A friend of mine lucked out and bought a turn-of-the-century farmhouse that had been repossessed. She got the house at a great price, or so she thought. Then she found the mold spots on the otherwise beautiful hard pine floors.
Mold is a perfect example of why moisture is bad, bad news for hardwood floors. Besides causing cracking and warping, persistent moisture will cause mold and, along with it, staining and possible health hazards.
Unless your mold problem is pervasive, you can kill the mold monster. But because hardwoods are sensitive to cleansing agents, go gently at first, starting with the mildest cleaners you can find before hauling out the big guns. Here are some tips to get you started!
Tackling Simple Surface Mold
If the mold affects appears to affect only the surface finish on the floor and not the wood itself, you are in luck.
Grab a bucket and liquid detergent along with a scrubbing brush. Make sure the bristles aren’t too stiff — you don’t want to scratch the floor! Mix a solution of detergent and water following the bottle directions and give the mold a good but careful scrubbing. With luck, it’ll come right off.
If mild detergent doesn’t work, try this mixture:
- 2 gallons of water
- 25 oz. of bleach or less
- 1/4 cup trisodium phosphate
This is also a good finishing cleanser to keep mold from growing back. Just be careful: You shouldn’t normally use bleach on wood floors — this is an urgent situation. It is never a bad idea to test your cleaning solution in an out-of-the-way spot just to make sure the cleanser doesn’t strip the wood’s color.
And as always when working with liquids, dry your floor as quickly as possible. Blot moisture with a clean towel and run a fan to keep air circulating.
A Deeper Problem?
If the mold is hanging on, you could try strengthening the bleach solution, but you are almost certain to bleach the wood in the process. At this point, you may need to physically scrape away the mold or mold stain.
Hardware stores carry scrapers; you need one about 8 inches wide by 1/4 inch thick. Scrape it along the grain of the wood.
Another option is to use 180 grit sandpaper or a sanding sponge. These are usually labeled “finish removal.” Again, go with the grain as you scrub off the mold.
Follow scraping and sanding with 200 grit sandpaper to smooth over your work.
Putting Things Back the Way They Were
Any time you have to mechanically remove any of the floor finish or wood fibers, clean the area well with a soft, white cloth and a bit of mineral spirits. Blot with another clean, slightly damp cloth and let dry completely. Then reapply any finish the wood had to begin with, and you are good to go!
If these solutions don’t work and it looks like the mold has worked its way pretty far into the wood, you need to call a professional about replacing the planks. Remember, mold is a health hazard, so successful removal is vital!