Picture this: you wake up one day and you have a running nose, red eyes, or sneeze often. You go to the doctor for a check-up and oddly enough, nothing is wrong. You come home after work, go to bed, and all is fine. But the next day, you wake up with the same issue – déjà vu or a bad dream? Neither seems to be the case, but you can tell there’s a smell, and when you snoop around, you find out it’s coming from the carpet. Uh oh, what are these ugly stains and why is the smell so bad? The carpet diagnosis is: you have a mould problem.
Can mould be in carpeting?
Under the right conditions, it most certainly can be – but before I get into that, here’s a brief crash course on mould. It’s a microorganism, and a type of fungus, which as all fungi spreads via spore germination, in areas with high humidity. Now that’s enough medical lingo for one day, let’s try and be simple for once, shall we? It’s a distant cousin of germs and it comes to your home when it’s really wet in some areas – and these areas can include the carpet fibres as well.
In fact, carpeting is an absolutely perfect habitat for mould spores, because unlike bathroom tiles or walls, you can’t just wipe it off to get rid of it. If you try that on the carpet, you might get rid of some of it that’s on the surface. But deep within the fibres, it’ll still keep sitting there and multiplying, and negatively impacting your health.
Also, quick nota bene: mildew and mould are two names for the same thing in different stages of its life cycle. Mildew is the adolescent mould, in that it’s still developing, and is a shade of white, yellow or grey. Mould is the fully grown adult of fungus infestations, and it’s usually red, blue, green, or black.
How can you tell if there is a mould in a carpeted room?
Well, for starters, the awful smell is a dead giveaway! It varies from species to species (did you know there’s multiple?), but it’s always sort of sour or otherwise musty. A general way to describe it is a mix of rotten eggs and wet dog, particularly the wet part. Mould is always dependent on moisture – more on that slightly later below, so keep reading!
Other than the smell, there’s the aforementioned stains, the colour of which depends on how long the mould has been growing on the material. Do note that mould is photophobic, which means that like me, it hates having a picture taken. No, I’m joking, it means it doesn’t really like sunlight – so that’s me again… Look, what I’m saying is that it prefers growing on areas that are poorly lit, but when things are especially out of hand, it can grow on carpet as well.
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Is mould a serious problem in a house?
Yes, in fact it’s one of the most serious health hazards you can encounter. Mould can give you symptoms of a cold or flu, without you ever catching one in the first place. The reason that happens is that the spores are flying into the air, you’re inhaling them, and they’re messing with your body. Sorry, that’s about the best translation I can do from medical terms to layman’s terms.
A quick list of what being in a mouldy house can do to you:
- Irritated eyes (red and teary)
- Throat issues (coughing and sneezing, pain)
- Runny nose or stuffy nose
- Skin rashes or otherwise irritation
How do I check for carpet mould and treat it?
When checking for mould on your carpet, as oftentimes it’s not visible, lift it up and look at the underside, as well as the carpet underlay. Odds are, that’s exactly where the mould is growing, and if it’s on the underlay, bad news! You will need to replace it, and possibly replace the carpet too, if you ever want to get rid of this issue.
You also need to be aware of the most common reason you have mould on your carpet, or in your home, in the first place, which is high humidity. In short, mould likes it moist, and in the UK climate, it’s no surprise that thousands of people struggle with mould on a daily basis. In fact, since our air humidity is much higher compared to certain parts of the world, it’s hard to imagine a mould-free home, but they do exist. In fact, if you keep on reading, you can see how your home can be one of them, too!
On a slightly related note, mould is most commonly found growing in your bathroom, especially if you do one of these:
- Forget to leave the door open after a shower or bath
- Forget to leave the shelf door open after leaving a wet toothbrush or razor there
- Don’t have a window to open, or a fan to switch on inside, so the humidity can leave
While not having a window in your bath is certainly not your fault 100% of the time, being forgetful and not airing out the wettest room in the home can have a negative impact on your health and safety. Medical specialists advise that mould can irritate your eyes, cause respiratory (breathing) problems, and much worse if you’re allergic to it – which a lot of people are! Therefore, it is very important to limit your exposure to fungus spores to the bare minimum, or if possible, to none at all.
