How to Get Rid of Mold in Bathtubs
Many people seem to think that the presence of mold in their house speaks to their general cleanliness or ability to keep house. Though you may find mold colonies growing more quickly where deep cleaning has been ignored, there are over 100 species of mold spores that can inhabit your home at any given time. If the conditions are just right, mold will grow anywhere, no matter how clean you try to keep your home. The bathroom is one of the more common areas to find mold growing, particularly in the bathtub and shower.
Why Does Mold Grow in the Bathtub?
It makes a lot of sense for mold to thrive in the bathtub because of the overall condition in the bathroom. Mold growth requires moisture and humidity, something that is easily found in the bathroom. From the 15 minutes of showering a day to the few moments you spend brushing your teeth, it is likely that many of the surfaces in the bathroom will develop puddles of water or have condensation drops formed on them. Unless you are careful to thoroughly dry off these areas, mold spores can take up residence.
As the water droplets or puddles start to evaporate, the humidity level in the bathroom increases. The excess moisture in the air creates the perfect environment for mold to develop. The longer the room has excess moisture built up, the longer it will take wet surfaces to dry out. You may notice this effect when your towels stay damp from day to day and start to develop an odor. Mildew and mold have a distinct musty smell, one that is hard to ignore. A smell can be the first sign that mold spores are getting active.
Mold likes the bathroom tub because it has the moisture and temperature needed to thrive, but it also has a never-ending supply of organic material to feed off of. Mold likes the sugar and starch found in cellulose, though it can also thrive on non-cellulose materials like concrete, metal, or plastic. So long as there is a bard source, mold will take root. In the tub, you have a combination of the body oils and grime that are washed from the body and the soap scum residue left behind during bathing. This endless supply of bard makes the bath a mold spore paradise.
Where Exactly Does the Mold Grow?
In the bathroom as a whole, there are many places where you can find mold growing. Because mold spores are microscopic, you may not realize there is a problem until the colony has grown large enough to be seen by the naked eye. Given the mystery of where to find it, cleaning routines often overlook these common bathroom places of mold growth.
- Mold loves to grow on tiles or in and around the grout. Whether floor tiles or a wall of shower and tub tile, mold likes to dig in and root in the cracks.
- Window or doors in the shower or tub area can harbor moisture and hide mold growth. It may be seen in the window casing or corners of the door frame and door tracks.
- Mold will grow around the drains in the shower or tub, as it can around sink drains. Improper draining can cause water to stand in the bathtub.
- Mold is likely to grow on any of the caulking around the tub, shower edge, or sink.
- Mold can grow on the object of the bathroom, particularly the shampoo bottles, loofas, washcloths, or on old soap. Mold can also grow on items that are sitting on shelves in a poorly ventilated bathroom.
- Mold can take up residence in damp towels, bath rugs, or the shower curtain.
- Mold can grow under a non-slip mat or inflatable head cushion used during showering or bathing.
It is possible for mold to grow in the vents of the HVAC unit in the shower or behind the tiles and drywall in the bathroom, but this is more common when a water leak occurs behind the scenes. If your grout is old and has cracked and peeled away, it can let moisture seep behind the wall, increasing the risk of mold growth.
Is Bathtub Mold Toxic?
You may have seen mold growing around the drain of your tub or along the bottom edge of your shower curtain. If so, your immediate thought may have been the potential harm you have done to your health by breathing in mold spores. The CDC can dispel your fears of serious harm. The majority of common mold species aren’t considered toxic, though it is possible to have an allergic response to mold spores. The mold varieties that grow in the bathroom are generally slimy and green or brown in color.
Mildew is the initial start of growth, and as the colony grows stronger, it develops into the spots or streaks of slime that you commonly recognize as mold. Bathroom mold varieties include penicillium, aspergillus, and Cladosporium. These varieties are similar in appearance. Severe cases of mold growth that can be toxic deal with the Stachybotrys species, otherwise known as black mold. This mold is a deep, almost black color that is unmistakable. Long-term exposure to these spores carries significant health concerns.
The surfaces of most bathroom fixtures and bathtub/shower combinations make it difficult for black mold to grow. Mold prefers to feed off cellulose, and this isn’t included in the construction of bathrooms and showers. Cellulose is generally in fiberboard, dust, paper, and wood products. It is more likely to find hazardous molds growing on these surfaces. That’s not to say it can’t grow in your bath, but you are more likely to deal with an allergenic species over something toxic.
Does Bathtub Mold Make You Sick?
