Wood structuring, floors, and flooring in your home have an inviting and homey look, but unfortunately, this type of surface also sucks up and retains water, which makes it a sure bet for eventual mold and mildew growth. Worse yet, discoloration on wood may seem like a natural occurrence, so homeowners may not recognize what moldy wood looks like. If you notice areas of black, streaky green, or white discoloration on your wood, this could very well be mold.

So how do you get rid of the nasty stuff, once mold sets in within wood?

First off, act quickly if you do see mold in woody areas of your house. If mold has infiltrated a small section of a surface–10 square feet or smaller–you can remove it yourself. Here’s what you’ll need: an air mask, rubber gloves, safety goggles, a HEPA-filtered vacuum, a soft-bristled scrub brush, dishwashing detergent, bleach, a sponge, and sandpaper. All of these items are necessary to keep you safe and get the job done right. Having distilled vinegar in a spray bottle is optional and may come in handy, as noted below.

Start the mold-removal process by using your HEPA-filtered vacuum to vacuum the moldy area, making sure to suck up any loose spores, dirt, or debris. Afterward, go outside and empty the contents of the vacuum into a plastic bag. Then seal the bag up tight and throw it away.

Mold can’t penetrate wood that’s been painted or stained, so if that’s the type of surface you’re dealing with, you can use a cleaning solution–simply dishwashing detergent and warm water–to get the job done. Gently scrub the mold with a soft-bristled scrub brush that’s been dipped in warm, soapy water. If this doesn’t do the trick, try using a spray bottle filled with vinegar. Simply spray the vinegar onto the surface and let it dry for an hour.

After taking these steps, wipe down the surface with a slightly wet, clean towel or rag. Look for any remaining mold, and if you don’t see any, wipe the surface again with a dry rag or towel.

For wood that hasn’t been painted or stained, mold removal can be tougher. You’ll need a stronger cleaning solution, one that can get deeper into the surface of wood and kill spores. For such jobs, make a mixture that is one part dishwashing detergent, 10 parts bleach, and 20 parts warm water. Pour this mix onto the moldy surface and use a stiff-bristled brush or scrub sponge to wipe the mold out. Afterward, let the liquid solution air dry on the surface. When everything is fully dry, give the area a whiff to see if you smell anything musty. If not, you’ve likely done a good job getting rid of the offending mold.

If this step doesn’t work, you’ll have to resort to sandpaper, which may be the only way you can reach the mold and wear it away. Once you’ve sanded thoroughly and have worn away the mold, be sure to refinish the wood so that mold can’t infiltrate it again. You can do this with lacquer, a stain, or polyurethane. These finishes will also give the surface a newer, classier look that it may not have had before.

It’s recommended to dispose of all the rags and towels that have come into contact with mold. To prevent future mold buildup, make sure to keep moisture away from these areas.

If the moldy area is larger than 10 square feet, call a mold remediation professional to get the job done thoroughly and correctly.

How Can I Prevent Mold from Infiltrating Wood?

Mold can grow in the homes of even the most with-it homeowners, so don’t beat yourself up if you do observe it, whether it has formed out in the open for everyone to see or is hidden in your house’s nooks and crannies. Here are steps you can take to prevent mold or lessen mold growth:

  • Have your roof inspected once a year, preferably before the springtime when the wet season starts
  • Have your pipes inspected for possible leaks
  • Open up the windows when possible to increase household ventilation; use indoor fans to better move the air inside
  • Use an air filter, a dehumidifier, and run the air conditioner during summer months
  • Have your home looked at by a mold expert twice a year

Taking these proactive steps will assist in keeping mold at bay. Even if you do just half of them, you’ll likely be doing more than the typical homeowner.