How To Remove Mold From Wood

How To Remove Mold From Wood

Most of us have wood in our homes in one form or another, whether that’s wooden flooring, baseboards, furniture, paneling, or even smaller wooden objects.

How To Remove Mold From Wood

Wood is a great material for home decor and furniture. Not only are there so many different types of wood to choose from, making it a versatile choice of material that can work for almost any purpose, but it also never feels to give a warm and rustic feel to a room.

That’s why wooden furniture and decor are still so popular and timeless despite so much more choice in terms of materials these days.

However, one major issue with wood is that it’s prone to mold infestations. Therefore, if you have wood in your home, it’s important to learn how to remove mold.

In this guide, we will be suggesting several methods for removing mold from wood. One of these methods might work better than the others in your situation, depending on what kind of mold you’re dealing with and what type of wood the mold is growing on.

We’ll provide you with all the information you need about different molds, so make sure you read from start to finish for the best results!

Why Does Mold Grow On Wood?

When you see mold growing on any surface, what you’re seeing is actually many microscopic fungi. These fungi grow in places with a lot of humidity because these conditions provide them with what they need to produce spores and reproduce.

Mold may grow on wooden surfaces both indoors and outdoors. Still, due to the lack of ventilation in most indoor spaces, most people find indoor mold (Aspergillus, Penicillium, Alternaria, or Cladosporium) to be a bigger problem.

Nevertheless, we’ll explain how to tackle wood mold inside and outside your home.

While mold can grow in most areas of your home, you’re more likely to encounter it in areas routinely exposed to water, such as the bathroom or kitchen.

However, if water can seep through walls or ceilings, you can end up with serious mold infestations in rooms that wouldn’t usually be so problematic, like bedrooms and living rooms. Unfortunately, these rooms often contain more wooden furnishings.

The reason mold likes to take over wooden surfaces and furniture is because most wood isn’t waterproof, at least not without the correct finish. Non-waterproof wood will absorb water, which is one of the requirements for mold growth.

If the environment surrounding the wood is humid (both moist and hot), the conditions will be perfect for mold to thrive and the wood will become infested.

The Different Types Of Mold

It’s important to understand that mold is not all the same. There are various types of mold that you might encounter on wooden surfaces as well as other materials, including:

  • Aspergillus: This mold shows up as patches of green, but you typically won’t see it on wood as much as on foods like potatoes, bread, nuts, and corn. It’s also fairly common on straw.
  • Penicillium: Penicillium may appear in various colors, but it’s usually either blue, alabaster, or green. It can reproduce on food, but you might also encounter it around your home, mostly on carpets and walls. The basement is an area where this specific type of mold really thrives.
  • White Mold: As its name suggests, white mold is white in color, and it has a wooly texture that makes it easy to identify. This type of mold is very visible on wooden surfaces, and unfortunately, it’s also one of the most common mold types.
  • Stachybotrys: Commonly referred to as black mold, this is one of the most toxic types of mold, so if you see it on wooden surfaces inside or outside your home (where it most likes to grow), you will need to be proactive about removing it. You can identify Stachybotrys from its greenish-black color.
  • Alternaria: Alternaria is a brown mold. If you’ve ever seen brown specks on fruits that haven’t always been there, Alternaria is probably the culprit.
  • Cladosporium: Cladosporium is one of the main types of mold you need to worry about when it comes to wooden furniture or surfaces. When Cladosporium grows on wood, it appears as patches of dark green. You might also see it on fabrics.
  • Mildew: Mold and mildew are frequently confused. Many people assume they are the same species, but they are not. Mildew is a form of mold that is most commonly seen in houses. Powdery mildew and downy mildew are the two types. Unlike many mold species, mildew is easy to remove since it grows flat and does not penetrate wood surfaces.

How To Detect Mold On Wood

Mold is usually pretty easy to recognize once it becomes visible on the surface of the wood. The problem is that once you can see the mold, a lot of damage has likely been done to the wood fibers.

