It’s seriously disappointing to open your car door to be hit with a wall of musty-smelling odor and patches of mold all over your prized possession.
So, why has your car become moldy in the first place, how can you treat it and how can you stop it from happening again?
In this article, I will be answering all these questions and more, so keep reading.
To kill mold in a car, use a solution of one part white vinegar to eight parts water for new mold, (undiluted vinegar for established mold). Spray the solution onto the mold and leave for ten minutes. The acid in the vinegar will kill the mold. Wipe away the residue with a damp cloth and leave it to dry.
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Why is mold growing in your car?
One of the first things you may wonder when dealing with mold growing in your car or vehicle is “why did this happen?”, and the truth is, there are almost limitless reasons that you could find your car infested with mold and mildew.
Let me explain, mold only needs a few things in order to flourish, which are:
- A source of moisture
- An ambient temperature between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit
You see, mold and mildew are forms of fungi, so they can grow in any dark place where the above-mentioned criteria are met.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of opportunities for your car to become the perfect environment for mold to grow, as it will often provide everything mentioned above.
For example, a small amount of spilled liquids from a knocked-over cup whilst driving or from wet coats that were stored in the trunk without being dried can easily drive the humidity levels in the vehicle higher than 55%, which provides adequate moisture levels for mold growth.
Nutrients are even easier to come by, as any organic matter can be used by mold as a source of sustenance, from people sitting in the vehicle and shedding skin cells to small bits of plant and debris leftover from clearing out the yard over the weekend, your car is essentially a travelling buffet for mold and mildew.
Finally, between 60-80 degrees, mold strains spring back into life with enthusiasm. In most garages, the temperature will often sit within the comfortable range for mold to grow for at least several hours each day. If all the above requirements are also met, mold can begin to grow within 24-48 hours, and within only 1-2 weeks, a car can become completely infested.
Can you get sick from car mold?
Unfortunately, the mold that can be found growing within a car certainly does have the ability to cause potential harm to both humans and animals.
Whilst there are several thousand strains of mold that are entirely harmless, certain strains can produce mycotoxins as a defense mechanism whenever they feel threatened, such as when the mold has been disturbed.
These mycotoxins are released via the mold’s spores, or accidentally ingested. In the short term, mycotoxin exposure is unlikely to cause any great harm to most people, but it can still be hazardous to people sensitive to them, such as those with allergies or suppressed Immune systems.
Symptoms of mycotoxin exposure will vary from person to person, and also depend on how they were exposed, but some of the more common displayed, are:
- Gastrointestinal discomfort
- Brain fog
- Muscle aches
For those with severely compromised immune systems, or for those that are exposed to mycotoxins over a longer timeframe, the potential for liver damage and cancers has also been seen.
Is it safe to drive with mold in your car?
As you can see from the symptoms listed above, mycotoxin exposure is not a trivial matter and can cause serious harm. Therefore it is advised to remove any mold as soon as it is spotted within your vehicle.
In small amounts and for a short period of time, you may find that you suffer from little to no Ill effect from continuing to drive your vehicle that contains mold, but eventually, it is highly likely that you or your passengers will begin to suffer from at least some of the symptoms listed above.
What kind of mold grows in a car?
As previously mentioned, there are several thousand varieties of molds and mildew that can comfortably grow in a car under the right circumstances.
However, there are some varieties that are more likely to grow in a car than others. Some of the most common strains found growing within vehicles are:
- Aspergillus niger (black mold)
- Memnoniella echinata
These types of mold can be particularly dangerous, and cause many of the health conditions previously mentioned.
These strains often come in shades of black, off-white, white, bluey-green, green, and even orange or shades of red. Their textures are often described as being “powdery”, “velvety” or “slimy” in some cases.
However, It is incredibly difficult to correctly identify the type of mold growing in your car by sight alone, so it is always best to either test the mold yourself using a testing kit or send a sample off to a lab.
Either way, it is very important that whilst collecting a sample for any kind of testing, you wear the appropriate safety gear, such as a breathing mask, eye protection, and rubber gloves to prevent coming into contact with any of the spores.
How to remove mold from your car
Removing small amounts of mold from your car done be done relatively quickly and fairly cheaply too.
Here is a checklist of the items you will need:
- Abrasive sponge
- White vinegar
- Spray bottle
- Baking soda (for established mold)
- Dry cloths
- Rubber gloves
- Eye protection
- Breathing mask
Ok, now that you have everything you need, let’s get started on how to remove mold from inside your car.
Step 1. Vacuum the interior
Using a vacuum, gently move the hose over the largest clumps of mold you can see. I say to do this carefully, as if you aggressively start scraping at the mold with the vacuum, you could disturb it more, releasing more mold spores through the vehicle.
It’s important that you look in every location that mold could potentially have set up at home, so check under spare tires, under carpets, in side panels, storage compartments, and so on. Make sure you give the entire interior a thorough investigation and vacuum up everything you can find before moving on to step 2.
Step 2. Use vinegar to kill the mold
White (distilled) vinegar has high enough acidity levels to kill mold and its spores. Whilst vacuuming may have removed the majority of the visible mold, there could still be spores or roots embedded deeper within fabrics. It is important to make sure the mold is fully dead, or you run the risk of it returning once again.
