Any stain will wreck the look and smell of your carpet, but few are as hazardous to household health as mold. The musty smell can inflame allergies, irritate the lungs, and even promote infections in at-risk individuals. And if you’re at the point where you can see the mold growth, it’s likely already taking a toll on the indoor air quality.
Problems like these can’t wait. Removing the stain and the smell to your satisfaction isn’t enough, as any surviving mold spores can cause the problem to reappear. With deep staining, the only solution may be expert mold remediation.
Eliminating a serious mold infestation can get costly, but before calling the pros, a few clever cleaning approaches could save you significant time, effort, and money on the job. Spare yourself the aggravation by following these tips on how to clean mold from carpet in your home.
What Does Carpet Mold Look Like?
Mold growth only takes 24–48 hours to set in once it has an adequate moisture supply. It’s common after flooding, but even a minor unattended spill on the rug can give mold spores in the carpet enough resources to take root. Though not always noticeable if the mold is deeply embedded, unchecked development may be apparent in only a few days.
Mold stains will worsen and become more costly to remove the longer they sit in an accommodating environment. Formulating effective cleaning strategies requires you to identify the signs of mold growth, including:
- Dark black, blue, green, or red mold spots on the carpet fibers
- A musty odor of moist, stale air
- Persistence dampness on the carpet
Allergy and asthma-like signs often accompany well-established mold in the house. You and your family may suffer from an inexplicable cough, runny nose, eye irritation, or headaches. If you think your carpet has a mold problem, a DIY mold test can confirm your suspicions.
Before You Begin: Tips To Remember
- Remove mold immediately. Thorough cleaning is crucial to prevent regrowth. Keep the affected area dry, and apply a cleaner to kill mold spores throughout the carpet
- Wear proper safety gear. Gloves, eyewear, and a face mask are necessary when cleaning to avoid making contact with or inhaling mold spores
- Spot test your cleaners. You don’t want to clean a mold stain only to replace it with another. Spot test any liquid solution in an inconspicuous spot on the rug before cleaning
- Dehumidify the area. Proper ventilation and dehumidifying tools will keep moisture from accumulating and making the problem worse. Fast and thorough drying after using a liquid cleaner is crucial
- Know when to quit. Extensive damage to the backing often requires professional carpet cleaners or a complete replacement
- Vacuum regularly. Vacuuming twice weekly will remove dirt, dust, and debris that promote mold growth
How To Clean Mold From Carpet
You can clean mold successfully when the damage is limited. And you have many DIY cleaners and commercial mold removal products to try. But before picking up your weapon of choice, your first step is to take preventative measures and a few pre-cleaning steps.
Ventilate and Dehumidify the Space
Avoiding excess moisture in the area will prevent mold growth from worsening, offering some relief from the urgency of the matter.
Begin with ventilation. Turn on ceiling fans and open windows to air out the room. Maintaining a dry environment is the primary factor in preventing mold growth, and adequate airflow will keep you safe from inhaling mold spores or chemical cleaning sprays as you work.
Inspect the Backing
Peel back the carpet at the corner or edge to check for mold beneath it. Mold growth that reaches the backing, carpet pad, and subfloor will need more powerful cleaning solutions. In these instances, you’ll likely need to replace that section of carpet.
Vacuum Before Cleaning
Vacuum the carpet before using your cleaning solution. Doing so will pull up dirt and dust that may get in the way of your cleaning solution and remove some of the mold spores contributing to the stain.
A vacuum with a HEPA filter is ideal. HEPA filters remove over 99.9% of contaminants 0.3 microns in size, reducing indoor microbes that negatively impact indoor air quality. While they’re the best choice for everyday vacuuming, HEPA vacuums are critical when dealing with mold spores.
Top Recommendation: Vinegar Solution
While the current understanding is that distilled white vinegar only kills around 82% of all mold species, it’s often a suitable solution for mild staining on the carpet. Compared to more powerful mold removers, vinegar is safer to handle and less likely to discolor the carpet fibers. Always on hand, it’s the most convenient starting point for removing mold from the carpet before moving on to more aggressive options.
