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  1. #1

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    Jan 2018
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    How to Remove Mold from Your Car

    While it may seem like an insurmountable challenge, in fact with the right supplies and with some elbow grease you can restore your car to the safe, clean, comfortable vehicle you deserve.

    I. What is mold, and Why is it Dangerous?

    Mold is a type of fungus that typically forms in the presence of higher temperatures and high levels of moisture. Exposure to mold can cause major health issues, especially in those who are sensitive to it.

    Those who are most susceptible to the effects of mold include those with lung diseases, allergy sufferers, and those with compromised immune systems (e.g. those receiving treatment for cancer, who have had an organ transplant, or who are taking immunosuppressive medications).

    The presence of mold can lead to respiratory and skin irritation, lung infections, asthma, and other health challenges. Symptoms can include nasal congestion, wheezing, eye and skin irritation, fever, and shortness of breath. That’s why it’s extremely important to avoid exposing yourself to mold, especially somewhere you’re likely to spend as much time as your car. (And to make sure you never leave your car out in the open if the top is down!)

    Luckily, if you notice mold—typically noticeable due to a strong odor, but also potentially visible patches of mold—there are steps you can take to fix the problem. Keep reading to learn how to protect yourself from mold in your automobile.

    II. How to Remove Mold

    There are, of course, numerous methods to eradicate mold from your car, and everyone will recommend something different. But here’s what we think is the best way to do it.

    1. Protect yourself

    Always make SURE that you are wearing a surgical face mask or particle mask as well as strong, non-porous household cleaning gloves (make sure they’re solid enough not to break). This will decrease the likelihood of harmful, excessive exposure to mold and its possible toxins.

    2. Air out your car in a sunny spot

    Sunlight and fresh air are pretty powerful tools in the fight against mold. Like virtually all types of fungi, mold grows in moist areas, so the combination of sun and fresh air dries things out and makes it impossible for mold to survive.

    Ideally, on a clear day, move your car to a sunny parking spot and open up the doors and windows (and sunroof, if there is one). Give it a few hours and let any dampness dry out. (Just be sure to keep an eye on the weather—you’ll be giving yourself even more of a problem if a sudden shower appears and your car’s interior is exposed to the elements!)

    3. Inspect your car

    It’s a good idea to look all throughout your car to get a sense of where the mold is an issue, so you can focus on particular areas in the later steps. Make sure to look at the following: surface of the seats, underneath seats, steering wheel, floor, seat belts, and seat side seams.

    Mold can vary in color, so just look for (typically circular) areas of black, green, white, gray, or brown. That’s how you’ll know where you need to focus your cleaning efforts.

    4. Prepare before disinfecting

    Try to break up patches of mold by gently brushing them with a toothbrush. Then, if you’re lucky enough to have access to one, use a wet-dry vacuum cleaner to vacuum up the mold you’ve just brushed up. (If you can’t get your hands on a wet-dry vacuum, that’s OK—this step is helpful but not essential).

    5. Spray with disinfectant solutions

    Take out your car’s seat covers and carpets. Before you wash them, you can use any of the following mixtures to kill mold in these sections of fabric:

    • 4 parts white vinegar and 1 part water
      1 quart of water, ½ cup of white vinegar, ¼ teaspoon of clove oil, and 1 tbsp of baking soda (note: avoid exposing skin directly to clove oil—it can cause dermatitis and irritate skin and mucous membranes)

    Pour either of these mixtures into a spray bottle and spray it on your car’s seat covers and carpets. They should sit on the material for at least 20 minutes—or even longer—in order to ensure that the potent ingredients are able to fully kill the mold and prevent its regrowth.

    You may also want to spray other parts of your car where mold has been able to infiltrate and cause odor (including as the dashboard, air vent, steering wheel, and seats).

    Stains on the seats, seat covers, and carpets can be removed by sprinkling good old Borax powder on them (yes, it’s useful for so many purposes!), waiting at least 10 minutes, and then sweeping or vacuuming the powder away.

    6. Remove the leftover residue

    Once the mold has been killed, you can use a wet-dry vacuum to vacuum up the liquid solution. Otherwise, you can wait for the areas to dry and then use a regular vacuum to vacuum up the dried-up mold residue. If you use a regular vacuum, make sure you use one with a bag and then throw the bag away afterward. Otherwise, you’ll be spreading mold spores when you bring it inside to clean your home.

    7. Wash your car’s seat covers and carpets

    Now that you’ve thoroughly disinfected them, you can use standard detergent to wash your car’s seat covers and carpets. If possible, add Borax powder when you wash them and allow them to dry in the sun if it’s a sunny day (as we said, the sun is incredibly helpful for this process).

    If for whatever reason you can’t wash them with detergent, an alternative is to spray them thoroughly (really all over, so that the mold spores are killed) with a solution of water and non-iodized salt. Then allow them to dry in the sun, and wait for the salt to form a crust on the surface, which you can brush or vacuum off.