So, make a solution of one part white vinegar to two parts tap water and pour it into a spray bottle. Liberally spray the areas you found mold on, and leave it to get to work for at least ten minutes. For deeply established mold, use undiluted vinegar, for relatively newly formed mold, a ratio of one part of vinegar to eight parts water should also work well.
It is not suggested to use vinegar on any safety straps, as the acidity can damage the fabric, so use baking soda on any straps with mold by making a paste from one tablespoon of baking powder to a few drops of water. Spread the paste onto the affected area and leave it to dry. Vacuum off the powder once dried.
You can also use the baking soda method on other areas of the car if you really don’t like the smell of vinegar, but remember that any scent of vinegar will only remain in the vehicle for a day or so after cleaning.
Step 3. Use baking soda on any established mold patches
For really well-established mold patches, you may need to use baking soda to get deep into the fabric.
Make a paste from one tablespoon of baking soda to a few drops of water. Spread over any aged mold patches and work into the fabric with a toothbrush or other soft-bristled brush. Leave the paste on the area until it has dried fully. Once dried, you can vacuum the dry powder, taking the mold residue with it.
Step 4. Completely dry the cleaned areas
We stated earlier in the article that an excess of moisture is one of the main reasons you may find mold growing in your car. Therefore, the last thing you want is to potentially make the situation worse by increasing the internal humidity of the vehicle as a result of cleaning it.
To prevent high humidity levels within the car after cleaning, use a dry cloth to dab at the areas you cleaned until they are dry. If you have used a lot of vinegar solution, or you used any detergents mixed with water, you have the option of turning the heat on in the vehicle to assist in drying the areas faster.
If you live in a warm climate, a very easy solution to drying the car interior quickly is to park the car in the sun and leave the doors and windows open to allow the moisture to evaporate. It goes without saying that you must do this in a secure location and not leave your car unattended as it dries.
What kills mold instantly in a car?
No one wants mold growing in their car, it looks bad, it smells bad and it’s potentially hazardous to your health, so it’s understandable that you might want to know which products you can use to kill mold instantly in a car.
Here are some of the best options you have when it comes to killing mold in a vehicle:
- White (distilled) vinegar
- Baking powder
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Vinegar/baking powder solution
- Specialized mold removal products
Some of these products are extremely powerful, such as vinegar and hydrogen peroxide, therefore it is suggested that you find a small patch of fabric within your vehicle that you can test the bleach or peroxide on first to ensure it won’t stain or damage your upholstery.
It’s also important to note that these chemicals can be corrosive, and should not be used to remove mold from any kind of safety device, such as a car seat strap, as it could damage the strap.
How long does the smell of mold last in a car?
If you were to do nothing to combat the mold that is currently within your car, the musty and unmistakable smell of mold would remain indefinitely.
However, if you follow the removal guide on this page and keep the car dry and clean, the smell of mold will begin to disappear within 24-48 hours. You can speed this up by opening the doors and windows to allow fresh air to circulate through the car.
You also have the option of adding open boxes of baking powder or activated charcoal and leaving those throughout the car, as both these substances not only absorb moisture but also odors.
How to prevent mold growth in your car
Cleaning mold out of your car is the absolute last thing you want to be doing on a Sunday morning, so why not make sure it never happens again by taking some simple preventative measures?
To prevent mold from growing in your vehicle, use the following steps:
Step 1. Keep the car clean
After each journey, or at least once per month, give the car a good vacuum. Even small amounts of food and organic debris can be enough for mold and mildew to use as a source of nutrients, and if it’s not there in the first place, mold can’t eat it.
Step 2. Keep the car dry
If a drink is spilled, or a leak is found, make sure you dry the area completely and as quickly as possible. Every hour that there is excess moisture in the vehicle is time that mold can be growing, and remember, under the right circumstances, mold can begin to grow within 24 hours, so keep it as dry as possible.
One option you have to keep the humidity levels of the car interior as low as possible is to keep boxes of open baking powder or activated charcoal around the vehicle. The powder and charcoal will continuously absorb excess moisture, keeping your car under the 55% humidity level required for mold to grow.
Step 3. Park the car in direct natural sunlight
Mold hates the sun, its UV rays kill both mold and its spores, which is why mold thrives in dark, damp places.
If at all possible, find a location where your car receives at least a few hours each day of direct, natural sunlight. Even a few hours each day will be enough to kill mold as it tries to settle and establish a colony.
When should you call a professional?
There are points where a job is just too big for a single person to tackle on their own.
Should you have left your car in storage for several months and returned to find it covered with old, it may still be salvageable, however, the amount of work required by yourself to completely clear the infestation would be momentous.
In this situation, it would be better to hire a professional team to completely clear your car of mold, as they will have specialized equipment to tackle tasks like this.
Ultimately, the choice is yours, you can either spend a large amount of your own time struggling to get your car back to the way it was, or you can leave it to the professionals who can get it looking brand new within a few hours.
Mold ruining the interior of your car is not something you should have to deal with. Small amounts of mold can be killed and removed simply with white vinegar or baking powder, however for deeply established colonies of mold, it may be worthwhile hiring a professional.
Once the car is cleaned, using the tips in this article to prevent a reoccurrence is advised to prevent further frustration.