Mold and mildew stink Ė literally.† If youíve ever walked into a mildewed room, you recognized the musty smell at once. Mold gives a lot of visual clues Ė it’s generally black or grey, and may be splotchy if it’s embedded in tile grout or form a sort of grimy mat on your ceiling or wall if it’s allowed to grow unchecked.
Apart from the fact that they’re smelly and unsightly, mold and mildew can be very unhealthy. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, breathing in mold spores can cause a variety of respiratory illnesses. Both mold and mildew can lead to headaches and nasal congestion and even trigger asthma attacks.
Mold and mildew build up in damp places, which is why you might find them in your shower or on your shower curtain. But they wonít get a foothold in either if you follow these steps.
Mold and mildew canít grow where it’s dry, so the best way to keep them at bay is to reduce dampness in your bathroom.
- Crack open a window and start your ceiling fan when you turn on the shower so excess moisture moves out of the room, rather than condenses on the walls and tile. Keep the fan running and the window cracked open at least 15 minutes after you turn the shower off to let as much moist air escape as possible.
- Wipe down the shower and tub as soon as youíre finished. Keep a small squeegee in the shower so it’s convenient; you can get a squeegee very cheaply at a hardware store, home goods retailer, or online. Or use a hand towel or washcloth to do the job. A cloth is particularly good at getting to the tile grout and in the corners where mold has a tendency to start.
- Use a shower curtain you can actually launder in the washing machine. That means, skip the vinyl or plastic in favor of cotton, hemp, or nylon.† Wash it in hot water, run it through your machineís spin cycle to remove excess water, then hang it up to dry in the shower.
- If you have a non-slip mat in your shower, you will need to pull it up and wash it down regularly. I’ve gotten rid of my shower mat because it was too much trouble to keep it clean. If you want yours, you’ll have to wash it frequently.
- Keep your shower clean. Wash it down regularly with a good non-toxic cleanser, like baking soda and a plant-based liquid soap, or something like Bon Ami, which is essentially pulverized rock. Use a mop and a stepladder to reach the ceiling above the shower if needed. Dry it with a rag or towel when you finish washing it.
- Fix leaky faucets and showerheads. Stop the drips to limit mold and mildew around drains.
- Remember this true adage: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The more you do to prevent mold and mildew from building up, the better off you’ll be.
As soon as you notice mold or mildew, attack!
- If you have more than an initial build-up, wear a surgical mask so you don’t inhale any of the spores, and use gloves to keep it off your hands.
- Make a spray of water and vinegar, tea tree oil or hydrogen peroxide, using between one or two teaspoons of the product for every cup of water you add to the spray bottle (experiment a bit to see what works in your situation). If using vinegar or hydrogen peroxide, spray the potion directly on the spotty areas, leave them alone for 10 or 15 minutes, and then rinse. If using tea tree oil, which is more expensive but is supposed to be more effective, spray the cleanser on the tile or shower stall and leave it over night. Run the fan and open the window to keep air circulating and to counter the strong smell from the vinegar or tea tree oil. Wipe the treated area dry with a rag you donít mind throwing away. Reapply as soon as you see the mold reappear.
- If the grout in your shower can’t be thoroughly cleaned out, you may need to replace the grout. †If this is too much to do on your own, you can easily find a professional service to replace the grout for you.
Getting rid of the mold and mildew in your shower doesn’t mean you can be less vigilant. Inspect the shower and shower curtain once a week to make sure youíre staying mold and mildew-free. Wash the shower curtain regularly to keep it fresh. Wipe down the tile or shower stall each time you finish using it, and donít forget to keep the window open and the fan going to reduce moisture build-up.