There’s not much worse than opening your car door, only to be met with a damp, musty smell and patches of mold and mildew all over your car seats.
Not only is mold unsightly and unpleasant to smell, but it can be harmful to people sensitive to the spores it produces, so it needs to be removed as soon as it’s spotted.
In this article, we will cover why your car has become moldy in the first place, giving you several of the best options for cleaning your moldy car seats and explaining how to prevent it from happening again in the future.
So, if you want to get rid of that mold and stop it from coming back again a few weeks later, keep reading!
How To Remove Mold In A Car: 4 Easy Steps
How To Prevent Mold When Storing A Car In Four Easy Steps
Mold On Infant Car Seats: How To Remove In Three Steps
Mold On Car Seat Straps: Is It Dangerous And How To Remove It
How To Get Rid Of The Smell Of Mold In A Car
What kinds of mold grow on car seats?
You may be familiar with the term “black mold”, which actually refers to a strain called Aspergillus niger, which is known to be toxic.
However, there are hundreds of other strains of mold that can thrive in the same environments as black mold.
Some of the most common strains of mold you may find growing on the seats of your car are as follow:
Several of these mold strains are considered toxic, due to the mycotoxins they produce.
Signs and symptoms of mold growth on car seats
Some signs of mold growing on your car seat are going to be fairly obvious. For example, patches of circular patterned black, green, white, or blue spots with a fuzzy texture would be an obvious sign that mold has taken over your car seat.
However, there are more subtle symptoms you might not notice as they begin to develop. These include:
- A subtle musty smell
- Discoloration of the fabric of the seats
Can you test for mold in your car?
Yes, if you feel that your car might be suffering from an infestation of mold, you can purchase tests that will help you to confirm this.
You can easily purchase these test kits online, and some will contain swabs that you dab on around the area that you feel could be affected by mold growth, then sent off to a lab for confirmation.
You will usually receive the results of the test within a week to two weeks.
You also have the option of taking your car to a mold specialist to have the car assessed for mold growth, but this is obviously the more costly of the two options.
How long does it take for mold to grow on car seats?
If the circumstances are correct, mold can grow very quickly. In fact, it can begin to grow within 24 hours and can become large enough to be seen by the naked eye as a patch of mold within 48 hours.
It only takes 1 to 2 weeks for a small patch of mold to grow large enough to infest an entire car.
Why is mold growing on your car seats?
The most common reason that mold is growing anywhere in your car, let alone your car seats, is because moisture is somehow finding its way into your car and forming condensation.
When this condensation pools, it forms the perfect circumstances for mold to grow when combined with organic matter such as skin cells found on your car seat and a temperate climate with little airflow.
Moisture can enter your car through a number of means, including cracked and perished rubber door seals, wet items left in the car, and faulty air conditioning.
Cars left in storage or garages for a prolonged period of time are also likely to grow mold, as they see less sunlight (the UV rays of which kill mold spores) and also have less fresh air flow, which lets mold spores grow and settle more easily.
How to remove mold from car seats
Fortunately, removing mold patches from your car seats doesn’t have to be especially difficult, in fact, it’s pretty easy. Before you begin, there are a few safety pointers.
Some mold strains can be toxic to humans, and even strains that aren’t considered toxic can still cause allergic reactions in people susceptible to them, so before you begin cleaning mold from anywhere, it is worth making sure you have the following items to hand.
Safety Equipment list
- Rubber gloves
- Mask (preferably a respirator of N-95 quality)
Before you begin cleaning the mold with any kind of spray, you should first use a vacuum to gently remove as much of the visible mold as possible. I say gently because you are aiming to remove the mold without disturbing it too much, as this is likely to cause mold spores to travel across the rest of the car interior.
Gently move the vacuum over the mold patches without moving too aggressively, this should help to lessen the number of mold spores released into the rest of the car.
Once you have vacuumed the mold patch, use a spray bottle and fill it with undiluted white distilled vinegar.
Spray liberally over the patch of mold and leave it for 2-4 minutes to kill the mold spores.
Use either a thick bristled scrubbing brush, or an abrasive sponge to scrub at the affected area, and try to get as deep into the fabric as possible.