    Salt does a great job getting rid of mold—it dries it out thoroughly and kills it.

    8. Optional: use an air freshener spray to remove leftover odors

    If you’re bothered by the residual smell of vinegar (which will disappear as the liquid completely evaporates), you can use an air freshener spray to ensure everything smells fine.

    Most important is to air everything out—that’s what will leave everything smelling good.

    9. Replace the seat covers and carpets, and keep the mold from coming back

    Once you’ve washed and dried the seat covers and carpets, it’s time to put them back in your car.

    And here’s a key takeaway: since mold requires a wet environment to grow, you can prevent its return by ensuring your car is dry and that it remains totally dry. This is the most important part of preventing mold re-growth.

    You can use a dehumidifier to lower the overall moisture levels in your car.

    Now you know that, as worrisome or even scary as the prospect of a mold-infested vehicle can be, there are options to address the problem. All it takes is some time and effort, with attention to safety (wear a mask and gloves!) and your vehicle can be good as new.

    You can even use natural products like vinegar and clove oil solutions to do the work for you, if that’s a priority. And once you’re done, of course it’s important to keep your car dry, so that you don’t have to go through the trouble of cleaning out the mold again in the future.
    Likes bigltc, DBAILEY, someidiot liked this post

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    NE Ohio
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    Re: How to Remove Mold from Your Car

    FlyiingSquirrel- That was a good write-up, nicely done!

    I suspect that the mold you`ve dealt with wasn`t all that bad, sounds like your approach worked fine for you and it might be all somebody else needs to do. I`ll mention the obvious and suggest that people not try the salt on leather or surfaces that it might damage (e.g., I`d avoid any compromised "chromed plastic" as it`s basically aluminum).

    The vinegar might be good mold on leather (if it`s potent enough to do the job), just as it is for cleaning off salt, since leather oughta be kept slightly acidic anyhow.

    If somebody needs something more potent than what FlyingSquirrel suggested, a sufficiently powerful Ozone Generator (that "sufficiently.." is crucial) can work and will also deodorize. Note that most Ozone Generators in the "remotely affordable" range don`t produce enough ozone to actually kill mold, even in the enclosed space of an auto interior.

    If you need to get really serious about it, beyond what Ozone/Borax/Salt can handle, Moldstat Plus, a pro mold remediation concentrate, does do the job IME, and I was dealing with nasty black mold of the "you`re not gonna resolve that yourself, gotta call a Pro" level of seriousness. I`ve never had Moldstat Plus damage anything and I`ve used it on many materials/surfaces including leather (but see below).

    If you`re dealing with a potentially, uhm...serious...job on valuable leather, might want to check out Roger Koh/The Leather Doctor`s Mold Remediation Products for leather.
    Likes bigltc liked this post

  3. #3
    rlmccarty2000's Avatar
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    Dec 2014
    Fitzgerald, GA, South East GA
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    Re: How to Remove Mold from Your Car

    Sunshine and fresh air will keep mold from getting a foot hold in dryer climates. They sell large desiccant pouches just for vehicles to deal with mold in vehicles that are being stored. I believe the desiccant pouches can be reused just by microwaving them. The things you learn...
    Likes bigltc liked this post

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Green Bay, WI
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    Re: How to Remove Mold from Your Car

    Because of the inherent personal health hazards associated with mold, MOST detailers do not have adequate mold-specific personal safety to tackle such vehicle mold-remediation jobs. That is not to say it cannot be done, but personally I would not do this. One thing that was not mentioned is physical removal of floor carpeting (meaning not the floor MATS) and trunk liner material to get underneath such vehicle materials where trapped hidden moisture and dark environments are ideal environments for mold growth. That can be a daunting task to a do-it-yourselfer. It is also one of the ways one can tell if a vehicle has been flood-damaged: if the carpeting smells moldy or if there is rust or very fine sand/silt when you pull back a trunk liner or in the spare tire well or inside the plastic tire changing tool kit, it probably has.

    That said, the hurricane season and the associated flood damage to vehicles that occurs, even if minor, places a premium on vehicle mold-remediation services. I think that many individuals who suffer minor flood damage to their personal vehicles may try to clean them out themselves, and while the suggestions and methodologies listed above are excellent instructions and advice, some things are better left to the professionals who have the necessary equipment, training , and chemicals to handle such a task. The cost of a doctor`s visit or hospitalization can far outweigh trying to do-it-yourself.

    OK, I am going to hijack this thread (what else is new Captain Obvious!) but on a mold-related subject, how many of you have a UV-light installed on your furnace plenum to prevent mold growth inside your furnace from condensation that occurs, especially from air conditioning use OR high humidity from furnace-attached humidifiers??
    GB detailer



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