Any species of mold can cause health concerns. For the most part, the amount of exposure, your genetic makeup, and the species of mold will impact how severely your body may react to breathing in the fungus. Those who experience immune or respiratory responses to exposure may have some of the following symptoms:
- A sore throat
- Red, watery eyes
- A stuffy or runny nose
- A persistent dry cough
- Skin rashes
How Can You Prevent Mold in the Bathtub?
The best way to address the threat of mold is with prevention. Here are six tips that will make it harder for mold spores to thrive in your bathtub.
- Use good ventilation when taking a bath or shower. Most bathrooms have an exhaust fan or a window. If possible, open the window to increase air circulation, but also leave the exhaust fan on while you are in the bathroom and for at least 30 minutes afterward. Leave the bathroom door open once you are finished, or at least crack the bathroom door as well during your shower to let some of the moisture slip out.
- Clean out the drain immediately after your bath or shower. There will be a lot of biofilm and cellulose that collects around the drain, making it the perfect breeding ground for spores. Body hairs, soap scum, oils, and plenty of moisture are a perfect storm of toxic growth. Keep the drain open to avoid trapping these materials. Clean the drain of any hair or buildup after each use but pour half a cup of vinegar down the drain once a week to clean out any spore buildup.
- Always wipe down the shower after use, including any soap or shampoo bottles. Razors or other items left in the shower with moisture are also objects where mold could take up residence.
- Thoroughly spray the shower once a week with a mold solution spray in order to kill any mold spores trying to take root. Vinegar is a non-toxic but effective mold-killing solution.
- If possible, clean your entire shower from top to bottom every week. If this doesn’t fit into your schedule, you can wait two weeks before thorough cleaning. However, don’t wait any longer and use a solution like vinegar or another acidic cleaner to remove mold spores.
- Avoid using non-slip mats on the floor of your bathtub. These are an invitation for mold to grow.
How Do You Get Rid of Mold in the Bathtub?
If all of this information has led to the discovery of mold in your bathroom or in your bathtub, the next step is taking care of the problem. You know what causes mold to grow and how to prevent it, but you need to know the most effective ways to clean a moldy tub and shower. Before you run out to buy some bleach, consider the safer, more effective cleaning agents of borax, vinegar, peroxide, or tea tree oil. There are also commercial-grade solutions, much like the ones that are used by professional mold removal teams.
There are different components to the bathtub and bathroom as a whole, and some cleaning agents are most suited to specific areas. Here’s a short guide on how to clean the various areas.
- Caulking: When mold is growing in the caulk along the floor around the tub, the easier and most effective remedy is removing the old, infested caulking and apply a new layer. Use high-quality, mold-resistant caulking to prevent water damage, reinfestation, and the potential of mold growth behind the walls or under the floor.
- Drain: You can use a spray bottle and scrub brush to clean the corners around the drain and plunger. You can also fill the bottom of the tub with enough water to cover the drain and pour your cleaning solution into the water for a good soak. Water will dilute bleach or vinegar applications, so it is best to apply the solution directly to the drain.
- Faucet/Knobs: Like the drain, spray the solution onto the faucet and knobs and let it soak. You can wipe it off with a clean cloth or scrub it with a small brush.
Regardless of what solution you choose to clean your tub, be sure to thoroughly dry the area after it is clean. Leaving water droplets around will continue to increase the moisture and humidity in the bathroom, taking you right back to the heart of the problem.
Can You Mildew Proof the Bathroom?
Seeing as how the bathroom is one of the more likely places for mold to grow in the house, wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to avoid the problem once and for all? Even with the best plans, you will still have to contend with the threat of mold. However, there are ways to make your bathroom less susceptible to an infestation of mildew or more rampantly growing mold.
- Choose paint that is mildew-resistant. Bathroom walls absorb the moisture in the air created by hot showers. Without proper ventilation, the moisture stays in the air for a while after you have already left the bathroom. A mildew-resistant paint, or a paint with a resistant additive, adds an extra layer of protection from spore development.
- Make sure you are using the exhaust fan the entire time you are showering, but be sure to leave it on for at least a half-hour afterward to dispel the excess moisture. The fan gives your ceiling and walls a chance to dry thoroughly. If your bathroom has a window in it, leave it open while showing and afterward as well.
- Bring more light into your bathroom by leaving the lights on while you are showering and while you are letting your exhaust fan run. If you have a window, don’t close the blinds. Fungus loves to grow in the dark and bringing in light can keep growth at bay.
- Thoroughly dry any water puddles or condensation. Take the towels straight to the dryer to remove the moisture before bringing them back.
Bathtub mold isn’t uncommon, but it shouldn’t be something that you are willing to live with. With a little bit of effort, you can remove the growth and prevent it from coming back. For more serious mold infestations, call in a professional remediation team for advice on how to address removal and cleanup.