How to remove mould and prevent it from coming back

Clara V.
Clara V.Published on 10 Mar 2022

With wet weather affecting many parts of the country and higher levels of moisture in the air, more and more Australians are experiencing mould growth in their homes.

It’s best to get rid of mould as soon as it appears, but this is easier said than done. We go into how to get rid of mould, how to prevent it from coming back, and when you should throw in the towel and call in an expert.

A hand wearing an orange rubber glove scrubbing grey bathroom tiles with soapy water and a brush.

How to stay safe when removing mould

Mould can release spores and vapours that can be hazardous to your health, so before you get out the buckets and rags, you should make sure that you’re well protected.

Make sure that there’s good ventilation and that you wear personal protective equipment, such as rubber gloves, safety goggles, and a face mask - a P1 or P2 face mask is recommended. P2 face masks can make it more difficult to breathe normally, so anyone with a pre-existing lung or heart condition should consult a doctor before using them.

Wearing a shower cap, overalls, and protective footwear can also help better protect you against mould, particularly if you’re assessing an extensive mould problem.

Those with asthma should take extra care

If you’re asthmatic, have allergies, or a breathing condition, you may be more sensitive to mould.

Make sure that you keep any relevant medication with you at all times, take regular breaks for fresh air, and are prepared to follow your asthma, allergy, or medical action plan if needed.

How do you get rid of mould?

1. Know what can be cleaned and what can’t

Mouldy items that aren’t able to be cleaned and dried properly, such as paper, cardboard, and sometimes textiles and carpet, should be immediately disposed of. It’s very difficult to completely eradicate mould from these very porous materials, so often, it’s best to not risk it.

More porous materials, such as ceramic tiles and hard plastics, are easier to remove mould from.

2. Vacuum the mould

If the mould is growing on a flat surface that you can vacuum, then vacuum the mould. However, you should only do this if you have a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter - this will clean the air that leaves the vacuum.

Do not dry brush a mouldy area as this can release mould spores into the air that spread mould to other areas.

3. Remove the mould

You can either use soapy water (made using a mild detergent) or vinegar to remove mould. If using vinegar, dilute it in water (4 parts vinegar to 1 part water); this is a popular option for those who prefer natural mould removal.

Use either your soapy water or vinegar solution with a brush or microfibre cloth to scrub the mould off the surface.

Make sure that you rinse the cloth regularly in a separate bucket of clean water to prevent accidentally spreading mould while you clean. If you have multiple cloths, then it’s a good idea to use fresh ones instead of continuously rinsing the same cloth out.

How effective are commercial mould removers?

Commercial mould removers that you find at a supermarket can be helpful in removing light to moderate mould growth, however some specialty mould removers only bleach the mould, rather than kill it. This means that mould will look like it has been removed, but will likely grow back.

Before buying a commercial mould cleaner, read reviews to see whether people have had success in completely getting rid of mould. Also ensure you follow the instructions on the label, taking extra care regarding how much product to use and which surfaces you can use it on.

4. Dry the cleaned area

Immediately and thoroughly dry any area you’ve cleaned to help prevent the growth of new mould.

How do you prevent mould?

Reducing dampness is key to preventing mould. You can do this by:

Keeping your home properly ventilated

  • Turn on any exhaust fans you have, especially when you’re showering, bathing, cooking, or doing the laundry.
  • Open windows and doors when possible to allow for cross ventilation.

Controlling dampness

  • Get any water leaks and plumbing issues repaired, such as blocked gutters and burst water pipes.
  • Clean and dry carpets and materials damaged by water if water enters your home.
  • Squeegee or towel dry shower walls and tiles after showering.
  • Avoid air drying clothes indoors, particularly in a room without lots of ventilation.

Reducing indoor humidity

  • Don’t use a humidifier. Instead, consider using a dehumidifier.
  • Limit the use of unflued gas heaters.
  • Dry laundry outside.
  • Keep gutters clean.
  • Move house plants outdoors or to a well-ventilated room.

Of course, sometimes the ability to reduce dampness is beyond your control, for example if you’re experiencing long periods of heavy, consistent rain, or if there are structural problems in your home. In these situations, you're probably better off calling an expert.

Know when to call the professionals

If your mould problem is extensive, recurring, cannot be found (hidden mould), if you’ve had flooding, or if you’ve taken measures to keep the building well ventilated and mould is still growing, then you probably need professional mould removal.

There are different types of experts that can help stop mould growth. For example, mould specialists may be needed to remove mould, plumbers may be needed to fix leaks, and builders or roofers may be required to fix structural leaks.

If you’re renting, then you should tell the owner or property agent as soon as possible - your landlord is responsible for fixing any structural flaws. For more information or advice about your rights and responsibilities as a tenant, contact your state’s relevant consumer protection agency or tenant’s union.