How to Clean Mold out of a Car Seat

by Chris Stevenson

    Trapped moisture in a car provides a perfect breeding ground for mold, particularly if the car has sat closed up for some time. This can happen several days after a rain, when a leak allows water to enter the vehicle through a crack or seam. Mold can spread on and around the seats. The spores produced by mold multiply rapidly. Mold on the seats should be removed immediately, since it can damage the seat material and affect the health of passengers. It also produces a very foul odor. Cleaning and disinfecting mold on automotive seats requires some easily obtained tools and special products.

    Open all the doors of the vehicle and roll down the windows. You will immediately smell a musky odor if mold is present. Put on a particle mask to keep you from inhaling any airborne spores and examine each car seat individually, to find the extent of the mold. Pay close attention to the seat seams, corners and underneath the seat lining. If the rear seat is a bench-type, check the side seams near the body panels, and then look at the base of the seat where it meets the floor. Look for a fungal growth with colors that range from brown to gray. Sometimes mold appears in small circular or irregular patches.

    Park the vehicle outside in sunshine. Leave the vehicle doors and windows open for 15 minutes or longer. This provides some needed aeration. Use a toothbrush to break up the mold patches, but use gentle strokes to avoid spreading the spores. Thoroughly brush all seams and crevices. Use a wet-dry vacuum cleaner to suck up all of the loose mold particles on all the seat surfaces, including the carpet area where spores might have fallen.

    Fill an empty spray bottle with distilled white vinegar. Spray the seat material until all of the mold surfaces are soaked. White vinegar will work on leather, vinyl and cloth-type seats without damaging the material. If the mold is confined to a small area, overlap the spray from one to two-feet in circumference around the area. For heavy contamination, spray the entire seat. Let the vinegar soak for 10 minutes or more, allowing it to kill the mold. Use the wet-dry vacuum to suck up the moist vinegar, removing it from all seams and crevices. Vacuum the carpet directly underneath the seats. Let the interior air dry for 10 minutes, then sprinkle borax powder on the carpet. Vacuum up the powder after it has set for five minutes. Use a damp cotton towel to wipe all the remaining vinegar residue from the seats.

    Mold is an extreme health risk, and can be present in pathogenic, allergenic or toxigenic forms. It can cause respiratory ailments, headaches and nausea in its primary stages. Purchase a mold testing kit for a case of severe contamination, or if you suspect that you have missed some areas. Home mold-testing kits are available from hardware stores or online shops for as little as $10. Read the instructions on the kit. It will require you to swab suspect areas and place the swab samples in plastic bags. Quick-mailer envelopes are furnished so you can send off the samples for lab analysis. Using a professional testing kit ensures that you have thoroughly decontaminated the affected areas and made it safe for occupants.

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