Help! My shower is growing things!
September 2, 2009 8:23 AM   Subscribe

How do I a) get rid of this mold in my shower and b) prevent it from coming back?

I'm a college student, and this is the first apartment I've lived in on my own, and thus have no idea what the best course of action is. I should preface this question by saying that we are pretty bad about keeping up with the cleaning throughout the apartment, but especially the bathroom... although until now mold hasn't been an issue in our bathroom.

I share a bathroom with one of my roommates, and I subleased my room to someone for the summer. When I got back last week, I found a lovely ring of mold around our shower. The shower is one of those cheap vinyl shower/tub combos, and the mold has sprouted in a line where the shower wall meets the tub, along the caulking. I know that my other roommate (who has her own bathroom in the master suite) has had a lot of problems with mold. The landlord has come by twice or so in the year that we've lived here and recaulked with supposedly anti-mold caulking. (And, if it matters, we are the first people to live in this newly constructed house). I just finished cleaning the shower with Tilex Mold Root remover, but all I succeeded in doing was stripping the caulk down a layer in a few spots. What should I do/what products should I use to eradicate the mold? What preventative steps should we take to keep it at bay?
posted by bluloo to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
posted by amro at 8:24 AM on September 2, 2009

What amro said. Spray with a bleach solution every day for a week or so. Leave it on. You'll eventually kill it all.
posted by Loto at 8:26 AM on September 2, 2009

Best answer: After you kill the mold with bleach, the "daily shower cleaner" products are preposterously easy to use and will keep the mold at bay after you get it under control. They also prevent soap scum and just will generally make your tub and shower less gross without a lot of work. You and your bathroom sharer just have to agree to each take 10 seconds after showering to spray the shower down.
posted by hydropsyche at 8:37 AM on September 2, 2009

Best answer: The Clorox bleach pen is your friend. I used one for exactly this purpose. It's like bleach in gel form. I smeared it on really thick, left it for a long time to sit and then came back and gently rinsed it off while scrubbing with an old toothbrush. It did the trick! It will eventually come back if you don't stay on top of it, though.
posted by bristolcat at 8:39 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

A maintenance suggestion: Keep a squeegee in the shower, scape down the walls after you shower. Get a small fan and turn it on to dry the stall after showering. If you starve the mold of water, it will discourage growth.

One can apply bleach to everything, but it is not terrific for your body or the environment, and preventative measures will cost you less work in the long run.

Mold loves plastic, which is what the caulk is made from, silicone, so it will be a recurring problem now that the spores have made a foothold.
posted by effluvia at 9:08 AM on September 2, 2009

Two additional things to consider:

1) - we have one, and it's wonderful. I got mine at Sam's Club, but I am seeing them in other stores now, too. Just push a button as you step out of the shower, and it sprays the stall down for you.

2) Get, or ask for, a ceiling bathroom fan / vent. Two previous apartments I had, had mold issues because of dampness in the bathroom and no way to vent it (I am not opening a window while I showering or am wet during an upstate NY winter, thank you). You can pick up an overhead device for anywhere from $50 to $200 (the more expensive ones come with a light and heating element in them, too), and they make a WORLD of difference. I just had one installed, and mirrors that used to fog up now are bone dry when I am out of the shower. You may be able to ask the Landlord to help - I bargained for a ceiling fan in my bedroom by offering to buy it if she'd install it, and she agreed.
posted by GJSchaller at 9:08 AM on September 2, 2009

Ventilation will help with the humidity that mold and mildew love, so open a window or use the exhaust fan if one is available.

Leaving a light on in the shower until the area dries will also help deter stuff from growing.
posted by orme at 9:11 AM on September 2, 2009

After you use bleach (I like the bleach-pen plan!!) contact your landlord and make sure he re-caulks the tub.

They should not have put old caulk on top of new caulk - are you sure about this? If so, your landlord might need to address that issue once the initial problem is under control.

Could be that the shower/tub combo is not sealed properly against moisture. Moisture (condensation?) is getting trapped behind the bath combo, mold is growing between the wall and combo... and coming out through the seams. Or something like that.


Bad housekeeping is on you guys, no matter what. But if what I describe seems likely (you know the shower construction, I don't) make sure your landlord re-caulks once you get things under control.
posted by jbenben at 9:28 AM on September 2, 2009

If there is no vent fan and you can't get your landlord to install one, go buy a cheap wall-mounted fan and put that in the bathroom. Insist that it's used during and after every shower. That will help keep things dry.
posted by radioamy at 9:37 AM on September 2, 2009

If it's a new house, it should have an exhaust fan. Turn it out while you are in the shower, and leave it running for several minutes after you get out of the bathroom. This will help.

