How to Get Rid of Mold & Mildew

A close up image of a window frame with mold growing in the corner

Whether you’re a current homeowner, remodeling a home, looking for a new home, or getting ready to put your current house on the market, one of the worst things you can discover is mold or mildew. Mold and mildew can occur inside and outside the home, can leave nasty stains or, worse, cause permanent damage and health issues for the home’s occupants. Luckily, the more you know about mold and mildew, the better you can fight back if you find it in your home.

Are mold and mildew the same thing?

An indoor living room wall with mold growing the corner

While mold and mildew share some similarities, there are definite differences between the two that you need to know. They're both fungi, and both thrive in moist areas with the ability to grow on a variety of different surfaces.

Mildew is the lesser of the two evils. It's more of a surface fungi and is found in patchy white or green groups. Because it's often just a surface dweller, it's much easier to clean and remove.

Mold, however, is usually the result of a much larger problem. By the time large amounts of mold appear, there's likely a deeper issue causing the area to become excessively damp or humid. It's typically black or green in color with either a fuzzy or slimy appearance. Blackened grout, drywall discoloration, or siding stains are common indicators, but unchecked mold in hidden areas like underneath decks or in crawlspaces can rot and damage your building materials.

Where are mold and mildew found?

Molding plaster wall with wood trim and wooden floor

Both mold and mildew collect and thrive in warm, moist areas in the home. The most common areas for mold include:

  • basements
  • around windows
  • showers and bathrooms
  • near heating and cooling appliances
  • in crawlspaces
  • near ventilation ducts

Having your home inspected for excessive moisture can help prevent mold and mildew growth before it starts.

Can you get sick from mold and mildew?

A woman sitting at her desk holding a tissue up to her nose sneezing

Mold and mildew can cause a range of health problems. Most are fairly mild, but if you have a large mold issue the problems can become much more severe.

The majority of problems caused by mold and mildew are respiratory or skin-related. The presence of mold can cause symptoms similar to seasonal allergies: coughing, sneezing, itchy eyes, or irritated skin. Sometimes what feels like allergies can actually be your body's reaction to mold spores in the air.

A much less common - but much more serious - problem is the growth of black mold. Black mold is a specific strain of toxic mold that is typically found in common household materials like drywall, carpet, or subflooring that has been exposed to moisture for an extended period of time. Feeding on the organic materials that drywall, carpet, or subflooring contain, black mold can cause more severe respiratory damage including coughing and wheezing, as well as rashes, fatigue, and headaches. In severe cases, some have experienced nausea, vomiting, and bleeding in the nose or lungs.

How do you get rid of mold and mildew?

Fortunately, many types of mold and mildew can be cleaned up with a cleaning agent and some elbow grease. Want to test an area and see if you have mold or mildew growth, or if it's simply dirty? Put a few drops of liquid bleach on the area; if it starts to lighten within a couple of minutes, then it's likely mold or mildew.

Cleaning surface mold and mildew

A womans hand wearing a pink rubber glove using a wirebrush to clean mold off a living room wall

Mildew and common surface mold can often be tackled with a scrubbing brush and a cleaning agent, such as Home Armor's Mold & Mildew Remover Plus Blocker. Since it's a surface fungi, it usually has not caused permanent rot or damage to the surface. Exterior mold can be removed by using mold-preventing house wash and a power washer.

It's a good idea to wear protective gear, such as rubber gloves and long sleeves, to avoid possible skin irritation. Anytime you deal with mold and mildew, you should also wear a respirator of some kind.

Cleaning serious mold infestations

A professional contractor wearing a N95 mask using a pole brush and sanding the wall

Deeper mold infestations are often signaled before you even see it - there's an unmistakable musty smell that comes with severe mold problems. Once the mold is discovered (or uncovered, if it's located under carpet or some other hidden area) you'll need to determine if the mold has rotted away any of the surface. If it has, the entire surface will likely need to be replaced. These mold remediation jobs may require a professional, but some common precautions for the DIYer should include:

  • wear old clothes and shoes that can be disposed of after the job
  • require all involved in the cleanup to wear respirators, goggles, and gloves
  • make sure you have a box fan (preferably one you're not too fond of, because you'll want to throw it away afterwards) in the area to ventilate the space
  • cover ducts, doors, and turn off your heating/cooling system to prevent the spread of airborne spores
  • keep thick, 6-mil garbage bags nearby to throw away moldy material such as rotted drywall or wooden studs, or carpet

When the project is finished, you should use a dehumidifier in the area for a couple of days to remove excess moisture from the air. And If you repair and replace moldy drywall, you'll likely need to repaint the area. KILZ primer is an oil-based, mildew-resistant primer that can be combined with a mildew-resistant paint to prevent the growth of mold and mildew once it has been cleaned.

When you've got the unpleasant task of cleaning up mold or mildew in your home, you'll find cleaners, brushes, and probably some helpful advice from your local, independent Do it Best retailer or from

While do-it-yourself projects can be fun and fulfilling, there is always a potential for personal injury or property damage. We strongly suggest that any project beyond your abilities be left to licensed professionals such as electricians, plumbers, and carpenters. Any action you take upon the information on this website is strictly at your own risk, and we assume no responsibility or liability for the contents of this article.