Tools and Supplies
How To Get Mold Out of Carpet With Vinegar
Fill a spray bottle with distilled white vinegar, and spot test on a hidden carpet section. Put on gloves and a face mask, and spray the vinegar on the mold stain. Let it sit for 10–15 minutes. Scrub the mold with a stiff brush to loosen and remove it. Blot it with a paper towel, and dry it with a blow dryer, dehumidifier, or box fan positioned over the spot.
Tip! A more concentrated cleaning vinegar can be even more efficient than standard 5% white vinegar. Though they usually aren’t food-safe, more potent varieties are more versatile from a cleaning perspective. You can dilute them to the desired concentration, helping you save money on cleaning essentials. After using cleaning vinegar to remove mold, it’s great to have on hand for cleaning inside the house or killing weeds outside it.
Hydrogen peroxide can get mold stains out of carpet and kill growth more effectively than vinegar. Since it’s as accessible as vinegar in most households, the only reason hydrogen peroxide isn’t our top recommendation is its potential to stain your carpet. Vinegar can also harm certain materials but won’t glaringly strip the color like bleaching products.
Pour 3% hydrogen peroxide into a spray bottle and spot-test it before using. Spray the moldy carpet patch, leaving the peroxide to sit for 5–10 minutes. Scrub with a brush to remove the mold. Blot with a paper towel before sprinkling baking soda or setting up fans to dry the spot.
Steam cleaning has proven its superiority for cleaning mold from carpets, and it could be the perfect solution for manageable mold stains that vinegar or hydrogen peroxide can’t tackle alone. Steam penetrates the carpet, reaching the backing to kill mold spores embedded past the fibers.
Studies have shown steam vapor to be significantly more effective at removing mold than carpet cleaning or hot water extraction methods. Steaming can kill up to 99% of mold spores incubated in carpeting for 24 hours and 92% of spores after one week.
Steam cleaners are more effective the longer they sit on the stain, but results improve in only a few seconds. After 12 seconds of application, steam can remove up to 90% of mold spores. You’ll want to apply it for at least 30 seconds for optimal results.
Choosing a Steam Cleaner
A steam cleaner is handy for quickly cleaning and sanitizing surfaces around the house. If your moldy carpet is causing you fits and making you consider the investment, choosing the proper product is crucial.
Many people mistake carpet cleaners for steam cleaners, thinking both machines use heat to kill mold and remove dirt. But carpet cleaners are shampooers. They use water and detergent with their scrubbing rollers to wash the carpet, while steam cleaners work by forcing heated water vapors into it.
Carpet cleaners can still remove mold from carpet, especially when used with vinegar or a mold-killing product. But if you expect the application and results of a steam cleaner, you’ll only set yourself up for disappointment. You need a product like the Dupray Neat Steam Cleaner or the Bissell SteamShot to get the pressurized, penetrating steam that effectively eliminates embedded mold spores.
Commercial Mold Remover
A commercial product like ZORBX Extra Strength Mold & Mildew Remover is an efficient carpet-safe method to kill mold and remove the stain and smell. You only need to apply the pre-mixed solution according to the directions. Some products, like MOLD ARMOR’s Mold Blocker, can clean and create a barrier that prevents future mold growth for several months.
Thorough drying afterward is still essential to remove any moisture that could stop lingering mold spores from taking root. Always check the ingredients and allowable applications for any product. In some cases, a non-carpet-specific mold remover may work, but these often contain bleach as their primary ingredient. Not paying attention to the product packaging could result in even worse damage to your carpet.
Chlorine bleach is fast-acting, killing mold almost instantly on carpets and denaturing the allergy-causing mold antigens many cleaners leave behind. Still, it isn’t the preferred solution, primarily for safety reasons.
Bleach will often discolor the carpet, and breathing in the fumes can cause temporary health issues. You should already have the windows open and rubber gloves and mask on, but you must still appreciate the dangers of using bleach compared to other mold removers. In general, I recommend only using it as a last resort or if you have nothing else available.
To tackle mold with bleach, mix it in a 1:16 bleach-to-water ratio. Spot-test the solution for 15 minutes to see if it causes discoloration. If not, soak the stain in the bleach solution for 15 minutes. Scrub with a stiff brush to loosen the stain. After removing the mold, rinse the affected area with fresh water to remove any leftover bleach. Blot the moisture from the carpet, and set up fans or dehumidifiers to dry the spot.
