How To Get Mold Out of Carpet
Mold in one’s house should be immediately removed because its spores can cause serious health issues. Mold or mold spores on hard surfaces like concrete or metal can be removed by scrubbing them with a cleaning solution.
However, mold can appear as gray, green, or white patches, and it adds a musty odor to the room, and sets in one’s carpet or rug, removing it won’t be easy. According to the University of Central Florida, mold and mold spores can be as small as three microns. This means that they can get into the smallest spaces in soft surfaces like carpeting or wood, and scrubbing won’t remove them.
While one can reduce smaller spots of mold themselves, patches greater than 5 feet in width need professional cleaning because it’s quite possible that the mold has invaded the underlay or flooring, and it’s much tougher to remove. But no matter whether the mold is small or large, acting fast to remove it is important because mold is a living organism and can spread its spores quickly.
To get mold out of the carpet, one needs some specialized cleaning techniques. One must use different methods and chemicals to remove mold from their carpet. One can also find out which of them will work best for them. Natural anti-fungal remedies, like vinegar and tea tree oil, are known to ‘inhibit’ but not kill mold. Bleach can banish mold but can also discolor carpet. Therefore, an anti-fungal spray that kills mold may be one’s best bet. It’s available in retail stores and home centers.
Published: October 11, 2022.
For mold removal, one may need the following supplies:
- Face mask
- Rubber gloves
- Eye protection
- Trash bags
- Stiff bristled brush
- Anti-fungal spray
- Disposable cleaning rags
How does Mold Enter a Carpet?
Before learning the cleaning methods, if one learns how mold enters the carpet, it would probably be easy for them to learn the cleaning process and remove the root cause simultaneously.
Mold is a fungus that spreads by releasing spores. Mold spores can be everywhere and anywhere, including one’s house. To grow into the mold, spores need moisture.
So, one can understand why mold grows in damp places like a wet basement or a poorly ventilated bathroom. Mold grows well on carpets because carpets can easily trap moisture, whether it’s because of a leakage or a basement flood.
Once a carpet gets wet, maybe because of a leaking ceiling, a basement flood, overzealously watered plants, pet accidents, plumbing problems, high humidity, or just because the homeowner cleaned the carpet but didn’t dry it completely, moisture gets trapped in the thick fibers of the carpet.
Most carpets also have a backing that is attached to the weave. If the backing is wet or moisture gets under it, it can trap the moisture under the carpet. Unless the homeowner seriously works to dry a wet carpet with fans, hot air driers, or a dehumidifier, a wet carpet will remain wet. Such a wet carpet can easily form mold.
There are many places in one’s house where one doesn’t look regularly at the carpet. For example, a carpet in a closet or under a piece of heavy furniture that is difficult to move. If the carpet in one of such locations gets wet, the homeowner might not notice it for quite long, and mold gets plenty of time to establish.
Is Carpet Mold a Serious Problem?
Yes, mold in one’s house has a serious negative effect on air quality. Inhaling mold spores can cause health problems, particularly in people who are sensitive to mold. It was found by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that people having mold sensitivity can suffer from upper respiratory symptoms, increased asthma symptoms, and eye irritation when exposed to mold and mold spores.
The World Health Organization (WHO) studied various research and found a link between the presence of mold and respiratory symptoms and also more severe asthma symptoms.
Mold spores can even initiate allergic reactions in individuals having mold allergies. This makes carpet mold particularly problematic because children usually play on the floor, and even walking on the moldy carpets can release spores into the air.
Carpet mold causes problems that are not directly connected to health. The musty, mildewy odor associated with mold can spread throughout the house. Mold can even damage the surfaces it grows on. Thus, mold growing under a carpet could damage the floor or baseboards.
Things One Should Consider Before Trying to Get Mold Out of One’s Carpet
Before taking on the task of removing mold from the carpet, one should keep in mind that removing mold out of any absorbent or porous surface, such as carpet, drywall, ceiling tiles, wood, upholstery, gypsum, and other similar surfaces, is extremely difficult.
Most experts on mold removal suggest that these items should be thrown away and replaced. They say that since mold grows on or fills in the empty spaces and crevices of porous surfaces, it may be tough or impossible to remove it totally.
They also warn homeowners that moldy wall-to-wall carpets can be difficult to clean well. They suggest keeping throw rugs that have got wet only if they can be thoroughly washed and don’t smell moldy once they dry. If the mold results from flooding that includes sewage or other contaminated water, the carpet is not salvageable and should be replaced.
