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How to Remove Mold From Drywall Ceiling
Cleaning Mold Off a Drywall Ceiling

How to Remove Mold From Drywall Ceiling

Mold can be a headache in any home — from bathtubs and showers to basements, attics and HVAC units, it seems like there’s no shortage of places for mold to hide and grow. That’s because mold is a living organism that has evolved to spread and thrive in virtually any environment. This sneaky pest can take root in places that are especially hard to clean, including the ceiling.

Before growing into huge, discolored patches across a porous surface, mold starts out as a tiny spore that can’t be seen by the naked eye. These minuscule spores are afloat in the air all around you at any given moment, looking for a comfortable place to land. Once mold spores find a surface that’s porous, warm and moist, they can begin growing into colonies (the discolored patches you see in your home). While there are countless areas in your home that are vulnerable to mold spores, drywall ceilings are at an even greater risk of developing an infestation of certain types of mold. Several species of mold, including aspergillus and Stachybotrys chartarum (black mold), are attracted to high cellulose surfaces like drywall.

While prevention is the best solution, it is possible to treat drywall ceilings infested with mold. The way you go about it depends on several factors: where and how the mold is growing, what cleaner you plan to use and the severity of the outbreak. Before you begin prepping the area for cleaning, take a general measurement of the surface area covered by mold; if the mold is covering more than 10 feet of your ceiling, it’s better to call an expert for the job. Anything less than that should be safe for you to handle on your own.

If you’ve already checked and confirmed that this job is one you’re capable of tackling, you can use the following tips for getting rid of mold on any drywall surface.

Will Vinegar Kill Mold on the Ceiling?

Vinegar is surprisingly effective on mold thanks to its acidic chemical makeup. As the product of fermented ethanol and acetic acid bacteria, it has a natural pH of roughly 2.5. This level of pH is very mild but strong enough to kill mold spores without driving them further into the porous surfaces they’re growing on. Not only does vinegar have anti fungal properties, it’s also been shown to be a great antibacterial cleaner as well, so using it can leave your household surfaces sanitized in the end.

The type of vinegar you choose to get rid of mold is extremely important — distilled white vinegar is usually the most effective choice due to its lack of sugar or other ingredients. Alternatives like wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar might get the job done, but the sugar they contain is something mold spores can feed on, which increases the risk of the outbreak returning.

Another crucial factor in killing mold is how diluted your vinegar is when you clean with it. Generally speaking, it’s best not to use straight, undiluted vinegar to clean your household surfaces; in this state, it can be extremely harsh on certain materials and may cause damage. Drywall is sturdy enough to handle a fairly strong vinegar solution, but it’s best to test a small part of the ceiling first to see how it reacts to your mixture. If you’re not sure how strong you should make your cleaning solution, a 50/50 ratio is a pretty safe bet. Simply combine one part white vinegar with one part warm water and load this into a spray bottle. If you feel at any point you need to dilute the cleaner and make it weaker, you can add more water. To make it stronger, add more vinegar instead.

Many people are concerned that vinegar isn’t as effective of a cleaner as a strong chemical like bleach. Interestingly enough, harsh chemicals like bleach are often too strong for killing mold. Since mold spores are living organisms, they can react instantly to the presence of bleach by retreating deeper into the pores of the material they’re growing on. Even if it looks like you’ve gotten rid of the mold, you may notice that it returns after a short while. This is because the spores have recognized the absence of harsh bleach, meaning it’s safe for them to recolonize. In this way, vinegar is typically just the right acidity to kill mold without being too potent.

How Long Does It Take for Vinegar To Kill Mold?

The general consensus is that it takes roughly one hour for vinegar to fully kill mold. While vinegar is potent enough to do the job, it needs plenty of time to break down mold spores.

While dealing with a mold outbreak on your drywall ceiling might seem like a challenge, it’s very doable with the right tips and preparation. Safety should always be top priority when dealing with mold, so it’s important to make sure your work area is well ventilated and that your eyes, airways and skin are protected from both mold spores and your cleaning chemicals.

How Do You Get Rid of Mold on Drywall Ceiling?

