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4 Essential Steps to Prevent Carpet Mold and Mildew

Mold in your home is a serious problem, and it’s even more serious when it comes to your carpets. Black mold and other types of mold can release spores that aggravate allergic reactions, prompt asthma attacks, and even pose a health threat to people and pets.

It can also degrade the fibers of your carpet, leading to premature wear and tear that keeps your carpet from lasting as long as it should. To prevent mold growth after a major spill or water damage, there are a few tips you can follow.

1. Clean Spills Immediately

The primary cause of mold growth in carpet is liquid that’s been left to sit for too long. If the spill has sugar in it, like fruit juice, mold is even more likely to appear. If you spill a liquid into your carpet, blot the affected area dry with a towel. Spray it with white vinegar diluted in water to break down discoloration and greasy elements, then dab it again. (Don’t forget to spray a small test area, first.)

Once the spill is no longer visible, fold a towel and place it on the spot of the spill, then pile heavy books or weights on top of the towel. In a pinch, you can even just stand on the towel for a few minutes, then re-fold it until a dry side is facing outward and repeat. Continue this process until the towel comes up dry. Remember to blot, never rub.

Even if you only spill water, don’t assume that it’ll dry out by itself. Even in dry climates, water can soak into the carpet padding and even absorb into the subfloor, lingering for days and prompting the growth of mold spores.

2. Choose the Right Carpet Padding

You spent a lot of time and research choosing the perfect carpet for your home, but did you put the same amount of effort into the carpet padding? The padding underneath your carpet can make a huge difference in the durability and longevity of the carpet itself.

Cheap carpet padding will disintegrate when it gets wet, leaving uneven spots under your carpet and reducing its effectiveness at protecting your subfloor. Keep in mind that the softest, thickest carpet padding isn’t always the most effective — too soft, and the padding might be more prone to absorbing liquid.

You should also consider a moisture barrier pad underneath your carpet padding. A moisture barrier pad is a separate layer that lies between the carpet padding and the subfloor, keeping moisture from spilling through to the subfloor beneath. It’s an extra layer to install and an extra expense, so many homeowners skip it entirely, but we think that’s a mistake.

If you spill a large quantity of liquid, it can soak all the way through to the subfloor, causing rot and mold and costing a fortune to repair. With a moisture barrier pad in place, the worst case scenario with a big spill is that you’ll have to replace your carpet.

3. Keep Your Home’s Humidity Down

Humid areas are more likely to grow mold, and if you live in a humid climate then you’re at higher risk. Use a dehumidifier to keep rooms dry and fans to circulate air so that it doesn’t stagnate in one area.

If you live in an area where rain is common, set up waterproof mats at your door and make sure to remove shoes and jackets when you come into the house. Even a few drops of water from a raincoat or wet shoes can linger in your carpet, allowing mold to grow.

4. Hire a Professional for Cleaning

We recommend that you steam clean your carpet at least once a year. It’s tempting to rent a machine from your local hardware store and do it yourself, but you’re better off paying the extra for a professional carpet cleaning company.

Steam cleaners work by injecting hot water, sometimes including cleaning chemicals, into your carpet, after which a vacuum sucks the water out. The problem is that household steam cleaners aren’t equipped with strong enough vacuums to fully remove the water, so your carpet padding and carpet are often damp after you’re finished.

Professional-quality steam cleaners have far more powerful vacuums, moving a lot more air and drying your carpet out all the way down through the carpet pad. They cost more, but your carpet will thank you.

Keeping carpet from growing mold takes a little extra effort, but it’s worth it. If you clean up spills properly and keep your carpets clean, you’ll add years to your carpet’s life.