How to Clean a Piece of Furniture Prior to Painting to Ensure Mold is Killed and Will Not Reappear
* Guest Post by John Ward *
I recently obtained an antique credenza at a garage sale. This hardwood masterpiece was looking a bit worse for wear, so I decided it needed a facelift. However, after examining it, I discovered it had mold spots. Whenever people hear mold, thoughts quickly jump to the black gunk we see on walls or those powdery spots on cardboard boxes stashed in the basement. But, as you may know, mold can also grow on furniture, often appearing in spots.
Mold is a pretty common problem, and effectively killing mold on a piece of furniture is difficult, to say the least. If you have a piece of furniture that you want to flip, here’s the best course of action to permanently get rid of mold before you paint it.
Types of mold commonly found on furniture
Mold and mildew are common species of fungus that feed of fabric, such as on furniture, wood, or any organic surface exposed to a lot of moisture, poor ventilation, and no direct sunlight. Mold spores constantly float through the air, often going undetected until they start growing. Given the right conditions, these spores grow into mold, damaging furniture with mold spots.
There are different types of mold; most species having a whitish appearance. However, they can also be black, greenish, or gray. Strains commonly found in homes include aspergillus, Cladosporium, Stachybotrys atra (black mold), and penicillium. While mold and mildew have a lot of similarities, there are striking differences.
Mildew grows as a patch of grayish-white fungus that seems to lie on the affected surface. It can be quickly cleaned with a brush and cleaner. Mold, on the other hand, is an indication of a much deeper infestation. It can show up as black, white, or green fuzzy spots.
Due to some mold's whitish nature, it is commonly mistaken for mildew, but mildew rarely grows on surfaces other than plants, and it doesn't damage them. On the other hand, white mold penetrates porous materials and ruins them.
Does paint kill mold?
No, paint does not kill mold, neither it will stop the growth of the source of mold. If you just paint over the mold, it will continue to grow under the paint and after some time you will see visible signs of mold again. Therefore, you must treat the piece of furniture properly before any painting.
How to clean moldy furniture – DIY way
- Wear protective gear
While most mold is not toxic to humans, the spores can be harmful when inhaled. They can cause you to have an allergic reaction, a runny nose, eye irritation, a sore throat, and difficulty breathing. Before you begin cleaning the mold off, wear protective gear such as rubber gloves, an air mask (N-95), and safety goggles. You should also wear a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, and waterproof boots. Also, wear a long-sleeved shirt or coveralls to protect as much of your skin as possible.
If you have asthma or other respiratory conditions, don't enter a mold-infested building or attempt to clean a moldy area. Mold and mildew make respiratory illnesses worse, so it’s better to call a professional, friend, or family member to help.
- Take the furniture outside
Since wood naturally soaks up water, it is susceptible to mold and mildew. When cleaning mold, speed is key. You want to minimize the spread of the spores as much as possible, as they could just cause more mold to grow. Take the piece of furniture outside and clean it there to prevent spreading the spore in the house. If you can’t remove the furniture outside, open the windows before you start. Also, the cleaning agents you will use give off fumes that can be harmful to your health, so ensure you are in a well-ventilated area. Vacuum the mold-infested areas to suck up the loose spores.
- Use the proper chemical for effectiveness
Your best option is to use an antimicrobial chemical to clean surfaces and remove mold stains from your furniture. These chemicals have rapid oxidative properties that eliminate bacteria and fundi. They don't leave visible residues or odor and are excellent for disinfecting surfaces. Professionals use chemicals which are based on hydrogen peroxide/peroxyacetic acid solutions. You can try to find them on Amazon, but ensure you follow the instructions before use.
Can I use bleach for mold removal?
When you hear of mold removal, the first thing that comes to mind is chloride-based bleach. While bleach may be effective in certain applications, it won't exonerate mold on porous surfaces. It loses effectiveness quickly since choline evaporates quickly. Try leaving a glass of bleach on the counter, and you'll notice the difference. So, using bleach for mold removal is huge misconception and you should use it only for surface mold and in special cases.
Another reason why bleach is not the right choice, it’s because you could mix it by mistake with ammonia or other household cleaners and produce poisonous gas.
If none of above helps you remove the mold, then the infestation has sunk in too deeply. You can sand the moldy area to remove these affected areas. Sand the wood while it is still damp to prevent spores from spreading. After removing the mold and sanding, you can paint or refinish the wood. However, this will not exonerate mold completely, so ensure you use the proper chemical later or work with a professional.
For ideal results, you may have to combine several methods. Remember, mold spores are dangerous. If the furniture is infected with black mold, and you are not sure if you will be able to do clean it yourself, call a mold removal professional. For a piece that is aggressively infected, you may have to consider letting it go. Other than that, happy cleaning!
About the Author
John Ward is an account executive at Mold Busters, specializing in indoor air quality issues of the most delicate nature. Over the years, he has completed hundreds of mold remediation jobs and thousands of air quality tests for homeowners and businesses across Canada.