While the steps to removing mold from your ceiling are simple, the procedure can be a bit time consuming. It’s best to stay out of an area that’s being treated for mold, so plan ahead to quarantine the affected part of your home as well as you can. Before you start the cleaning process, you also need to make sure you’re equipped with all of the supplies you’ll need for the job, including:

  • An empty spray bottle
  • Your cleaner of choice (see below)
  • Latex or rubber gloves
  • Protective eyewear
  • Facial covering, such as a disposable mask
  • Box or standing fan
  • Scrubbing brush or old toothbrush
  • Old rags or paper towels
  • Disposable covering, such as a plastic drop cloth or trash bags

When gathering your supplies, you’ll need to choose a cleaning agent. There are multiple options at your disposal, such as:

  • Vinegar: One of the most popular mold-killing agents, vinegar is ideal for its mild acidic properties. This cleaning agent is strong enough to kill mold spores without driving the mold further into porous surfaces. If you’re going to use bleach, start with a 1:1 ratio of distilled white vinegar and water. You can add more water or vinegar to strengthen or weaken the solution as you feel necessary.
  • Bleach: Bleach is a great general cleaner for a lot of projects, including mold cleanup. It’s extremely potent and can kill mold spores quickly, but it’s also harsh enough that the mold spores can ‘retreat’ into the pores of the surfaces they grow on. This can allow mold infestations to return even after you’ve cleaned them. If you’re going to use bleach, be cautious of how concentrated your solution is and try to work as quickly as you can. Start with a ratio of 1 cup of bleach per every gallon of water you use.
  • Baking soda: This particular cleaning agent is great at lifting mold off of porous surfaces. It works well on its own for smaller outbreaks but can be combined with vinegar to make an even stronger solution. You have two options when it comes to baking soda: You can make a thick paste by adding a few tablespoons of water to a cup of vinegar at a time until it forms a spreadable paste (for more severe cases), or you can add half a tablespoon of baking soda to a spray bottle of water.

Once you’ve made your choice and whipped up your cleaning solution, you’re ready to get started:

  1. Start by prepping the affected area. Open up any exterior windows and doors, and use a fan directed outdoors to get the air circulating in the room. Seal off any interior doors by covering the gap underneath with an old towel or a thick strip of foam. Move any furniture away from the mold; for objects that can’t be moved, you can protect them with a disposable covering. Load your spray bottle with your prepared cleaning solution and gear up with your gloves, mask and eye protection.
  2. Generously mist the entire affected area with your cleaning agent. You should aim to fully soak the entire patch of mold as well as an inch or two of ceiling around the colony. If you’re using a baking soda paste, use a popsicle stick or wooden paint stirrer to apply the paste.
  3. Once the area is completely moistened with cleaner, use your scrubbing tool to gently scrub the mold. Use a bit of light pressure and scrub in small circles, starting from the outside and working toward the middle of the outbreak. If it feels like the area is drying out or doesn’t have enough cleaner, you can apply more at any time. You need to scrub until there is no longer any visible mold on the ceiling; this may take some time depending on how large the outbreak is, and you may need to repeat this step more than once to get rid of it all.
  4. Allow the cleaner to set for at least one hour. This gives the solution time to actively break down and kill the mold spores.
  5. Go over the area with dry rags or paper towels and wipe away all of the mold and residual cleaner. Make absolutely sure that there is no longer any visible mold, discoloration or mold odor present. Remember, any rags you use for this step should go straight in the trash!
  6. Direct a fan at the newly cleaned area of the ceiling. Keep the fan on medium or high and allow it to dry the area for at least an hour. This can help draw out any moisture you may not have been able to pick up with towels, which reduces the chances of another outbreak.
  7. Carefully collect any disposable cleaning supplies, seal them in a trash bag and dispose of them. Remove your cleaning clothes and wash them by hand or in a small separate load with hot water.
  8. Keep the exterior windows and doors open and the interior doors sealed while the ceiling dries. Keep this area sealed and ventilating this way until you’re certain the mold is completely gone.

Can I Remove Moldy Drywall Myself?

If a mold outbreak is especially severe and has caused structural damage to the ceiling, cleanup may not be enough to handle the issue. It is possible to remove moldy drywall on your own, but this is more difficult and time-consuming than scrubbing it away.

Heavy-duty tools, such as a drywall saw and shop vacuum, are necessary for a removal job. In addition, an ordinary cloth face mask would not be enough to protect your airways — you would need to upgrade to an N95 respirator mask to keep drywall particles out of your lungs. Most importantly, this is a job that almost always takes more than one person. Between sawing, pulling down pieces of the ceiling without getting hit and having a second pair of eyes for accuracy, more hazards and damage risks are present in removal than a cleanup job.

Unless you have significant experience working in the field of carpentry or something similar, your best bet is to get help from a mold removal expert. A professional can safely quarantine the area, clean, remove and dispose of mold-infested drywall with the right equipment and minimal risk. What’s more, professionals may notice leaks or further damage in your home’s interior that the untrained eye might not catch; they can point out areas at a greater risk of developing mold during the removal process, which gives you a chance to start making preventative plans at the same time.

If you’re ever concerned about recurring mold outbreaks in your home or fear there may be other mold colonies in areas you haven’t found yet, don’t hesitate to call a professional for a mold inspection. Having a veteran’s experience on your side can give you a massive advantage in mitigating damage, picking out the most mold-prone areas in your home and above all, taking preventative measures in the future.

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