How To Clean Your Moldy Wooden Furniture

If you have wooden furniture that is spotted or covered with mold, then you may feel powerless to do anything about it. The good news is that mold can be removed and your furniture restored to its former beauty. So, don't throw away that favorite piece of furniture just because of a little mold; restore it with a "one-two punch" of moisture removal and mold removal cleaning techniques. Here is how to do it:

Remove sources of moisture

Mold cannot grow without moisture, so removing the source of moisture that is feeding its growth is an essential first step. No matter how much you clean mold on the back end, it will keep reappearing if you don't eliminate moisture sources. In the case of moldy furniture, determining the source of moisture is usually fairly straightforward, as most situations involve one of two possibilities — condensation or leaking water:

  • Condensation - This includes moisture in the ambient air that condenses and forms on furniture surfaces. Condensation can result from furniture being placed in close proximity to a source of heat or cold; for example, a kitchen table next to a window may become damp from condensation that forms during winter.
  • Leaks - This consists of moisture that comes from a water source, and it can include leaking window seals, door threshold intrusion, roof leaks, and plumbing leaks. While most of these leaks are obvious, some leaks become more difficult to trace, especially if they involve small amounts of water and are hidden behind a wall or are otherwise out of sight.

Of course, after learning what is making your furniture moist, your next step is to stop the problem at its source. Leaks should be fixed, and condensation problems can be solved by a number of methods, including increasing air movement, using dehumidifiers, and moving furniture away from hot or cold sources. For help in stopping moisture incursion, contact a local building contractor for assistance.

If your furniture is wet, be sure to dry it completely before attempting any mold removal. A simple, but effective, way to dry smaller pieces of furniture is by creating a dryer tent. Here is how to build your own:

  1. Enclose your furniture piece with large plastic garbage bags, such as those designed for lawn and garden debris. If necessary, tape the bags together with duct or packaging tape to form an airtight seal.
  2. Cut a hole about three inches in diameter in one side of the bag.
  3. Place the end of a hairdryer in the hole you just cut, and carefully fasten it to the bag with tape so that it is sealed tight.
  4. Cut another hole in the bag on the side opposite where you cut the first one; make this hole about four inches in diameter.
  5. Turn the hairdryer on low, and hold it in place so that it blows into the bag and inflates it. Air should vent out of the opposite hole while leaving the bag inflated.
  6. If the bag doesn't inflate, cover part of the air exit hole with tape until a balance between incoming and outgoing air is achieved.
  7. Operate the dryer for about ten minutes at a time; check the wood for dryness by reaching into the air exit hole and feeling the wood's grain.
  8. Remove the bag from the chair once you feel comfortable that it has dried sufficiently.

Clean your furniture

Since water is a key component for mold growth, the last thing you want to do when cleaning your furniture is reintroduce moisture. That's why it's important to minimize the amount of water used in cleaning. Here are a couple of simple techniques that you can use to safely remove mold:

  • Rubbing alcohol - By applying 91% isopropyl rubbing alcohol to your moldy furniture with a microfiber cloth, you can kill mold as well as remove stains. The high concentration of alcohol, which means that less than 10% of the liquid is water, means your application will quickly dry and leave no traces of moisture. However, alcohol can damage finishes such as varnish and paint, so be sure to test an inconspicuous spot with a small amount of alcohol before applying it to the visible parts of your item. 
  • Bleach and water - Applying a solution of water and bleach is also effective for killing and removing mold and is less likely than alcohol to damage oil-based finishes. To use this method, mix one cup of bleach with a gallon of water to prepare the solution, and apply with a soft cloth. However, be cautious when applying bleach and water; use as little as necessary each time you wipe, and be sure to dry your furniture with a towel to prevent moisture from soaking into the wood grain.