However, the most common source of mould growth in carpeting is water damage of any kind. All untreated pipe leaks or radiator leaks are very hazardous to your fabric flooring’s wellbeing, and to your own. Even something as seemingly silly as over-watering your plants can get out of hand, as most people don’t really see the excess water going onto the flooring. And mould is kind of like a certain noxious gas – when you smell it, it’s already too late.
If you have had a leak, which is not fixed, don’t even try to get rid of the mould first. As long as water keeps entering the carpet fibres, the fungus growth will not stop. So get a plumber or otherwise technical specialist to fix your other problem before you try and fix your carpets. Fair warning, any leak should be treated at the latest within 24 hours if you want to have a chance to avoid a mould problem, and that’s assuming the leak was clean water. If you had a carpet flood from rain, you are likely going to need to replace the carpet if you don’t get it sorted the same day.
Check also: Efficient Carpet Cleaning Tips
How do you remove mould and mildew?
There are a few ways to go about dealing with mould on your own, and not all of them involve cleaning products. However, you should make sure you’re ready to deal with the mould – like I mentioned, this is a microorganism which is a health hazard. Make sure you are ready to do all of the below before you read the rest of my article:
Wear a protective mask
I’m sure you’re almost accustomed to wearing these 2 years into COVID, but in all cases, a mask will definitely help limit your exposure to fungus spores. Allergies or not, you definitely don’t want to breathe in the spores, and it also helps with limiting the awful smell of mould.
Switch off your HVAC system
As I just mentioned, mould is not something you want present in the air you’re breathing. But what if it makes its way into your heater or air conditioner? That complicates things further and almost guarantees you’ll be breathing it when you switch them on, so keep them off until the issue has been resolved, if possible.
Go room to room
Mould, as any type of fungus, likes to spread its spores 24/7 if given the chance. That’s why you need to exterminate it from each room before you proceed to the next. Keep the door closed while you do it, but do have windows open, as ventilation is important, too. Speaking of that…
Open the windows
Proper airflow is very important when dealing with mould in your home, as you want fresh air to get in and spores to get out of dodge, so to say. By skipping this step, eventually you’ll run out of clean air and start breathing in spores. I think it’s painfully clear by now that you shouldn’t be inhaling them.
Wear eye protection a.k.a. goggles
Did you know that mould irritates the eyes and causes inflammation, as in your eyes turn red (laser beams not included)? Now that you’re aware, make sure you wear some goggles when you start dealing with mould spores. Note that grandmother’s glasses won’t do, you need something that covers the eyes on all sides, like ski goggles.
Put some gloves on
Normally, when you see a serious issue that needs resolving ASAP, the gloves are due to come off, but this isn’t recommended with mould. Sure, you’re not going to touch the spores directly, but you still want to avoid contact with any cleaning products, natural or otherwise. Even most of the naturals irritate the skin, and you can only imagine what might happen if you use a strong product. Better safe than sorry – grab your rubber gloves before you get to work.
Throw away your gear
Okay, I’ll be honest, I should’ve started with this, considering the current economy. But yes, you need to bin the equipment you used to protect your eyes, nose, mouth and hands when cleaning the mould. If you used any cloths or paper towels to blot or dab products, toss them away too. Of course, if you used hubby’s ski goggles worth £200, please do not hesitate to give them a right scrubbing with an appropriate disinfectant instead of binning them.
Right then, you now know how to prepare for the dirty job (seriously my favourite show) of mould removal. Strap on the gear and get ready for the hard work:
What methods can I use to kill mould found in my carpet?
Okay, so there are a few ways you can go about carpet mould removal. The most readily available technique is also one of the most effective, which is a vinegar solution. Don’t forget to perform a patch test before you apply it all over the mouldy fibres. For those who haven’t done this before, a patch test is when you use a small amount of a cleaning solution in a small, hard to see area of the fabric. Then, you wait a few minutes, and blot with a clean white cloth or paper towel – if you see any of the carpet colours transferring to the towel, don’t use that product.
Anyway, back to the vinegar we go, and here’s another important thing: do not use pure vinegar. See, if you apply undiluted vinegar to the carpet, chances are you’ll only add discolouration to the list of issues you already have. Make sure you dilute it with water, with a safe ratio being 30% vinegar to 70% water (for natural carpet try 20% vinegar to 80% water). And whatever you do, don’t mix vinegar with ammonia, as the solution produces toxic fumes.
