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Cheap, effective mold removal



You’ve probably encountered mildew in bathrooms especially around bathtubs and showers or in closets or closed areas where water has leaked. Any water source will create mold even fresh, chlorinated “city” water; and it will continue to do so until the source is stopped and the area cleaned and air dried. This is why bathrooms will have a recurrence depending on ventilation. Mold appearance can be sooty black to circular brownish spots.

The good news is that no matter how large an area the mold has covered, once the water has receded or the dampness has been resolved, sound surfaces can be cleaned and restored to use. More good news is despite being a miserable job to have to do, there is instant gratification in looking “backward” at your work. In fact, you might want a few before and after pictures.

The remedy

TSP (trisodium phosphate) is available at hardware and paint stores in 1 LB. (16 ozs.) and larger size plastic containers; its appearance is similar to sugar granules though it is slow to dissolve. This has been used for years by painters to prepare walls for painting. My family has been using it since the 1970’s in Florida where humid, damp areas are commonly “invaded” by “mildew” a/k/a “mold.”

The TSP container’s “mildew” formula uses 1/2 cup TSP but indicates that you may have to reapply on some areas. I don’t recall having to reapply when using 1 cup TSP. Reading the container information is recommended, of course. Especially note re immediate rinse if it drips or is used on glass (working around windows) and avoid use on aluminum.

TSP (trisodium phosphate) MOLD FORMULA

dissolve 1 cup (8 oz.) TSP in 3 qts (96 oz.) WATER

add 1 qt (32 oz.) generic (cheapest laundry) BLEACH = 1 gal

The above can be scaled up or down depending on the area to be cleaned and mixed TSP can be stored in a sealed bottle, bucket or other plastic container for months.


TSP, bleach, water, 1 cup and 1 quart measures
3 plastic containers: large to mix, 1 for application, 1 for rinse
mixing stick, rubber gloves
rags, sponge or scrub brush to apply and rinse

Preferred: electricity, fan(s), extension cords

Floor fans pointed out a window are the best ventilation although cold weather is a factor as well as electricity. Fans also speed the drying process especially in enclosed areas. Fans pointed away from you and the TSP bucket act as an exhaust and will lessen your direct exposure to the fumes.

Wear gloves and use a long handle mop or brush to apply wherever possible.

When doing a room: floor 1st, walls from bottom up 2nd, ceiling last. The object is to avoid “clean tracks” on walls or “clean spots” on the floor that occur when you start at the top; it’s also a good way to wash cars from the bottom up for the same reason and the additional rinsing is beneficial.

Cotton rags or terry towels, cut approximatly the size of two facecloths for tsp application and rinse, work best for me when applying by hand.

The “secret” (for washing walls and ceilings) is to learn to saturate the rag yet squeeze out enough to avoid dripping and wipe sections at a comfortable arm’s reach keeping the rag away from your head and face. Use goggles for overhead work. Glasses are usually sufficient for walls if you remember to work with arm-to-elbow swipes.

Start with a 3 foot square section to determine the time necessary to saturate and loosen mold for rinse. You will find that the TSP works fast and rinses away easily. Note also that filthy TSP is effective to last drop in bucket. Re “3 foot square section” above; the pattern you use does not matter! 1.5 foot x 6 to 8 feet vertically might be your comfortable arm’s reach. Some people may choose to do a 2-ft section along the base of a wall and rinse, then return and do the next 2 feet.

For 2 or more people and groups:

The best source of supplies is where painters get their supplies for commercial work. 5, 2, and 1-gallon buckets with lids, scrub brushes, poles, coveralls, gloves, etc. Hardwares have faucet adapters for conecting hoses in apartments and toilets can be used to dispose of rinse water. I have two each: 5, 2, and 1-gallon buckets and find they are extremely useful and easily stored by nesting into one stack. If you have more time than money, watch for a painting project and ask for the empty paint pails — once the (waterbased, acryllic) paint residue inside the open bucket has air dried, it is easily peeled away.

Note that the TSP mold formula above uses generic (cheap) household bleach diluted with 3 quarts water to 1 quart bleach. the TSP is the part that makes it effective. people who cannot handle directly would be necessary to replace rinse water, mix formula, handle fans, cut up rags, fetch supplies, set-up next area, etc.

This is the cheapest effective solution with readily available supplies for sound painted surfaces, vinyl, formica, cement, stucco, finished wood paneling, etc.


I’ve cleaned a stepped, flat tile roof 4 times over the years, using a pole brush, TSP in a 5-gallon bucket and garden hose for rinsing. I’ve done a large 14 x 20 foot living room (4 walls, ceiling and 2 ceiling fans) removing years of nicotine stain using gloves, rags, 1 gallon buckets and a step ladder. A few years ago, I did the porch: painted beams, tongue & groove ceiling, stucco wall, and the 2 foot high brick base on 2 sides using a scrub brush. I’ve also cleaned a vinyl tile kitchen floor using a sponge mop for application and rinse.

I keep a pint bottle of “TSP” on hand to spot clean mildew where my RV walls/ceiling are joined with vinyl piping wearing gloves and using paper towel. Have also done the entire overhead a few times — trick is to learn to keep cleaning at comfortable arm’s reach and rinse before shifting to next section. It usually takes longer to cover furnishings with protective plastic than it does to clean an area.

Photo from Angela Schmeidel Randall licensed under Creative Commons

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