Mold is a small yet insidious enemy. It hides in the shadows, doesn’t require much to survive and spreads like crazy under the right conditions. Most people wouldn’t even think of mold in your vehicle as a big problem — until it’s too late.
A moldy interior can range from a mild hassle all the way up to a problem so uncontainable you’ll need to get rid of the vehicle altogether. Get it under control as soon as you can, and take proper steps to prevent it in the future.
Spored to Death
There are many types of mold, but they all work the same way. Spores invisible to the naked eye can be tracked into your vehicle on clothes, by pets, blown in through windows or contaminated by almost any organic matter that comes into contact with porous surfaces of your interior. This is normal and doesn’t always create a problem — unless there’s also moisture present.
Moisture sneaks in all sorts of ways too, and when it sticks around for a while, it’s the perfect breeding ground for a mold infestation to take hold. Most of the time you can see it, but sometimes you can only tell by the smell. Mold can wreak havoc on people with allergies, and some varieties, such as black mold, are actually toxic.
Breaking the Mold
Since it’s hard to identify which type of mold you’re dealing with, it’s best to wear protective gear — at least gloves and a dust mask — when you tackle the problem. Spores break off and spread easily, so wash everything you wear immediately after you’re done to prevent cross contamination.
The first step to solving a mold problem is identifying the source. Where is the moisture coming from? If you can’t figure this out, the issue will recur. Mold cannot survive in dry environments, so park the car in a warm, sunny spot with windows down and doors open to begin. If you have a wet-dry vacuum, go over the affected areas (plus a surrounding radius of about a foot) with that. Then, take a mold-busting spray (this one is ideal because it also disinfects and deodorizes while it’s at it), and spray a light layer onto affected areas. Let sit for 15 minutes then vacuum again or wipe off any remaining residue and wait for it to dry. If it doesn’t work the first time, you can repeat as needed.
Dried and True
Arguably the most important part of this process is future mold prevention. After cleaning, don’t close windows and doors until the upholstery is completely dry. Change cabin air filters to avoid blowing more spores in as soon as the vehicle turns on.
Be prepared to flush out mold in the A/C system, where it also sometimes hides. Never store a vehicle for long periods of time before checking to make sure it’s completely dry inside. And as a side note, don’t make the mistake of trying to remove mold with bleach, it will ruin the fabric.
It sounds like a minor annoyance, but a mold problem can get out of hand before you know it. And since it’s easier to solve the problem while it’s still small, always attack at the first sign — or smell — of trouble to avoid what could be a major expense.
Check out all the chemical products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on mold in your vehicle, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photo courtesy of Flickr.
Blair Lampe is a New York-based professional mechanic, blogger, theater technician, and speechwriter. In her downtime she enjoys backpacking wherever her boots will carry her, rock climbing, experimental theatre, a crisp rosé , and showering love on her 2001 Sierra truck.