a must. "Ensure the humidity in your home is below 60 percent—it should ideally be between 30 and 50 percent, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—and that you have adequate airflow," Jennifer Parnell, the co-founder of Humble Suds, says. Even activities in your everyday life, like showering and cooking, contribute to moisture in the air, which can cause mold to grow. An exhaust fan is one of the most important tools to combat it. "Running them while showering and cooking transfers moist indoor air outside of your home," shares Parnell. "According to the Home Ventilation Institute (HVI), an exhaust fan should run for at least 20 minutes after the shower has been used in order to remove the adequate amount of moisture." Plus, run and check your exhaust fans in other areas of your home: Flick on your kitchen's while you cook and ensure your laundry room dryer is working with an annual check-up.

Keep your spaces dry.

"A normal part of cleaning is paying close attention to areas that are prone to mold growth, such as the tub, shower, and sinks," Parnell says. "These areas typically hold more water or are closer to a moisture source, so pay close attention to them and any areas that tend to pool with water, and make sure they stay dry." She recommends squeegeeing the shower doors, floors, and walls after showering, leaving the bathroom door open, and shaking and spreading out the shower curtain so it can dry.

Remove all mold from surfaces.

When you see mold, remove it safely by wearing rubber gloves and an N95 mask to protect your skin and lungs during the cleaning process. You'll need to dissolve one-and-a-half tablespoons of sodium percarbonate—a non-toxic oxygen-based bleach, like Humble Suds Illuminate Mineral + Oxygen Powder (from $13.95, humblesuds.com)—per 16 ounces of hot water in a spray bottle. Be sure to remove the spray nozzle every so often to let air out of the bottle and avoid pressure build-up; do not leave the sprayer on the bottle. Parnell suggests spraying the moldy area with your solution and letting it sit for 30 minutes. Spray it again with hot water, scrub with a sponge, and then rinse. If mold hangs around even after you use this cleaning technique, consider trying a cleaning paste (which works particularly well on grout). Try "our Illuminate with Scour Cleaning Paste (from $11.95, humblesuds.com) or make your own paste by blending sodium percarbonate, baking soda, and hot water," Parnell says. Then, scrub the area with a small brush, let it sit, and wash clean. Whatever method you choose, never mix sodium percarbonate with bleach, ammonia, or any other chemical agents.

Clean fabrics and upholstery.

"For fabrics and upholstery, the best initial step is to first use a spray disinfectant that says that it kills mold and mildew on its label," says Dr. van Buskirk, noting to use enough spray to permeate the fabric. If you notice a mold or mildew stain, try a soap mixture. You can use one teaspoon of dish detergent, like the Sensitive Home Dish Soap ($5.99, sensitivehome.com), in one quart of water to remove the stain. If you have a very stubborn stain, use a sodium hypochlorite bleach solution if the fabric allows (check your clothing labels or test a small area). Mix one cup of household bleach (hypochlorite solution) with one gallon of water and apply it directly to the affected area. Alternatively, you can use a spray product that contains some bleach (sodium hypochlorite) in its ingredients.

Consult a professional.

If you notice mold growth in spaces that are larger than 10 square feet and a musty, mildew smell, you should contact a remediation company to come and test for mold. "As noted, mold typically causes hay fever-like symptoms, but a small number of molds produce mycotoxins which are incredibly toxic to humans," Parnell says. "A high level of mycotoxins can result in nausea, fatigue, eye irritation, lung irritation, headaches, and even death."

Comments (4)

Martha Stewart Member
August 7, 2016
Molds like Toxic black molds mostly grow in a warm place and thee is no cure of black mold, removing it is the only right decision. Also there are other tips for reducing mold and that will help you to recognize the types and its symptoms.
Martha Stewart Member
February 15, 2011
I used to have a major problem with shower curtain mold. My bathroom doesn't have good ventilation, so my shower curtain liner got moldy fast. I started using a Martha shower curtain, along with the air-it-out shower hooks that I bought online, and my curtain has been mold free for three months! No more scrubbing with harsh chemicals or spending money constantly replacing the curtain.
Martha Stewart Member
May 24, 2010
Mold is a common occurrence in households and is much more prevalent that you would think. We all recognize mold when it attaches itself to leftover foods in our refrigerator or develops on fruits or cheese very quickly if they are not eaten right away. These molds are easily disposed of and we don?
Martha Stewart Member
January 29, 2009
I have a mildew problem outside my shower door and I don't know who I would call to get it fixed. Can you help?