Therefore, in an ideal world, it’s best to identify the presence of mold on wood before the infestation becomes advanced enough to be visible.

Remember, certain types of mold, such as Stachybotrys, can be harmful to your health, so it needs to be dealt with as soon as possible.

Another reason not to rely solely on your sense of sight to identify mold is that wooden furniture is often painted, meaning that mold can take a while to show up on the surface because it has to make its way through several coatings of paint.

This means that you could have a moldy coffee table for quite a while and not even notice because of the paint.

Luckily, mold has a fairly distinctive smell that can be described as damp, stale, and musty. If it’s growing on wood, you might notice a rotting smell. Some people say that it smells similar to soil.

If you smell anything like what we’ve just described, the chances are that you have a mold infestation somewhere but can’t see the mold yet.

At this point, you will need to do some investigating. Check behind and underneath furniture, and carefully examine any furniture items if the smell seems to be emanating from them.

Once you’ve established that mold is growing on the wood, you can start researching the best method for removing the mold.

Methods For Removing Mold From Wood In Your Home

Methods For Removing Mold From Wood In Your Home

If you’ve detected mold on wooden surfaces or items of wooden furniture in your home, don’t panic. There are several ways you can approach the mold removal task, and many of them involve using products you may already own.

What You Will Need

  • Vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Detergent
  • Water
  • Chlorine
  • Bleach
  • Non-abrasive cloths
  • Protective gloves
  • Face mask

Make sure not to skip the protective gear on this list! You’ll need a high-quality mask and nonporous gloves to protect yourself when dealing with mold. Some types of mold can be very damaging to your respiratory system and may cause skin reactions.

Method 1: Sun Exposure

This method is only suitable for dealing with a mild mold infestation. We’re talking about the type of mold growth that you probably can’t see yet but may be able to smell.

Mold needs dark and damp conditions to grow, so if you have an item of wooden furniture that you suspect might be mildly moldy, you can try moving it into direct sunlight. Hot, dry weather with plenty of sunlight is the ideal weather condition for combating mold.

It will work best if you leave the furniture in the sun for between 2 and 3 days. Make sure the conditions are airy enough since ventilation is key to stopping mold growth in its tracks.

Note that this method won’t be useful if you have mold on immovable wooden objects or surfaces. Also, if the mold infestation is more advanced, simply putting the furniture in a sunny area won’t be sufficient to resolve the problem.

It’s very important not to use this mold removal method if your furniture is made of a specific type of wood that is sensitive to sunlight.

Some wood types can crack or become discolored if they are allowed to dry out or are exposed to too much sun, so please do your research before trying this method.

Luckily, we have 5 more methods to share with you if you’re dealing with a more significant mold issue or can’t let your wood be exposed to direct sunlight.

Method 2: Water + detergent

Assuming that your moldy wood can’t be saved by putting it in the sun, you might want to try this simple combination of water and detergent.

You probably have both of these things already, so if you’re anxious to get rid of that mold as quickly as possible, you should try this method first.

First, take a bucket and fill it with 4 liters of water. The water should be hot. Then, add 50 grams of laundry detergent to the bucket.

You will need a clean, non-abrasive cloth. It’s very important to make sure that the cloth is soft enough that it won’t cause any damage to the wood.

Lower the cloth into the mixture of water and detergent and start wiping down the surfaces. Work methodically, wiping in the same direction each time to avoid spreading the mold spores onto areas of the furniture that may not be affected.

Once you’ve wiped the furniture thoroughly with the water and detergent formula, you’ll need to pour 250 ml of water into a separate bucket or container and add a single teaspoon of bleach.

This is to fully disinfect the furniture and make sure that the mold spores can’t survive.

Even when you’ve disinfected the furniture with bleach and water, your work isn’t done! You need to make sure that you keep the furniture in a fully ventilated area so that it dries as quickly as possible.