Leave the seat to dry completely, preferably with the doors open and in direct sunlight (as long as it is safe to do so), or leave your air conditioning unit on to dry the interior as quickly as possible.
Distilled vinegar can be found in larger grocery stores, but to make life a little easier, I’ve placed a few links to Amazon where it can be picked up really easily. Vinegar is a great anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, it’s environmentally friendly, affordable, and can be used to clean bathrooms and kitchens too. Clicking on the links will take you directly to the Amazon store.
Baking powder method
You can also use baking powder to clean mold from a car seat by mixing one part of baking powder with two parts of water to form a paste.
Cover the affected area with the baking powder paste and massage gently into the fabric with a toothbrush or abrasive sponge.
Let the paste sit on the mold for anywhere between ten and fifteen minutes, then wipe away with a damp, clean towel. If there is leftover residue, you can clean this with warm water and a cloth or sponge.
Again, you will need to make sure your car seats are fully dry before you close the doors, or you run the risk of again, creating the perfect moisture levels for mold to grow.
Borax is an anti-fungal cleaning powder that is tough enough to kill most mold strains. You can make a solution of 1 part borax to four parts water, and apply this to the affected areas of your seats.
Agitate the area by using a brush or abrasive sponge to work the solution into the seat material, then leave it to sit for ten minutes.
Once it has had the opportunity to work, clean any residue off with a clean cloth.
A handy tip
If possible, rather than cleaning your seats whilst they are in your car, it is generally better to remove them from the car completely.
Taking your seats out of your car allows you to clean them without needing to worry about the level of moisture you are bringing into the car, and allows you to let them sit in the sunlight, which not only dries them faster but kills mold spores faster.
What about moldy leather car seats?
Your options for cleaning car seats made of leather with mold infestations are a little different from treating standard car seats, as vinegar and baking soda are not your best options.
Instead, to clean mold off a leather car seat, use the following steps:
- Use a vacuum to gently remove as much visible mold as possible.
- Create a solution of water and rubbing alcohol in equal proportions.
- Apply the solution to the area affected with a cloth (after testing on a small part of the leather to check it does not cause any damage).
- Use a dry towel to dry the seat as much as possible.
- Allow the seat to dry fully before closing the doors of the vehicle.
Does mold damage leather car seats?
Yes, if left for a considerable amount of time, mold has the ability to ruin leather of any kind.
Once it has had enough time to become fully established, mold will discolor and damage the texture of the leather it has been growing on.
Even after removing the mold, the stains left will be difficult to remove and may have permanently damaged the leather.
How to prevent mold from coming back
Rather than needing to treat mold as it appears and run the risk of having it permanently damage your car seats, you are much better off preventing it from occurring in the first place.
In order to give yourself the greatest chance of preventing mold from getting anywhere near your car, let alone your seats, use the following methods:
Park your car in direct sunlight if possible
Sunlight will kill any mold spores that have found their way into your car.
Check for damage to rubber seals
Look for any signs of perishing, such as cracks or tears in the seals. Broken seals can allow moisture from rain into the car, making mold a greater possibility.
Allow the car to breathe
Even if your car is in storage, open the doors and windows for a few hours once a month if possible. Having fresh airflow makes it harder for mold spores to accumulate.
Use baking powder
Open a tub or box of baking powder and leave it in your car seat. The powder will absorb a great deal of moisture, keeping the car smelling fresh, and denying mold of the moisture it needs to live.
Is mold on your car seats dangerous?
Many of the strains of mold that can be found growing in your car can be hazardous to human health.
Several of the most common strains (mentioned at the top of this article) have the ability to produce mycotoxins, which (when exposed chronically), can cause inflammatory and immune system responses, such as increasing the sensitivity to commonly inhaled microorganisms that can lead to secondary upper respiratory system infections.
You will be able to tell by now that cleaning mold and mildew from your car seats is not a difficult task at all. However, it’s much easier to prevent the problem in the first place by using the preventative measures outlined.
As soon as you spot mold on your car seats you should act to remove it as soon as possible to prevent staining and possibly irreparable damage.