It’s important to wear proper protective gear while removing mold. Gloves, safety goggles, and a respiratory mask are a must, because the process of cleaning up the mold will release plenty of mold spores into the air and may even involve chemical cleaners that create fumes. Without proper safety gear, one could seriously react to mold spores.
Alternatively, one can invite estimates from contractors in their area with skills in mold remediation. Getting mold out of carpet is an ugly, time-consuming task that may need special equipment and chemicals.
So, hiring experts to get the job done for you may be worth it. The cost may vary greatly from region to region and depending on the size of the mold problem.
But if one has decided to do the job themselves, here are steps to do the job.
Ventilation and Isolation
Firstly, one should ventilate and isolate the area properly. This is for the prevention of spores from spreading to other parts of the house. The area should be well-ventilated.
One should close doors or use plastic sheets to block some areas, and with fans, they should blow air out from an open window or door that leads outside. Ventilating the area is more important than isolating it, particularly while using chemical cleaners.
If the homeowner can remove the carpet, they should remove it, move it outside and hang it over a sturdy clothesline under the sun. 24-48 hours of direct sunlight will help kill mold spores and remove moisture that supports mold growth.
If the carpet is soaked through to the backing and not just the upper fibers, it may take much longer to dry. In that case, the homeowner should leave it in direct sun in a well-ventilated area for several days.
If One Cannot Remove or Lift Carpet
If one cannot remove or lift the carpet, one should start by treating the visible surface mold. If they can lift the carpet, they should do so until they reach the area with mold and examine the backing.
If the backing has substantial mold growth of more than a few feet in width, they should not just clean it, they will have to replace the carpet. If they are not prepared for that cost, they can opt to cut off the mold-covered area with a 12-inch border past the damage and insert a new carpet rather than replacing the entire carpet. They should make sure to replace the part of the underlay or carpet pad, too, to prevent mold’s return.
Using a Stiff Brush or Vacuum with HEPA Filter
The homeowner should use a stiff brush to remove as much visible mold as possible. They should then sweep the mold in a bag or dustpan and discard it. If they can brush-scrub the back of the carpet, they should do so.
One can use a vacuum with a HEPA filter for this, however, there is a risk of mold spores residing in or on the vacuum and spreading to the rest of the house while next time the homeowner uses it. A non-HEPA vacuum might not properly clean mold spores.
Using Anti-fungal Spray
The homeowner should saturate the moldy area and at least 6 inches around it thoroughly with an anti-fungal spray that specifies that it’s safe for carpets (it should also be labeled as ‘mold barrier’ or ‘mold prevention’).
If the homeowner can lift or remove the carpet, they should spray both the front and the back. Also, they should spray the floor with the moldy portion that was in contact with it. They should allow the anti-fungal spray to sit for an hour or as instructed by the manufacturer.
Allowing the Carpet to Dry Completely
Next, the homeowner should blot the anti-fungal spray with a clean, dry disposable rag to soak up the excess. They should never wash the area with water or any other treatment. The spray will continue working until it’s fully dried. They should never use a fan to speed up drying because that can blow mold spores elsewhere and cause new problems.
Instead, they should shut the windows, turn the heat on in the room, and use a dehumidifier to allow the carpet to dry naturally for a minimum of 24 hours. The carpet should be allowed to dry completely. No one should walk in the area or allow pets to interfere while the carpet is drying, as the mold will still be alive and will likely spread.
Cleaning the Tools
The homeowner should clean the bristle brush and dustpan of any mold spores by scrubbing them with hot soapy water and then spraying them with anti-fungal treatment and allowing them to dry completely. The homeowner should dispose of the rag and rubber gloves.
Using Anti-fungal Spray Again
Once the carpet is completely dried, the homeowner should re-apply anti-fungal treatment as described above and follow the next steps. They should use a clean, fresh, disposable rag to blot the spray and discard it afterward.
They should allow the dehumidifiers to run a few more days to remove mold spores from the air too.
Using the Vacuum Again
Again, the homeowner should use a HEPA vacuum on the carpet to remove as many spores as possible.
After the carpet is completely dried, the homeowner should be mold-free, although they should not take this for granted. They should continue checking the area every day for a few weeks to make sure the mold growth hasn’t returned.
If there is a recurrence, it will be slow, especially if the homeowner cannot remove or lift the carpet. Hence, they should give it a month before they’re completely relaxed.
