Removing Mold from Your Walls


I live in a wet climate, in an apartment with concrete block walls. I have a terrible problem with mold and mildew on the walls. The concrete blocks just seem to suck in moisture and ooze it on the inside. I keep a window open, a fan on, and blot the walls and floors with towels. In the bathroom, the tiles are starting to lift from the floor. What is the best way to get rid of the mold and mildew without destroying the paint? How do I keep mold from coming back? Is there a cheap way to dehumidify effectively? I am starting to worry that my landlady will try to hold me responsible for the damage that's occurred. I would appreciate any help!
Kelly in Portland (OR)
Find the Source

To find the sollution for your moisture problem you must find the source. Do the other apartments have the same problem? If they all do, the problem is probabley in the construction. Moisture barriers were improperly installed or not installed in the walls and under the slab floor. The only corrct sollution is to remove the siding and install a moisture barrier. Sheet vinyl or alluminum foil wrap is best. Felt paper is OK.

If the problem is only in a certain area you probabley have a leak of some kind. Check the attic for wet or black wood, a sign of a roof leak. Search for a plumbing leak. Look under the cabinets, around showers and tubs. If part of your air conditioner is in the attic, the water pan drain could be plugged, causing the drain pan to overflow in the attic.

Lastly could the excess of water be from how you live in the apartment? Some tenants let sinks overflow or let the kids splash water from the tub a lot. these sources of water will be absorbed by the wood and wall panels and an excess of humidity will build up inside your apartment causing water to condense elsewhere. If there is a basement, is it wet? These problems can encourage mold all over the place.

If you cannot find the source perhaps you know a handyman that could make sure that you are not the cause of the problem. If you are not causing the moisture problem, the landlord should be responsible for the damage, unless you don't notify him very soon. Please take care of this quickly because moisture can ruin the apartment and your furnishings.
Richard, home planner
My Solutions

I recently had a small amount of mold on the ceiling of my bathroom. We took a sponge, dampened it with water and then poured undiluted chlorine bleach on the sponge. We dabbed the sponge directly to the mildew. It disappeared. Light will also help mold. We have another bathroom in the basement. This is a small room. We keep a light on all the time.

Also, get a dehumidifier. These are expensive. We purchased ours new, but since I have noticed several at yard sales real cheap. My daughter is allergic to mold causing her to have asthma. Her allergy doctor has given us a lot of pamphlets on ridding your home of mold. There is a lot of mildew resistant products and I read about a spray that eliminated mold permanently.
Matt L.
Advice from a Property Manager

Early in our marriage, we experienced the same problem in a rental of ours. Later, we became property managers and experienced many maintenance problems including that one. First of all, you are not responsible if the climate and the construction are the cause. Your landlady is the one responsible because the dwelling belongs to her. It sounds like you are taking the proper steps but I wonder if the bathroom has an exhaust fan or window. Code in Wisconsin requires you to have one or the other to let humidity out with the fan being preferred. The fan must exhaust to the outside not to the attic or other space to be effective. You can make your own mildew treatment by mixing a quart of chlorine bleach and a tablespoon of powdered non-ammoniated laundry detergent with 3 quarts of warm water. Scrub the mildew stained surface with the solution and allow it to work until the discoloration vanishes, rinse thoroughly and allow to dry -- Taken from "talking Dirty with the Queen of Clean" by Linda C. Cobb. She has many other tips. My brother-in-law gave it to me for Christmas. Hope this helps. Professionals may be needed to thoroughly remove the problem. This is not only damaging the apartment, it is also probably affecting your health because you shouldn't be breathing this. The walls need to be sealed with a waterproofing type of paint -- Dry-loc is one such type usually available at paint stores.
Julie W.
Advice from an Attorney

As a landlord tenant attorney in Florida I deal with mold issues all the time - most maintenance persons in this area recommend using bleach (place bleach cut with water into a spray bottle) by cleaning the area with bleach the mold is killed - it usually takes several applications to kill the mold - also, for the bathroom there is a product called x-14 that will remove anything and kill the mold between the tile area - I don't understand why the x-14 works better then straight bleach, but I have had success with it - lastly, you need to keep the windows closed. You need to turn the air conditioner on to remove as much moisture from the air - in Florida, if you don't run the a/c the mold will actually grow right up the walls in block construction and especially in closet areas near the bathroom where it is damp - you should also check your closets regularly - mold will destroy some materials. Sometimes the mold can be removed from clothing by drycleaning it. Do not store your clothing in plastic bags - they hold the condensation and encourage mold growth.

As for not being held liable for damage - make sure that whenever you move into an apartment you prepare a list of all damages present - also fully photograph the apartment - you cannot be held responsible for pre-existing damage, but have to be able to show it was pre-existing - as to the more recent problem, you should document the problem by letters to the landlady that it is occurring and could she remedy it or make some suggestions (then she can't say she was unaware of it). If necessary, send follow up letters about the condition of the apartment (i.e. the mold continues to grow and is now growing in the bathroom. I have used bleach to remove most of it, but it still is apparent.) Also you should photograph the condition every time the mold reappears, or at least monthly if it keeps coming back after you wash it down with bleach. Lastly, photograph the apartment at move out so that you have documentation on the condition the apartment was left in.
Kathi S.
Dehumidifier the Final Solution

We also live in Oregon, but on the coast where it is even more humid than in Portland. We tried everything and finally decided dehumidifier was the way to go. It was an expensive purchase, a little over $100, and the electricity to run it increased our power bill a bit, but it was well worth it in our quality of life. The humidity in our house was actually destroying our piano as well as the window frames as water ran down them continually. The day after we plugged in the dehumidifier, the windows were dry, and once cleaned the mold never grew back. the dehumidifier was the least expensive and quickest way for us to correct the damage the humidity was causing.
Cleaning, the Professional Way

I have been cleaning houses for 11 years, I've seen almost every kind of dirt and mold and mildew out there. Please try vinegar and water to wash the walls and floors. More vinegar than water. I've also found that tilex works well with less scrubbing if left to set. WWBuilding Supply carries a product called Nights Nine. It's a pleasant odor instead of vinegar. Spray the Nights Nine on the wall scrub with a scrubbie and wipe down with a damp cloth. This product may be expensive, about $6 a quart. A little goes a long way. It can be purchased in gallon jugs also.

I strongly suggest you invest in a dehumidifier to dry out the area you are living in. I use one in my cellar mostly in the summer. I have water running year round. I don't use the dehumidifier in the winter because I have the furnace on. If there is odor, I suggest you buy De-Moist. It can be found in almost any hardware store along with all my other suggestions.