Ideally, you should leave the furniture outside to air-dry, but if you can’t do that, make sure to keep the windows open.

Remember that water exposure is one of the major components of mold growth, so if you don’t dry the wood thoroughly, it may lead to even more mold.

Method 3: Vinegar

Vinegar is a natural disinfectant, and it’s also highly effective when it comes to killing mold. Therefore, cleaning your wooden surfaces with vinegar is the next logical step if water and detergent don’t work for you.

You’ll want to use equal parts water and vinegar to create an effective mold-removal solution. You could also add lemon juice and/or baking soda, but make sure not to overdo it.

Only add up to 2 tablespoons of baking soda, and you just need one lemon for the juice.

Mixing these three ingredients together with water creates one of the most potent and effective solutions for mold removal, and the best thing is that it doesn’t contain any toxic chemicals!

Method 4: Baking Soda

Baking soda is another one of those ingredients that you may already have in your kitchen pantry, but if not, you can easily find it at your local grocery store.

Not only is this ingredient easily accessible, but it’s also highly effective as a mold remover, especially for wooden surfaces and items.

You have two options when it comes to using baking soda to remove mold from wood.

You can either put a couple of tablespoons of baking soda into a spray bottle along with water and spray it onto the wood, or start by applying the baking soda directly to the wood and adding the water afterward.

Obviously, the second option only works if you’re cleaning a horizontal wooden surface. If you’re cleaning a wooden wall, for example, you’ll need to use option 1.

The great thing about baking soda is that it can be used to remove mold from a variety of surfaces, not just wood.

While this article specifically focuses on removing mold from wood, the reality is that if you have a mold infestation on wooden furniture or other wooden surfaces in your home, other materials may have been exposed to mold as well.

You can use baking soda to get mold out of textiles such as carpets and upholstery. It’s also great for scrubbing mold off walls.

For the best results, go over the mold-infested spots twice with the baking soda solution. If you only go over the mold once, you may not remove all of the spores, and this could allow the mold to regrow, which you don’t want.

Method 5: Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil might not be as available as some of the other everyday household products we’ve recommended so far for removing mold from wood, but there’s no denying its effectiveness.

You can purchase natural tea tree oil from many online retailers.

We recommend tea tree oil if you have moldy wood in your home because it’s naturally antimicrobial. It targets the mold spores that often get left behind on surfaces and kills them so that they can’t reproduce and continue to be a problem.

Take two cups of water and pour it into a spray bottle. Then, add just a teaspoon of tea tree oil to the bottle and mix thoroughly.

A little amount goes a long way with tea tree oil, and this kind of oil has a very potent smell, so make sure not to add more than you need to if you don’t want your home or furniture to smell like tea tree for weeks afterward.

All you need to do now is spray the water and tea tree oil mixture directly onto the wooden surface that is infected with mold. Let it dry completely; by this point, the mold and spores should be gone.

You should expect some tea tree odor for a couple of days, but if you only use the recommended amount of tea tree oil, it should fade soon enough.

Method 6: Chlorine

If nothing else has worked for you in your attempts to remove mold from wooden items in your home, you can bring out the big guns and try using chlorine.

Chlorine is not ideal for your health, so you’ll need to wear protective gloves, a mask, and eye protection if you work with this chemical.

While there are risks associated with cleaning using chlorine, the reality is that it’s sometimes really the only way to reverse a severe mold infestation on wooden furniture.

That said, you’ll need to think about a few things before applying any chlorine solution to wooden furniture or surfaces.

First, you never want to use chlorine to get mold out of any furniture with fabric upholstery. Secondly, some types of wood can easily be discolored when you use chlorine.

To clean mold with chlorine, mix a few teaspoons into a bucket filled with water and apply it to the infested surface using a clean cloth.

Make sure to open as many windows as possible if you’re not able to do this process outside so that chlorine fumes don’t linger in the room.

Method 7: Bleach

Our final recommendation if you’re struggling to get mold out of wood is to use bleach.