Following are a few optional steps.
Vinegar and Baking Soda
Vinegar and baking soda mixture might kill some mold and also help remove the musty odor from the carpet. Baking soda will help absorb moisture and reduce the musty odors. However, further efforts will be required for all but the lightest mold problem. The homeowner should sprinkle the affected area profusely with baking soda and leave overnight and then vacuum it up.
One can even use talc-free baby powder instead of baking soda. Baby powders containing talc can cause serious harm if inhaled, hence they should be avoided.
Even cat litter may be used as a substitute because it’s highly effective in absorbing liquids.
Then the homeowner should scrub the area with white vinegar. Although it cannot kill every mold species, it’s a cheap and often effective solution. Homeowners should use white vinegar to avoid stains.
Distilled white vinegar can kill more than 80% of known mold types and may even prevent future outbreaks. Homeowners should apply it lightly with a spray bottle and scrub it in with a stiff brush. Then they should blow dry the carpet, or air dry it in a well-ventilated area to avoid leaving moisture that could encourage mold growth.
Some homeowners find the mixture of vinegar with an equal amount of methylated spirits effective.
Bleach or Vinegar – What is Preferable?
Both vinegar and bleach are capable of killing the mold at the surface. However, vinegar is usually considered a better agent for the task.
Bleach is a harsh chemical, and mold spores are living organisms. The mold can actually react to bleach by running from it, digging deeper into porous surfaces for coverage.
When this happens, the mold spores can grow once the bleach is gone. Vinegar, on the other hand, is a natural product of fermentation. It’s much milder than bleach and doesn’t register mold spores as a threat. Therefore, it can be used to kill mold on the surface before it retreats effectively.
Can Vinegar Damage Carpet?
If not used correctly, yes, vinegar can damage a carpet. For example, undiluted vinegar shouldn’t be used directly on the carpet as it may affect its fibers. Furthermore, vinegar shouldn’t be used particularly on delicate fabrics, including wool, silk, or other natural fabrics, as they are very sensitive and may incur heavy damage from vinegar.
For smaller mold patches, a mixture of one-part distilled white vinegar and one-part cool water can often do the job. If the mold outbreak is a bit more severe, one can adjust this proportion by adding more vinegar and less water to make it stronger. However, in any case, the homeowner should dilute the vinegar with at least a little water to keep their carpets looking the best.
How can Vinegar be Used to Remove Carpet Mold?
Using vinegar to remove carpet mold is a time-consuming process, though not difficult. Vinegar can be used in two ways: with or without baking soda. Vinegar alone is a milder solution with a bit shorter process, so it’s more suitable for very small mold and mildew problems. Baking soda is added for more severe cases, as combining the two creates a much stronger cleaning solution. Fortunately, both are safe for most types of carpets.
The homeowner should wear all the protective gear even while using vinegar and/or baking soda, and also test a small hidden part of the carpet with the mixture.
If they’re using vinegar alone for mold removal, they should follow these steps:
They should fill a spray bottle with a 1:1 ratio of vinegar and cool water. They should set the bottle on the mist setting.
Now they should spray the entire mold-covered area generously. The carpet should be pretty damp with the cleaner when they are done.
They should now allow the carpet to soak for around an hour.
Then they should blot the soaked area using paper towels to get up as much mold and cleaner as possible.
With a clean sponge or scrubbing brush, they should then scrub the affected area while continuing blotting to soak up as much as possible.
Then they should leave the area overnight to dry. If possible, they should use a fan facing an open window to circulate the air in the room.
The steps to be taken while using vinegar with baking soda are given above.
What after Removing Carpet Mold with Vinegar?
Even after the homeowner cleans the carpet with vinegar, mold can easily spread again, and hence, the homeowner should be vigilant in keeping the previously affected areas sealed off and sanitizing or disposing of any cleaning equipment once the cleanup is over.
Depending on the severity of their mold problem, the homeowner may have to repeat the whole procedure more than once to get rid of the mold totally. But if they’ve performed the vinegar treatment multiple times, but are still fighting mold, then it’s perhaps the time to call in professionals.
Prevention is the best solution when it comes to mold and mildew. The homeowners should first find out where and how the outbreak is growing before and throughout the cleaning process. They should check the nearby area to understand what initially caused the outbreak, e.g., a leaky roof, damaged water line, or holes in the wall.
If possible, they should consider having an inspector come to help them assess the room and build a plan for making repairs as required.
