Don’t reach for harsh chemicals when your outdoor spaces are plagued by mold and/or mildew. Try one of these natural remedies first.

fairygarden.jpg If you have an outdoor space, you have probably had to deal with mold or mildew on your outside materials at some point. Mold spores, a lot like pollen, can cause health reactions to people with sensitivity to it. Mold and mildew can also be unsightly and can damage materials if left unchecked. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), some of the potential health effects of mold and mildew are allergic reactions, asthma and other respiratory complaints. The EPA explained on its site, “Molds produce allergens, irritants and, in some cases, toxins that may cause reactions in humans. The types and severity of symptoms depend, in part, on the types of mold present, the extent of an individual’s exposure, the ages of the individuals and their existing sensitivities or allergies.” cleaningsupplies.jpg

How to Get Rid of Mold and Mildew

First, brush the surface with a soft-bristle brush then rinse it with water. Next, use a gentle cleanser, like Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap, and water (1/4 cup cleanser and one gallon of warm/hot water) to clean the area. If this succeeds in removing the mold or mildew from your outdoor pillows, cushions, etc. then completely dry the area and commence with your summer fun. If you still see or smell the mold or mildew, here are some additional non-toxic ways to clean it up:

Distilled White Vinegar and Baking Soda

This is my go-to cleanser for almost everything inside my house. After you have cleaned the area with soap and warm water, spray straight (5 percent acidity) vinegar on the offending area. Leave it on for a few hours then scrub the area with a soft-bristle brush. Vinegar is antimicrobial, an effective mold killer and, according to Rodale’s Organic Life, “Its production doesn’t take such a toll on the environment, and while it can be pungent, a whiff of vinegar cleaning mix won’t sear your airways” and that “pungent” smell does go away. Then, spray on a baking soda and water mixture (two tablespoons baking soda per one quart of water) and scrub your surface to get rid of the mold or mildew residue. And baking soda is a natural disinfectant and extremely mild, so either solution would be effective at cleaning your mold away. Using them together ensures the offending mold is gone, with the baking soda helping reduce the residual vinegar smell more quickly. Rinse and dry the area completely.

Tea tree oil:

Tea tree oil is an effective natural mold remover. It is more expensive than vinegar and baking soda, but just two teaspoons of tea tree oil mixed with two cups of water can last a while. After you have cleaned the area with soap and warm water, spray the tea tree oil and water solution onto the mold spores. Do not rinse. Tea tree oil also has a strong scent, which should dissipate within a few days.

Hydrogen peroxide:

After you have cleaned the area with soap and warm water, spray 3 percent hydrogen peroxide from a bottle onto the moldy surface and leave on for about 10 minutes. Scrub clean, then wipe with a damp cloth to remove residual mold spores. As always, make sure you test a small area on your surfaces to make sure your eco-friendly solutions do not remove color or damage your materials in any way. Finally, if you are unable to remove the mold or mildew, the last resort is to throw away the offending cushion, umbrella or gazebo curtain. Remember to deduce the amount of moisture your outdoor things are being exposed to and keep on top of any mold or mildew to reduce irreparable damage.