Like chlorine, bleach is a harsh chemical that can impact your health if you don’t use adequate protection measures.

To make the bleach more effective at removing all the mold spores, combine 10 ml of bleach with 2 tablespoons of baking soda, 100 ml of water, and lemon juice. Put the mixture into a spray bottle and apply the spray to the problematic areas.

Just like when using chlorine, ensure that your working area is adequately ventilated so that you don’t end up breathing in any bleach when you eventually take off your mask.

How To Remove Mold From Wooden Garden Furniture

If you’re dealing with a mold infestation on wooden garden furniture, your approach to getting rid of that mold may be different because you’ll be cleaning outside. You may also find yourself confronted with different types of mold than you would find inside.

Since garden furniture usually isn’t finished in the same way as indoor furniture and will likely be made from entirely different types of wood, you’ll need to consider this also when it comes to your cleaning methods.

Option 1: Vinegar And Water

The vinegar and water method tends to work well for wooden garden furniture. It’s the same method outlined in our previous section, and it involves creating a 50:50 ratio of water to vinegar.

However, if you’re cleaning garden furniture, you will want to use a hard brush rather than a soft cloth.

This is because mold infestations on outdoor furniture tend to be worse than on indoor ones because of the increased moisture exposure. Also, with outdoor garden furniture, you don’t need to worry so much about damaging any delicate coats of paint or finish.

Take care while cleaning to cover every inch of the item of furniture you’re working on. Don’t forget about all the little cracks and crevices!

Mold spores are tiny and can get into places you normally wouldn’t even think about, and if you don’t get rid of them now, you’re likely to experience another full-blown mold infestation soon.

Option 2: Chemical Cleaning Solutions

Sometimes, water and vinegar aren’t enough to stop a mold infestation in its tracks, especially with wooden garden furniture, which is frequently exposed to moisture and humidity in ways that can’t be controlled.

If you’ve tried using the vinegar and water solution and it hasn’t worked, you can start considering more aggressive cleaning methods involving chemicals.

When working indoors, you will be limited in terms of the kinds of cleaning products you can use.

This is because, while some harsh chemicals are safe for indoor use as long as you ventilate the room, others specifically instruct the user to only clean with the product in an outdoor setting.

You should never disregard this kind of instruction, even if it gets in the way of your cleaning plans, and even if you’re wearing protective gear. Some chemicals can cause serious health problems if inhaled.

Cleaning mold outdoors, however, is a different story. Although you should definitely still wear gloves and a mask if you’re working with dangerous chemicals, it’s much safer to use certain products if you’re outside because air circulation is not restricted.

Choosing the specific cleaning product that will work for you is a decision you’ll need to make for yourself, depending on the kind of wood your garden furniture is made from and the type of mold growing on it.

Additional Treatments

If you want to keep your outdoor furniture mold-free after your initial mold removal, the process doesn’t stop when the wood is clean. You’ll need to take the time to treat the wood, so the mold doesn’t grow back.

You first need an oil treatment compatible with the wood you’ve been cleaning. The oil prevents moisture from penetrating the wood and generally makes cleaning dirt and debris easier.

Plus, some oils will protect against UV discoloration and damage. Again, this is a product you’ll need to find through your own research because not all treatment oils are suitable for all types of wood.

Specific instructions for application should be provided on the oil bottle. Still, as a general rule, you should apply oil to your garden furniture roughly once every 6 weeks or once per month to keep it protected and in good condition.

Please note that you don’t need to apply oil if your garden furniture is made from teak wood. This is because teak wood is naturally oily and doesn’t respond well to additional oil coats.

Preventing Future Mold Growth

Preventing Future Mold Growth

We just discussed the importance of treating garden furniture to prevent mold growth. We believe that prevention is always better than a cure, and this definitely applies to mold.