In the future, they should try to keep the problem areas well-ventilated and as dry as possible. They should keep a fan circulating often throughout the day, seal up any exposed windows and patch up any areas of their home that may be leaking.
They should make sure to move furniture elsewhere in the room to check behind and underneath it, even if the mold outbreak is not connected to it – there may be smaller mold colonies growing in other places that they’ve missed, or they may find other signs of moisture or damage that could cause another outbreak in the future.
They should also set up a regular cleaning routine for rooms at risk of a mold outbreak to keep everything sanitary and aerated as much as possible.
Commercial or Professional Mold Removal Treatments
The specialized treatments and machines used by professional carpet cleaners are sometimes available to rent from tool rental services. In that case, the homeowner need not hire a professional.
Anti-Mold Treatment: While using anti-mold or anti-fungal, one should read the label of instructions and make sure the product is safe on carpets. Antifungal products that are designed for bathroom or kitchen cleaning can potentially discolor or damage the carpet.
Products that include an “encapsulate” treatment or “mold barrier” are designed to leave a clear barrier on the carpet fibers to prevent future mold growth. This is recommended for carpets kept in humid conditions.
Bleach: A mixture of bleach and water can be used instead of a commercial product. A homeowner should mix half a cup of bleach with a gallon of water. Homeowners may want to use color-safe bleach and test it on a hidden corner of their carpet first to ensure it will not cause discoloration.
Carpet Cleaning Products: Homeowners can even try a carpet cleaning product that should contain deodorizers; it will remove the mildewy smell and also fight the mold itself.
They should follow the instructions on the product label because products vary.
Chlorine Dioxide Products: Another option is chlorine dioxide products, which homeowners should use carefully. These are based on chlorine dioxide, a chemical that can alter the carpet’s color.
So, first, they should test it on a small area, preferably covered with furniture, while following the label’s instructions. Depending on the product, they may need a wet vacuum to remove it from the carpet after use.
Homeowners should work in a well-ventilated area while using chlorine dioxide products since they can create vapors that irritate the eyes and lungs. If they feel short of breath or start coughing, they should move to another room.
Steam Cleaner: Killing the mold with the heat of a thorough steam cleaning has been found to be one of the most effective ways to remove mold. During the study, steam was required to be applied for at least 12 seconds on each carpeted area to achieve 90 percent mold destruction.
Other methods used in a lab setting included using gamma radiation and a bleach wash. These were found to remove many types of mold depending on the material. Steam cleaning also was found to be effective to various degrees.
Drying the carpet quickly afterward is very important, or else the water used in the treatment will stay and encourage new mold growth. One can use a blow dryer or keep the carpet in direct sunlight and blow a fan over it.
Homeowners should remember that they should never try to steam clean their carpet without a specialized machine. Applying steam or hot water can easily shrink or damage the carpet if done wrongly.
Hiring a Professional: Professionals may have greater experience in identifying particular molds, as well as have access to specialized machines and chemicals. If a homeowner has tried steam cleaning, they may want to try a professional to conduct dry ice blasting or another different method.
Conditioning after Cleaning
If a homeowner finds that their carpets are a little dry or not as soft as they were before cleaning, they can perform a homemade conditioning treatment. There are a variety of options to choose from:
Fabric Softener: Apart from laundry, fabric softener is excellent for reviving worn-out carpeting. It’s a gentle conditioner and can help smooth out the frayed ends of the material, making it plush and comfortable again. Homeowners should make a solution of 1 gallon of warm water and half a cup of their favorite fabric softener.
Fill a spray bottle with this solution and dampen the carpet liberally with it. Allow it to set for 2-5 minutes. Then they should use a carpet cleaner or towels to soak up the mixture, rinse and allow the carpet to air dry.
Baking Soda: Not only does baking soda work well in the cleanup but also it can be used to absorb excess moisture odors. After the baking soda-vinegar treatment, homeowners should sprinkle the carpet liberally with baking soda, allow it to set for around 45 minutes and then vacuum to remove the baking soda.
Carpet Rakes: A carpet rake is a tool with metal or plastic teeth that can be used to revitalize carpeting. When the floors are dry, homeowners should just drag the rake against the grain of the carpeting. However, they should make light strokes and remember that they may need to rake the carpets more than once for the best results.
However, these rakes should not be used for woven carpeting.