Also, leave the curtain open--don't pull it closed--after you get out of the shower. This will also help keep the shower area dryer.
posted by bluedaisy at 9:39 AM on September 2, 2009

I realize that it is an appartment, but if bleaching for a week doesn't kill it, someone needs to pull up the caulk and recaulk the tub. That should be a task involving the landlord. Otherwise, the mold will separate out the caulk from the tub and allow water damage to occur. New caulk over old mold and old caulk won't fix this. Not only will it will keep coming back, but the new caulk will probably not adhere properly - effectively it wouldn't be there.

As far as bathroom tasks go, this is a relatively simple task. It takes at most 2 tubes of caulk (for a big tub), a caulk gun, a putty knife, something to scrape the old caulk out with, some sand paper, soap, water, and bleach.

If I were doing this myself, normally, I'd scrape out the caulk, sand, and wash the edging, making sure to get out all the black I could. This is where I go in with a toothbrush truthfully. I'd then give everything a good bleaching wait 15 minutes, then rinse with water and dry with old rags. I'd then wait for 12 hours for everything to really dry out. At that point, I'd cut open the tip of a caulk tube and load it into the caulk gun. I'd work slowly and uniformly along the crack (careful not to use too much), and then I'd use a wet finger or sponge to flatten and smooth the new caulk in place. Once it is resealed, I would avoid using it for about 24-36 hours, and then I'd take a shower... cause I'd probably be stinky...

Time to clean out old caulk: 20 minutes and 12 hours of rest.
Time to re-caulk tub: 5 minutes, with about 10 minutes to smooth the caulk, and 24-36 hours of rest.
The enjoyment of a shower that doesn't feel funky? Timeless (priceless).
posted by Nanukthedog at 10:17 AM on September 2, 2009 [6 favorites]

What everyone above has said about moisture is right on target, but I'd like to share one more technique with you. It carries Effluvia's squeegee suggestion one step farther: after you step out of the shower, wipe down the entire shower, especially the caulk channels, with a towel. You can use the towel you just used to dry yourself, or (better), a dry one.

Here's what works for us: each time you shower, use a clean towel for yourself. After you're done drying yourself off, hang it on the towel bar, using the towel that's already there (from your last shower) to wipe down the shower. Once the shower is dry, throw that towel in the laundry hamper.

In order to make this system work, buy a dozen cheap white cotton towels (not a polyester blend…whoever thought that plastic would make a good drying fabric is a bozo). You may end up doing a little more laundry than you're used to, but cotton towels are about the easiest thing in the world to launder, you can't hurt 'em, and you won't feel bad replacing them when they wear out. And towels are much, much easier to clean that caulk and grout.
posted by dinger at 10:37 AM on September 2, 2009

Comet Spray Gel bathroom cleaner cleans mildew in one application, and stops it coming back for about a month, here in humid, sub-tropical Florida. As suggested above, a shower squeegee makes keeping tile or vinyl/fiberglas shower surrounds and glass shower doors/enclosures clean a 1 minute job, that you do before getting out of the shower, while waiting for the last of your shower water to drain off you, a bit. Using a squeegee also vastly drops the amount of moisture that has to evaporate from shower walls and enclosure, for the bathroom to dry, so it helps reduce the conditions favorable to mildew growth, too.

If you can get a vent installed, or do something else about improving air flow (like cracking open a bathroom window, or adjusting air conditioning and heating vents to push more air into the bathroom, while perhaps leaving bathroom door cracked or open while showering), a spray shower cleaner like Tilex Fresh Shower, instead of a squeegee is great. Even if you do use a squeegee on the shower enclosure walls, Tilex Fresh Shower will keep a vinyl shower curtain clean, too, if your shower uses a curtain instead of a glass door/surround.
posted by paulsc at 11:39 AM on September 2, 2009

Ditto on the bleach, preferably in pen form.

One word of warning about bleach especially if you use the liquid form straight from the bottle to pour over the moldy areas: chlorine bleach is corrosive, and will corrode chrome plumbing fittings like a shower / tub drain cover. So you don't want bleach run off to sit around the drain cover for more than, say, five minutes or it will leave the chrome pitted and discolored around the edges. This doesn't damage the drain cover's functionality, obviously, but it is unsightly and, from a landlord's perspective, constitutes damage.
posted by SuzB at 2:15 PM on September 2, 2009

Obligatory chloramine warning: Bleach is great for cleaning mould. But bleach mixed with ammonia produces a toxic gas which can kill you. If you clean your shower with bleach, you need to make sure you never clean your shower with products that contain ammonia. This is doubly important if the shower has been poorly constructed and contains porous grout.
posted by embrangled at 7:49 PM on September 2, 2009

If there's mold around the caulk, there may be moisture behind the caulk & mold in the walls. Yuck.

The ideal situation would be to get rid of the tiles altogether & get a one-piece shower-wall-to-tub thing that slopes into the tub & lets water drain off. Barring that, a shower curtain that prevents water from hitting the tile wall in the first place may be a good, cheap solution.

And +1 what everyone said about ventilation. Get a cheap fan & make sure the room dries out after you shower.
posted by MesoFilter at 1:15 AM on September 3, 2009

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