If you want to avoid having to repeat the cleaning process regularly, it’s necessary to take steps to make the conditions of your wooden surfaces inhospitable for mold. This will include the following measures:

Identify The Source

Identifying the source of your mold infestation is the single most important step you can take toward preventing mold growth on wood in the future.

When we talk about the source of the mold, we don’t just mean where the mold is growing. You already know that the mold is growing on a specific item of furniture because you’ve just identified the mold and cleaned it.

We mean that you have to figure out how the mold was able to grow on that surface or piece of furniture in the first place.

For example, say you’ve found mold on your wooden kitchen table. You need to work out how that mold got there.

Did water from your kitchen sink splash onto the table and develop into mold due to improper drying and humidity from cooking? Is your table pushed up against a wall? If so, could mold spores have spread from the wall to the table? Is the table simply absorbing moisture from the warmth and humidity created during meal prep?

It’s important to identify this because if you do, you can take steps to correct the situation, such as waterproofing or ventilating certain areas more.

Please note that you may be dealing with a leak if you are finding water stains or puddles in unexpected places around your home, including on your furniture.

This could come from many places, including plumbing or broken gutters, so this is something to investigate further at the earliest opportunity since leaks can quickly get worse and cause significant damage.

Keep Furniture Dry

If furniture or surfaces get wet and aren’t dried properly, they are very likely to develop mold, especially in warm, humid, dark areas of your home.

So, if you notice that an item of wooden furniture has been exposed to water from any source, it’s essential to dry it as soon as possible so that mold doesn’t have time to take hold.

The best way to dry wooden furniture is to place it in a bright, airy area with low humidity. Of course, you can wipe up any spillages with a cloth, but the wood itself will remain damp unless air is allowed to circulate around it properly.

This is why the ideal place to dry wooden furniture is outside in direct sunlight – unless your furniture is made of a type of wood that doesn’t tolerate sunlight exposure well.

If you cannot put your furniture outside to dry, make sure that you keep the room well-ventilated and free from excess humidity.

You can use a dehumidifier for this, but make sure it doesn’t dry out your furniture too much since this can also be detrimental to the wood in some cases.

Ensure Regular Ventilation

We’ve touched on the importance of ventilation when it comes to drying damp furniture, but prevention is better than a cure, as we said earlier!

That means that you should regularly ventilate rooms in your home, especially those containing wooden furniture or flooring, throughout the year, not just when you have a problem with dampness.

You should be opening windows to ventilate your home twice a day. If certain rooms in your home are prone to humidity, you may want to invest in a dehumidifier.

You can move the dehumidifier around your home regularly if you have humidity issues in more than one room. This will stop moisture in the air from reaching high levels so that moisture can’t then be absorbed by wooden furniture.

Waterproof Wooden Surfaces

Sometimes, drying and ventilating, even with the help of a dehumidifier, is not enough to prevent mold infestations. Some climates are extremely humid, and sudden, unexpected leaks can provide the perfect conditions for mold without you realizing it.

This is why we highly recommend waterproofing any wooden surfaces or furniture in your home.

There are many waterproof wood finishes available on the home improvement and woodworking markets – just make sure you choose one that’s safe and compatible with the wood your furniture is made from; otherwise, you might damage the wood.

Paint With Anti-Mold Products

If you’re going to paint walls, floors, or furniture made of wood, save yourself worry and time in the future by using anti-mold paint.

Anti-mold paint contains anti-condensation agents that prevent condensation from building up and penetrating surfaces. This is one of the most effective ways of stopping mold infestations.

Note that different anti-mold paints are formulated for different surfaces, so the right anti-mold paint for a brick wall may not work for wooden furniture.

Since we’re focusing on preventing mold growth on wood for this article, you’ll need to read the label on the product to make sure it’s suitable for use on wood.

Also, you should be aware that anti-mold paint will not get rid of an existing mold infestation. If a wooden surface is already moldy, you’ll need to remove that mold altogether, including any spores, before you apply the paint.