Hairdryers: If the homeowner doesn’t have a carpet rake, they can achieve a similar fluffy effect with a hairdryer and comb. Once the carpets are clean, they should mist any problem areas with warm water and then should gently blow dry on low heat. While blow drying, they should use a comb (or even their fingers) to fluff matted carpeting gently.
Steam Cleaners: When everything else fails, steam cleaners are a quite safe bet when it comes to breathing life into dry carpets. Homeowners should use their machines as per the manufacturer’s instructions after the full cleaning process is finished. They may need to go over their floors more than once for particularly stubborn fabric.
Depending on how dry one’s carpets are after a vinegar treatment, one may want to consider using more than one conditioning treatment. In general, these methods are safe to combine as long as they’ve extracted as much vinegar (and mold) as they can from the carpets first.
If they are planning to go over their floors more than once, it’s a good idea to use wet methods together. For example, they can try the fabric softener treatment first and then use the steam cleaner while the carpets are still damp. The more concentrated heat they use on the material back-to-back, the higher will be the risk of drying out the fabric.
How to Prevent Carpet Mold?
The only way to prevent mold from coming again is to keep the carpet very dry. The area should be kept well-ventilated with low humidity. Homeowners should also vacuum often. Using an air purifier that can trap mold spores in the area can also help. Air purifiers with HEPA filters or other forms of air purification technology can eliminate mold spores from the air. Some technologies have also been able to destroy mold spores completely rather than just trapping them.
Once mold makes an entry into the carpet, it may be tough to remove. If replacing the carpet is not an option, the only option that remains is to clean the carpet thoroughly and prevent mold from spreading elsewhere in the house.
Homeowners should keep their carpets dry and dry them immediately if they get wet. That way, they can prevent mold from growing in the first place.
Homeowners should treat all possible sources of mold and moisture. Damp crawlspaces or subfloors may require anti-moisture polyethylene sheeting or professional treatment to prevent further mold growth. Homeowners should check vents, closets, and the underside of upholstery to make sure all sources of mold are spotted and eliminated. They should also check beneath the carpet if possible.
Most mildewy upholstery can be treated using the same methods that can be used on carpets. But homeowners should first test to make sure the color is not affected.
More Preventive Measures
The homeowner should not place potted plants directly onto the carpet, not even with a water tray underneath. They can use only glazed pots, not terracotta, on the carpet and should use a moisture barrier, such as a rubber mat or tray.
Homeowners should also not place firewood onto the carpet. If they do so, they should always have a moisture barrier between wood and carpet.
If the pet in the home relieves themselves in an area more than once, the homeowner should discuss with their local pet store about deterrent sprays that can make the spot less appealing to the pet.
Using Dehumidifier and Checking Humidity Level in the Home
Homeowners should invest in quality dehumidifiers for humid areas or humid homes to keep humidity to a constant minimum. This will protect hardwood flooring and artwork, along with the carpeting. Anywhere from 30% to 50% humidity is normal for the inside of any home.
Checking the humidity levels often is essential as they can change all through the day. A.C. units can also help manage humidity in one’s home.
Leaving the Lights On
Mold thrives well in the dark. Hence, introducing more light can help reduce the spread of mold. Homeowners can try leaving low-energy lights on for periods of time. They can even try using nightlights while going to bed.
While average fluorescent light bulbs can prevent the spread of mold, special UV-C lights, often found in mattress vacuums, can help detect and kill mold spores.
Painting the Home from Outside
Usually, when builders paint the exterior of a new home, they don’t tend to use quality paint. Thus, unfortunately, water can enter the home. Hence, homeowners have to invest in painting and generally in the water insulation of the home's exterior again on their own or hire a professional for it.
Homeowners should examine their roofs after destructive storms to check if there are any leaks or other issues. They should make sure shingles are in place, and gutters are not clogged. Water can enter the home if shingles are missing or gutters are clogged.
When to Call a Professional?
If a homeowner has tried all the above ideas but still couldn’t get rid of mold, maybe it’s time for them to call a professional.
Also, if the affected area is bigger than 10 square feet or if there are health issues with a family member, it’s a good idea to call a professional. Sometimes, the water may come from somewhere inside the walls.
In that case, a professional can perform a thermal imaging inspection and find the source of water intrusion.
Mold is certainly not a thing to play with, and a homeowner should immediately take care of it as soon as they notice it.
If they need help to get rid of it, they should try the above ideas, or for stubborn mold, they should call a professional.
Although getting a professional mold removal can be expensive, one can be sure the affected areas will be properly treated.