It was a dark and stormy night, and there I was, stepping into the otherworldly cloud of steam that was filling my bathroom. My intention was to wash away the stresses of a particularly taxing day with a hot shower, but as soon as I shut the door to my balmy enclosure I felt something was amiss. Not even the scalding water could calm the chill that was making its way up my spine. Slowly, very slowly, I looked over my shoulder to find I wasn't alone. There, staring back at me was a hideous life form. My heart stopped at the sight of its grizzly brownish-black exterior. I knew it would come. The house was old; even the bathroom's most integral assets showing signs of deterioration. It was only a matter of time before I came head to head with this vicious foe. The moment was here. Tonight I would face the monster that is SHOWER MOLD.
Perhaps a little over the top, but this scenario fairly realistic for many of us. Finding mold on or between your bathroom tiles can be a heart-stopping experience. Not only is it gross to look at, but it can be dangerous too depending on the extent and type of mold you've found. The worst part is that tile mold isn't always a mere surface issue. Sometimes when you see mold in your shower it's because of a problem that started behind your tile, and it won't go away just by applying bleach or other cleaners on the outside.
The first step you should take upon finding a mold infestation on your tiles is to protect yourself. If you find yourself showing any symptoms that could be connected to an allergic reaction, leave the room immediately and call a professional. Similarly, if you notice an unfamiliar odor in your bathroom you should vacate the area. Not all types of mold found in bathrooms are dangerous, but it's ultimately better to be safe than sorry later.
If you don't experience any kind of sensitivity, start looking for signs of what the problem could be. As we mentioned above, there's a good chance that the mold you see is rooted in problems that start behind your shower wall. A leak could have sprung up behind your tile, causing the mold, or it could have grown over time as the humidity of your bathroom created a fabulous environment for the sneaky spores. If the mold looks muddy, you see ants walking around, notice a smell, find loose tiles in the surrounding area, or bad caulking catches your eye, you are likely facing a much bigger problem. Don't try to clean the affected area up, but call a professional immediately to figure out the best course of action to care for your bathroom.
The good news is that more modern bathrooms are designed to work against these deeper-set issues. That doesn't mean you won't ever see mold, though! Humidity, darkness, body oils, soap, and moisture still work together to create an ideal habitat for surface mold. Do what you can to fight any growth by taking the following steps:
1. Allow as much light into the room as possible (natural light preferred).
2. Ventilate your bathroom and control the humidity by turning the air or fan on. Open a window if you don't live in a humid climate.
3. Turn on your ventilation fan while taking a shower if you have one.
4. Squeegee excess water off of your shower walls after every session.
5. Limit the number of items left in your shower (shampoo and soap bottles, etc.).
6. Wash bathroom rugs and towels frequently, especially if they smell sour or stale. Be sure to hang towels up to dry between washes. Don't let them sit on the floor or in a hamper.
7. Clean your bathroom regularly with gentle cleaning products. Abrasive solutions can leave your bathroom surfaces vulnerable to mold growth and damage.
6. Wash your shower curtains a few times a year and use a mold/mildew-resistant curtain liner behind it. Replace as needed.
With these precautions, you will minimize your chances of finding yourself in the same situation as our unfortunate character above. Prevent a nightmarish outcome by being an active homeowner. Conquer the beast and protect your home!