Grab a spray bottle and fill it with your vinegar mixture, then proceed to spray the mould liberally. The goal is to thoroughly cover the mouldy area, then go at it with a scrub brush. Of course, don’t do it all at once, as you need to take the vinegar out before it remains too long! Try to mentally divide the carpet in sectors and work on them one at a time. Afterwards, scrub the affected fibres, then blot and allow for lots of ventilation until fully dried. Fans and dehumidifiers are highly helpful when it comes to that!
If vinegar + water did not get the job done, it’s time to go for a specialised cleaning product. Antifungal sprays like HG Mould Remover Spray can do a great job in this case. It’s normally ready-to-use, but I personally would consider diluting it if your carpets are woollen. Patch tests are twice as necessary when using an actual cleaning product compared to a home remedy, and so is protective equipment.
Some corners of the internet advise treating light mildew with baking soda – we suggest the opposite. Normally, baking soda is very absorbent and great at removing a damp smell, but it’s not going to absorb the fungus spores. However, feel free to sprinkle it after the carpet has been cleaned by other means, so it can sort out the remaining damp smell for you!
But undoubtedly, even if you do have the time and effort to deal with this issue yourself, the best option is to call the experts.
Read also: How to Clean Carpet by Hand at Home
How do professionals remove mould from carpet?
The most effective way to deal with carpet mould problems is definitely calling a professional carpet cleaning company. Trained and certified cleaners usually have many years, if not decades, of experience with mould issues, and know how to root them out. They are also properly equipped for the job, both with deep cleaning machines and appropriate cleaning solutions.
Note that dry carpet cleaning will not do a grandiose job at removing mould. What you need is a way to reach deeply inside the carpet fibres and extract the fungus growth. Enter hot water extraction, the deepest carpet cleaning money can buy. A powerful machine sprays heated water under pressure through the entire fibres and extracts the vast majority of it immediately. It’s worth noting that this equipment has a dual tank system (one water tank is where the clean water is poured in, the other is where the dirty water is sucked out), which makes the contents of either tank impossible to mix.
But just the equipment is not enough, as cleaning products are also needed to deal with the fungus infestation. This separates the wheat from the chaff in the cleaning industry, as the true mould removal specialists need to use top of the line disinfectants to deal with the mould growth. Our company personally endorses Prochem products, who are able to tackle even black mould spores on synthetic and natural carpets.
BONUS TIP: How to deal with mould in my car?
Every year in winter, thousands of people in the UK suffer mould issues not only at home, but in their cars, too. As a professional cleaning company, we can confirm that roughly 80% of our customers for deep interior cleaning in winter have a mould issue. But why is this the case, and what can you do to stop it? Let me elaborate for you very quickly:
There are two most common reasons for mould to appear in a vehicle. The first one is when the vehicle is not getting enough fresh air. Believe me, this was extremely common in the first COVID winter, and no one is judging you, we were all in the home office. What happens is that the humidity gets inside (this is more likely to happen if the rubber door seals are old and worn) and has no way of getting out. If you do not give the vehicle fresh air, the stale air and moisture levels equal mould growth.
The other reason has nothing to do with you ventilating, because it’s when the vehicle has a mechanical fault which makes it leak fluid. This is extremely dangerous to the vehicle’s operation as a whole, and to your health, because in winter, all it takes is one day of leaking to get a mould gift from Santa the very next day. Talk about coal in the stockings…
Our advice to our customers and potential customers is as follows: If you have a leak, drive the vehicle to a mechanic ASAP and get it fixed before you do anything else. Just like a leak at home, this will spike the humidity levels until resolved, and even if deeply cleaned, the mould may come back within a day or two at the most. And if the vehicle is not driven often, that’s fine, but you need to air it out every single day, for at least 10 minutes a day. If possible, give it a spin for a few minutes with the heating on – I’m sure you don’t mind doing your grocery shopping with the car anyway.
And with that, I conclude this latest entry into our blog, and I hope you had a good time learning more about an issue that’s all too common in the UK. See you next time!