How to Deep Clean Mold From Carpet
When you pull back your carpet, you may notice mold on the backing, carpet pad, or the subfloor. If it penetrates this far, replacing your carpet is usually the easiest and wisest move. You’ll have to change out moldy carpet padding anyway, and patching carpet isn’t notably labor-intensive. As a general rule, you should always replace carpet if the mold covers more than a 9-square-foot area.
Limited mold stains on otherwise solid subfloor may only need cleaning with vinegar, bleach, or another standard cleaning solution. Many people also apply a mold-blocking primer, like Zinsser Mold-Killing Primer, after cleaning to avoid future issues.
Regarding the carpet, a steam cleaner will be your best option for deep cleaning. Vinegar and other liquid cleaners can also be effective to a certain extent when you treat the carpet from both sides.
No matter the cleaning solution, guaranteeing complete mold removal isn’t easy. Any leftover spores in your carpet can reactivate during a humid stretch, bringing the problem back. That’s why the most critical aspect of cleaning mold comes after the fact when it’s time to prevent the moisture issues that caused it in the first place.
Preventing Future Mold Growth
My top recommendation for preventing mold in your carpet from returning is to keep it dry. Mold thrives when it has moisture, oxygen, and organic food sources. Though you can’t do anything to eliminate those last two ingredients, you can stop mold growth dead in its tracks if you remove the moisture.
Mold can’t grow if you keep the relative humidity in the home below 60% and prevent moisture buildup that can help it grow. Beyond that, you can make the environment as unaccommodating as possible to slow any mold growth that may appear.
Tips To Prevent Moldy Carpet
- Improve ventilation. Better air flow will speed up evaporation, preventing mold-causing moisture from sitting too long. Turn on ceiling fans and open the windows for a few hours when the weather permits to get a cross-breeze moving through the house
- Use a dehumidifier in moisture-prone areas. A dehumidifier with smart humidity control, like the Aiusevo 22-Pint Dehumidifier, will automatically turn on and off based on the relative humidity to ensure mold doesn’t have a chance to grow
- Vacuum twice weekly. Cleaning the carpet with a HEPA vacuum cleaner at least two times weekly can remove mold spores in the carpet. Vacuuming will also decrease carpet dust that accelerates mold growth
- Schedule annual A/C inspections. Central A/C is the primary dehumidifier in your house, so keeping it working at peak efficiency is crucial in preventing mold. Schedule an annual A/C check in early spring to ensure it’s ready for the hot, humid months
- Check for leaks. Leaks from the roof, potted plants, window A/C units, or damaged window frames can quietly cause extensive mold and moisture issues. Assess potential causes to nip the problem at the source
- Upgrade your carpet padding and subfloor. Installing moisture-resistant carpet padding or a moisture barrier underneath can halt any potential mold growth
Hazards of Mold Growing in Your Carpet
Though rarely deadly, untreated mold (particularly black mold) can lead to signs of exposure. Common initial health indicators can include:
- Red eyes
- Postnasal drip
- Nasal congestion
Individuals with compromised immune systems and asthma are at greater risk of problems, as mold exposure can exacerbate health conditions. They may experience breathing trouble, uncontrolled wheezing, and chest tightness, with symptoms getting more severe as exposure increases.
Mold also carries an economic cost. Extensive damage requiring mold remediation can run over $10 per square foot of carpet in many cases, and expenses increase even more if you need to replace the subfloor or supports.
Property values diminish due to mold, with one study showing they can fall by nearly 50% in some instances. The same research revealed only 58% of prospective home buyers would consider buying a house that previously had toxic mold. Between your health and home, you have plenty of good reasons to clean mold from the carpet as quickly as possible and take urgent steps to prevent it.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How Do I Distinguish Between Carpet Mold and Mildew?
Mildew is mold that grows on surfaces with elevated moisture levels. You’ll usually see it on shower doors and windows as one of the most common mold types. While mold can come in varying dark colors and have a raised texture, mildew typically only grows in a flat, powdery form in gray or white tones.
How Do I Differentiate Mold From Simple Carpet Stains?
Mold is typically distinct enough to distinguish it from other stains. Alongside the patchy growth, the mold particles will develop a texture that’s either slimy and soft when it’s active or dry and powdery when it’s dead. Taking a magnifying glass to it, you should be able to see the branching growth and wispy hairs indicating mold.