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You never think about how to clean mold in a car, until you have a mold problem. You know, that tell-tale mildew smell, or you see black spots actually growing on the dashboard.
How Does Mold Grow in a Car?
Mold can start growing in a variety of ways in your car. And it can be small amounts of mold, too. Sometimes you’ll never even see it.
Because mold is a fungus, it can grow rapidly. And it can grow on a variety of surfaces that you might not be aware of. Mold in a car can grow on dashboards, seats, carpeting, flooring, in the trunk, and even in the ceiling.
Mold can start growing in a car from:
- Bottle of water spilled on floor
- Windows left open during the rain
- Piece of food was forgotten and starting getting moldy
- Live in a humid environment and mold accumulates faster
- Car has been stored in a damp, dark garage or storage shed
- Wet clothes, wet towels or swimsuits left in a car
- Flood damage
- Hurricane damage
Health Problems from Mold
- Hay fever-like allergies: runny nose, sneezing, red eyes, skin rash
- Upper respiratory tract symptoms
- Development of asthma in children genetically susceptible to developing asthma
- Chronic fatigue
- Bleeding in nose and lungs
How to Clean Mold in a Car
Cleaning mold in a car doesn’t have to be difficult, expensive or take a lot of time. But you do need to follow the proper steps to not only clean mold in a car, but prevent mold from coming back.
Finding Mold in a Car
- Work on removing mold in a car in the sun, if possible. You want bright sunlight, which mold doesn’t like. It also makes it easier to see subtle changes in colors and patterns in your car interior, which can alert you to where mold is growing.
- Open all of the windows and doors in your car. You’ll want to air out the car, to get the smell out and fresh air in. You will want to make sure that you don’t drain your car battery with lights, alarms or anything else that might occur with your windows and doors open for a length of time.
- Stop the accumulation of moisture and get rid of dampness. Do this by removing anything that might be wet or damp, including floor mats, sports equipment in the trunk, car seat carriers and base, pillows, etc.
- Dry the visible moisture off of these items, if any. Then place the items in the hot sun to dry out completely.
- Look for mold. It can be many colors, including grey, green, black, white or brown. Generally it looks like circular patches, but look for any change in pattern or texture that could possibly be mold. Look in every square inch of your car, including upholstery, carpeting, ceiling, in between seats, on seatbelts, dashboards, the trunk, under seats, in the storage compartments between seats, etc.
Removing and Cleaning Mold in a Car
If you find mold, you will want to take precautions to prevent additional mold exposure. And you will want to kill the mold and prevent it from returning.
Wear a mask if you are concerned about health effects from breathing mold spores. You won’t want just a cheap, flimsy mask that costs a buck. Instead, you’ll want a mask that can filter out particulates. These are good masks to have on hand for a variety of purposes, including cleaning, emergency preparedness, etc. This respirator mask is really great. But you could also use a particulate mask such as these.
If you can’t remove an item that is damp, such as the upholstery on a seat or the floorboard, there are a few options.
Use a wet-dry vacuum to remove the water. Be sure to do this for every surface, not just one area that you think might be wet.
If you don’t have a wet-dry vacuum, then park your car in the outdoor sun to dry out. Roll down all of the windows on a sunny day and let the sun bake out the moisture. Opening the doors would be a good idea, too, but you want to make sure your battery does not go dead by leaving on any interior lights, radio, etc.
Another option is to use a moisture absorber. These packs are made of materials that draw moisture out of the air, and the dampness accumulates in the product pack, which you can then throw away or recharge. One that I suggest is Ever Bamboo’s Room Deodorizer + Dehumidifier, made from bamboo and can be reused by placing the pouch in the warm sun after using it to get rid of the accumulated moisture.
P.S. These work great as natural closet deodorizers, too. See more options for naturally getting rid of odors in a closet.
Now you have got to kill the mold, or else it’s going to keep coming back.
As I wrote about in my book, The Everything Guide to a Healthy Home, bleach is surprisingly not the answer to kill mold (And it’s certainly not something you want to be applying to surfaces in your car. Can you imagine what your car’s interior would look like with bleach stains?)
Not only will bleach possibly stain and bleach your car’s interior, it won’t kill the mold spores effectively.
Naturally Killing Mold in a Car
A better solution to clean mold in a car is to clean moldy areas with a mixture of tea tree oil and water. You can do this by adding about 10-20 drops of tea tree oil in a small water bottle, spritzing on the mold-covered surface, and then wiping away. Even on upholstery this works. However, just to be safe, keep in mind that tea tree oil is an OIL and can possibly stain, so do a test patch first.
Using vinegar to clean mold is another solution. Vinegar is a powerful natural acid that actually kills mold.
Again, you’ll want to do a patch test if you are concerned about your car’s interior being stained or bleached. In general, though, vinegar doesn’t really stain.
There is no perfect mix of vinegar and water to kill the mold. You can start with a 50/50 mix of water and white distilled vinegar in a spray bottle. Spray the mixture on the moldy area and let sit for 15-30 minutes.
For heavy patches of mold, you can try using undiluted white vinegar.
If possible, vacuum the area with a wet-dry vacuum after applying the vinegar solution. This will remove the moisture from the solution, plus the dead mold spores. Without a vacuum, just make sure that the area is in direct sunlight to dry out naturally.
The key is just to get the mold off and remove it, so that it doesn’t continue to keep growing.
More Non-Toxic Ways to Clean Your Car
Check out these additional tips to remove odors from your car naturally, too!
And to clean your car’s exterior, including chrome and glass, you’ll want to check out this car cleaning kit which just needs water for seriously impressive cleaning power!