Otherwise, the mold will simply grow through the paint because the spores can continue to multiply.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Bleach Or Vinegar Better For Removing Mold From Wood?

Both bleach and vinegar can be effective for removing mold from wood, but depending on the extent of the mold problem, one might be better than the other.

It’s a common misconception that bleach is the most effective product for cleaning mold because it’s a harsh chemical.

Despite this commonly held belief, vinegar is better at penetrating wooden surfaces to kill the mold spores growing inside the wood.

On the other hand, bleach kills mold on the surface of the wood but isn’t great at tackling the hidden spores. Additionally, bleach can be harmful to your lungs as well as your skin.

If bleach is the only chemical you have at hand and you have a surface mold problem on wood that you want to clean right away, bleach will be fine, but be aware that there may be spores lurking beneath the surface that the bleach won’t get to.

Can You Mix Bleach And Vinegar To Remove Mold From Wood?

Please do not combine bleach and vinegar in an effort to remove mold from wooden surfaces.

Since vinegar and bleach are both highly effective cleaning agents, it might seem that mixing them would make sense. However, you should never do this because it essentially creates chlorine gas.

If you have mixed these two substances and can smell a strong, unpleasant odor, please evacuate the area immediately and try to breathe in as much fresh, clean air as you can.

Please seek medical attention if you experience shortness of breath, blurred vision, burning eyes, and throat, or irritated skin.

Can You Leave Vinegar On Mold Overnight?

You don’t need to leave the vinegar on the mold overnight to kill mold and spores effectively.

Not only is it unnecessary, but since vinegar is acidic, leaving it to sit on wooden surfaces for too long can damage the wood. Leaving vinegar to sit on the mold for an hour should be sufficient.

Can Mold On Wood Make You Sick?

Exposure to certain types of mold for significant periods of time can make you unwell. Not all molds are harmful, but some, like black mold, can be toxic.

People exposed to black mold repeatedly or for a prolonged period often report respiratory symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing, and sneezing.

Black mold-related sickness can also manifest in other symptoms, like itchy eyes and irritated skin.

That said, some people are much more sensitive to mold than others. One person might be exposed to black mold for months and experience no symptoms, while another could be exposed for the same length of time and become very ill.

You never know how your body will react to mold exposure until it happens, and this is not a fun experiment, which is why it’s so important to tackle mold growth on wood as soon as you notice it.

How Long Does It Take For Mold To Grow On Wood?

If a piece of wood is exposed to the right conditions for mold growth (darkness and humidity), it can begin to grow mold in a short amount of time – just 24 to 48 hours.

During this period, you may not be able to see the mold yet, but it might be identifiable by the typical damp mold smell.

Within 12 days, if the conditions aren’t adjusted, and the wood is not cleaned, the mold will spread and become visible on the surface.

How Long Does It Take For Mold To Rot Wood?

If you leave mold to spread on a wooden surface for long enough, it will eventually begin to rot the wood. This is yet another reason to tackle mold growth on wood as soon as possible.

Depending on external factors and the type of wood and mold, it can take between 1 and 6 months for mold to grow to the point of rotting the wood.

Wood rot is likely to happen faster if the wood is in an area near the ground, if moisture is not controlled, or if the wood has not been treated.

Final Thoughts

Removing mold from wood can be a difficult task if you leave the mold to grow and spread. Still, if you tackle the problem as soon as possible using the methods outlined in this article, you should be able to restore your wooden flooring, furniture, or decor to its original state.

Remember to wear protective gear while dealing with mold, and always do your cleaning in a ventilated space.

Read the labels on any chemical cleaning products carefully, and if you’re making a solution yourself, pay attention to the recommended product ratios.

Good luck!

Diarmuid Brock

I'm a carpenter by day and an amateur woodworker by night. I don't believe in limitations, and I love to help others. I'm here to answer your questions and make your life simpler. I craft and create with all-natural, reclaimed, and repurposed materials.

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