Mold is not only unsightly, but it can also eat away at the surfaces it lives on, causing structural damage. Exposure to mold can also cause a number of health issues, and may be especially harmful for people with allergies or weakened immune systems.

Bleach is commonly marketed as a solution for eliminating mold, but it only works against mold on nonporous surfaces, like tiles and sinks. It doesn’t work on porous surfaces, such as wood or drywall.

Keep reading to find out what household ingredients you can use to eliminate mold on porous surfaces, and preventive steps you can take to keep it from coming back.

Mold and its spores can be found almost anywhere, but active mold growth requires moisture. You may initially notice the presence of mold due to its musty scent, or by spotting patches of black, brown, yellow, pink, green, fuzzy growths.

You can use bleach to remove traces of mold on tub and tile surfaces, which are hard and impermeable. However, bleach can’t kill mold on porous surfaces, such as those made of wood.

That’s because mold spreads its roots deep into porous surfaces. Even after applying bleach and wiping away mold from these surfaces, the mold will continue to grow beneath the surface and will return to the area you cleaned in a short amount of time.

While it may be impossible to fully remove mold from porous surfaces with bleach, you can still use it to eliminate mold from nonporous surfaces. Here are some steps you can take:

  1. Open your doors and windows for ventilation or turn on a window fan.
  2. Put on protective gear, such as gloves, mask, eye goggles, or old clothes.
  3. Mix 1 cup of bleach into 1 gallon of water.
  4. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle.
  5. Spray onto mold and allow it to set in.
  6. If surfaces are rough, scrub them with a stiff brush.
  7. Rinse the surfaces with clean water, then allow them to air dry.
  8. Throw away any sponges or cloths after use.

Never mix ammonia with bleach

Mixing ammonia with bleach will result in the release of toxic chlorine gas. Inhalation of this gas can cause serious symptoms and is potentially deadly.

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While household bleach isn’t considered corrosive or toxic, prolonged exposure to it may cause irritation to the eyes, mouth, lungs, and skin. This may be especially true if you live with a respiratory condition such as asthma.

Most of the health concerns surrounding bleach are because it’s largely reactive.

In addition to reacting with ammonia, bleach may also react with drain cleaners and other acids, releasing chlorine gas. At low levels, this may irritate the mucous membrane and cause coughing and breathing problems, watery eyes, and a runny nose.

When inhaled in large amounts, chlorine gas can cause:

  • chest pain
  • severe breathing problems
  • fluid in the lungs
  • pneumonia
  • vomiting

Bleach can also damage your skin, especially if you don’t rinse after immediate exposure. Use gloves when using bleach, even if it’s diluted in water. Rinse your skin immediately if splashes on you.

Luckily, there are many nontoxic options for mold cleanup on both porous and nonporous surfaces.

  • Hydrogen peroxide. Combine 1 part hydrogen peroxide and 1 part water in a spray bottle. Apply to mold and allow to sit before removal.
  • Vinegar. Place undiluted white vinegar in a spray bottle. Apply to the mold and allow to sit for 1 hour. Wipe the surface and allow to air dry.
  • Baking soda. Combine 2 tbsp. baking soda with 2 cups water in a spray bottle and shake until it’s completely dissolved. Spray onto the mold and let it sit before scrubbing. Afterward, rinse the area and apply the solution once more, allowing it to fully air dry.
  • Tea tree oil. Mix 2 tsp. tea tree oil with either 2 cups water or 2 cups distilled white vinegar. Spray onto the mold and allow it to sit for at least 1 hour, then scrub.
  • Grapefruit seed extract. Mix 10 drops of extract into 1 cup water. Spray onto the mold and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes.

There are several ways you can prevent mold from growing and thriving in your home. Consider taking the following preventive steps:

  • Keep your home clean and dry.
  • Address all issues related to water, such as leaking faucets, roofs, and wet basements.
  • Use ventilation fans in your kitchen and bathroom, or other rooms where water may be present.
  • Keep the humidity level in your home below 50 percent by using an air conditioner or a dehumidifier.
  • Avoid installing carpeting in areas of your home that may become wet, such as the kitchen or bathrooms.
  • Make it a point to dry area rugs and mats when they become wet.

Mold can become problematic if it’s not addressed quickly and thoroughly. While bleach may be a solution for nonporous surfaces, it can’t get to the root of mold and kill it entirely on porous surfaces, such as drywall and hardwood floors.

Luckily, there are a number of alternative at-home solutions to clean mold on these surfaces. Hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, and tea tree oil are all ingredients you can use to develop mold-eliminating solutions.