If you have mold in your house, it is vital to remove it as soon as possible. Mold spores may cause serious health problems. On hard surfaces like metal or concrete, scrubbing it with a cleaning solution will get rid of the mold. But if mold shows up on your carpet or rug, removing the mold will not be as easy. Mold and mold spores can be as small as three microns, according to the University of Central Florida. That means the mold gets into the tiniest spaces in soft surfaces like wood or carpeting, and scrubbing will not remove or eliminate the spores.
To remove mold from carpet, you may need some specialized cleaning techniques. Here are some of the different cleaning methods and chemicals that can be used to get mold out of a carpet. We will also cover how to find out which one will work best for you
Why does mold grow on carpet?
Mold is a fungus that spreads by releasing spores. Mold spores are everywhere, including in your house. To grow and develop into mold, the spores need moisture, which is why you often find mold in damp places like a wet basement or a poorly ventilated bathroom. Mold grows well on carpets because they are great at trapping moisture.
Once a carpet gets wet (because of a ceiling leak, a basement flood, a plumbing problem, high humidity or simply because you cleaned the carpet but did not dry it completely), moisture gets trapped in the dense fibers and tiny nooks and crannies that make up the weave of the carpet. Most carpets also have a backing that the weave is attached to. If the backing gets wet, or if moisture gets under the backing, the backing can trap the moisture under the carpet. Unless you actively work to dry a wet carpet using fans, a hot air drier or a dehumidifier, a wet carpet will stay wet. And it will not take long for a wet carpet to form mold.
There are many places in our houses where we do not look at the carpet regularly. There might be carpet in a closet or under a piece of heavy furniture that never gets moved. If the carpet in one of these locations gets wet, you might not notice it for quite a while, giving the mold plenty of time to grow and spread.
Why is carpet mold a serious problem?
Mold in your house has a serious negative effect on air quality. Inhaling mold spores could lead to health problems, especially in people who are sensitive to mold. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that people with mold sensitivity can experience upper respiratory symptoms, increased asthma symptoms and eye irritation when exposed to mold and mold spores. The World Health Organization (WHO) examined multiple studies and found a correlation between the presence of mold and respiratory symptoms, as well as more severe asthma symptoms. Mold spores can also trigger allergic reactions in people who have mold allergies. This makes carpet mold especially problematic since children often play on the floor, and simply walking on moldy carpet can send spores into the air.
Carpet mold also causes problems not directly related to health. The musty mildew odor associated with mold can spread throughout your entire house. Mold also causes damage to the surfaces it grows on. Mold trapped under a carpet could end up damaging the floor or baseboards.
What should I consider before I attempt to get mold out of my carpet?
Before you take on the task of removing mold from your carpet, remember that getting mold out of any porous or absorbent surface, including carpet, wood, gypsum, drywall, ceiling tiles, upholstery and similar items is extremely difficult. Every resource and guide on mold remediation suggests that these types of items should be removed, thrown away and replaced. For instance, the EPA suggests, “Mold can grow on or fill in the empty spaces and crevices of porous materials, so the mold may be difficult or impossible to remove completely.” The California Department of Public Health cautions homeowners that, “Moldy wall-to-wall carpet can be hard to clean well. Throw out if the carpet, backing, or padding is moldy or has a moldy smell. Keep throw rugs that have gotten wet only if they can be thoroughly washed and do not smell moldy once they dry.” If the mold was caused by flooding that included sewage or other contaminated water, then the carpet is not salvageable and must be replaced.
It is important to wear proper safety gear when removing mold. Gloves, safety goggles and a respirator mask are needed, because the process of cleaning up the mold will release a lot of mold spores into the air and may involve chemical cleaners that produce fumes. Without proper protection you could have a severe reaction to the mold spores.
Another option is to get estimates from contractors in your area with expertise in mold remediation. Removing mold from carpet is a dirty, time-consuming job that can require special equipment and chemicals, so it could be worth it to hire experts to get it done for you. The cost can vary greatly by region and depending on the size of the mold problem, but expect to pay $2,000 or more.
But if you have decided to try and remove mold from your carpet yourself, here is the step-by-step process.
How to get mold out of carpet
- Ventilate and isolate the area properly. The goal is to prevent mold spores from spreading throughout other parts of the house, but still keep the area well-ventilated. Close doors or use plastic sheeting to block off some areas, and use fans to blow air out an open window or door that leads outside. It is more important to keep the area well-ventilated than it is to isolate the area, especially when using cleaning chemicals.
- Use a stiff brush to remove as much visible mold as possible. Sweep the mold into a bag and discard it. You can use a vacuum with a HEPA filter for this, but there is a chance that mold spores will reside in or on the vacuum and spread to the rest of your house next time you use the vacuum. A non-HEPA vacuum might not properly contain mold spores.
- Scrub the affected area thoroughly with cleaner. Bleach is not necessary or recommended.* Some types of mold produce chemical compounds known as mycotoxins. Removing the mold and mold spores will help remove this concern as well.
- Allow the carpet to dry completely.
- Use a HEPA vacuum on the carpet again to remove as many spores as possible.
- Apply an anti-fungal coating. These come in spray form and are available at most hardware stores. They can slow the formation of mold.
- Use a steam cleaner. Multiple studies have found that the heat of a thorough steam cleaning is one of the most effective ways to kill mold. During the study, it required steam to be applied for a minimum of 12 seconds on each area of the carpet to achieve 90 percent mold destruction (Ong et al., 2015; Ong et al., 2014). Other methods that were used in a lab setting, including using gamma radiation and a bleach wash, were found to eliminate many types of mold depending on the material; steam cleaning was also found to be successful to various degrees. (Wilson et al., 2004).
- Use a vinegar and baking soda mixture. This might kill some mold, and it will help remove musty odors from the carpet.
You will not get rid of all of the mold and mold spores. Even the most optimal mold removal methods in the studies cited above did not remove 100% of the mold. There will be some form of mold or mold spores left behind even after the most thorough cleaning. The only way to prevent mold from forming again is to keep the carpet very dry. The area should be well-ventilated, with low humidity. You should also vacuum often. It can also help to use an air purifier in the area that is able to trap mold spores. Air purifiers with HEPA filters or using other forms of air purification technology can remove mold spores from the air. The Molekule PECO technology, however, is unique. Unlike traditional air purifiers that trap mold particles, the PECO technology can destroy mold spores completely.
Once mold gets into carpet, it may be difficult to remove. If replacing the carpet is not an option, a thorough cleaning that prevents mold from spreading elsewhere in your house could solve the problem. Keep your carpets dry, and dry them out quickly if they get wet, to prevent mold from forming in the first place.*