If you have no intention of driving your vehicle for several months at a time, it makes sense to put it in storage to protect it from the elements.
The issue with this is that if certain conditions are not met, after a few months you may find yourself opening your car door only to be hit by a wall of musty scent and patches of mold all over your prized possession.
So, how can you prevent this from happening? How can you make sure your car stays fresh until you are ready to use it again? In this article, I will be answering these questions and more, so keep reading.
To prevent mold growth in a car whilst it is being stored, ensure that it is deeply cleaned and the interior of the vehicle is as dry as possible. Deeply cleaning the vehicle will remove sources of nutrients mold can feed off and keeping it dry will deny mold the moisture it needs to live.
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Why do cars get moldy in storage?
There are a number of reasons why your car may have become moldy whilst it was in storage:
- High moisture levels within the vehicle itself
- Food or organic material being left in the vehicle
- High moisture levels in the room the vehicle is being stored in
- The car was stored in a temperate climate between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit
As you can see, some of the time, mold growth in a stored vehicle could be down to the owner, however, it could also be down to the location in which it was stored.
Later in the article, I will explain the methods you can use to ensure your car stays fresh whilst in storage, however, if using a company to store your vehicle, you should conduct a thorough inspection of the location to ensure there are no obvious signs of damp or moisture, the location is clean and there is preferably a source of natural sunlight.
What types of mold grow in stored vehicles?
Whilst there are thousands of potential strains of mold that could grow in your vehicle, you will most often find white, black, or green patches that belong to the Aspergillus, Cladosporium, or Penicillium strains.
These strains are often seen in the colors mentioned above, however, they can also appear orange, green, grey, or blueish. In terms of texture, they are often described as being: powdery, velvety, or potentially even slimy in some cases.
It is important to not rely on appearance alone when trying to determine which type of mold you are dealing with. The strain you are looking at may or may not be toxic to humans and animals, and this is extremely hard to ascertain by sight alone.
In order to be certain of what you are dealing with, and whether or not the strain is toxic, you should send off a sample to be analyzed, or complete testing yourself.
Are the molds dangerous?
It is true that several of the strains you may be dealing with have the potential to be toxic, one of which is black mold.
Black mold is often thought of as being the most toxic, but this is not always the case, and white and green molds can be just as dangerous. This is why proper safety equipment should always be worn when attempting to remove or clean mold.
Molds have the potential to create mycotoxins when they feel threatened as a defense mechanism, should these mycotoxins be either inhaled via the mold’s spores or accidentally ingested over a long enough period or in large enough quantities, serious health issues can occur.
Some of the most commonly reported effects of mycotoxin exposure are as follows:
- Fatigue (in rare cases)
- Runny nose
- Skin irritation
In rare cases, and in individuals particularly sensitive to the effects of mycotoxins or those with weakened immune systems, the potential for liver damage and cancer is also possible.
How to prepare your vehicle for storage to prevent mold growth
Carefully preparing your vehicle for storage can mean the difference between a car that is clean, fresh, and ready to go as soon as you take the covers off, and one that is essentially useless until it has been deep cleaned.
With that in mind, use the following steps to prepare your car for storage and protect it from mold and mildew.
Step 1. Deep clean the car
Using a vacuum, make sure you thoroughly clean the entirety of your vehicle. This means lifting carpets, moving seats, and getting into any difficult-to-reach places.
Any organic matter left in the car, over time, has the chance to become food for mold and bacteria. The better a job you can do of making sure it is as clean as possible before being stored, the less likelihood there is of having any unwanted surprises when you open the door in a few months’ time.
Step 2. Remove all moisture
A car or vehicle doesn’t have to be “wet” to have a high enough moisture level for mold to grow. In fact, as long as the humidity level stays over 55%, mold can begin to establish itself in only 24-48 hours!
It is therefore advised that you keep the interior of your vehicle as dry as possible, both before and whilst in storage.
Any obvious signs of moisture, such as water on the surface from rain, can be dried with a cloth, and the same goes for any internal damp patches.
To keep the vehicle’s overall humidity as low as possible, consider leaving boxes of opened baking powder or activated charcoal throughout. These will not only help to absorb moisture but will also deodorize, eliminating any unpleasant smells.
Step 3. Cover the vehicle
Covering your vehicle with a high-quality cover will prevent unwanted materials from landing and settling. This includes organic materials such as dust that (as previously discussed), can act as a source of nutrients for mold.
If the area you are storing your vehicle in is out in the open, ensure the cover is fully waterproofed to prevent green molds and algae’s growing on the rubber seals of your vehicle.
Step 4. Deodorize
Even if mold has not grown in your vehicle, there still may be a musty or stale odor when you first open the doors. This is fairly common, as the air trapt inside the car has not had a chance to circulate and has become stale.
This is easily remedied by using any car deodorizer and following the manufacturer’s recommendations on how best to use the particular brand you have purchased.
If you would rather not use chemicals to deodorize your vehicle after storage, you can opt for the simple method of finding a secure location, opening all the doors and windows and allowing fresh air to flow through the car, removing and replacing any stale air that may still be trapt. Within a few hours, your car will smell fresh and clean once again.
Failing that, could also use activated charcoal, which is excellent at absorbing moisture and unpleasant smells. Simply place a few bags of the charcoal through your case whilst it is in storage and you will find your car smelling much fresher when you take it out from storage.
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Vehicles left in storage for a considerable period of time are prone to mold growth if not prepared properly.
Ensuring your vehicle is properly cleaned and dried will help to prevent mold from growing, as will keeping the internal moisture levels as low as possible.