How Do You Get Rid Of Mold In A Car?

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When it comes to toxic mold, most people’s focus is on their house (or workplace). Seems logical right? After all, this is where mold most frequently happens.

But what about your car?  Can it get moldy? Is mold in a car dangerous?

Yes, your car can grow mold as well as be contaminated with mycotoxins. Both scenarios are unhealthy and can be dangerous.

Mold in cars is an often-overlooked source of health issues. Not only can your car interior be a host for toxic mold but your vehicle itself can be cross contaminated with mold spores from your home, outdoors, or just about anywhere. If you have mold spores in your car, then you bring them back into your home. Not good!

When I left my home after my toxic mold fiasco, I left everything behind except my car. Why? Well, I had lost everything else I owned in this world. I had no money and could not afford to ditch my car. I needed transportation as I had a young child and needed to get to doctor’s appointments so I could get help detoxing from mold exposure

I choose to remediate my car. While there was no actual mold in my car, there was a lot of cross contamination happening. It was a risk. I knew I should just get rid of my car. But I couldn’t take the financial blow.

Because of this, I learned a ton about how to effectively remove mold and mold spores from cars using natural treatment methods that have been independently lab tested to prove their effectiveness. My method of removing toxic mold in cars also tackles those nasty offspring of mold – mycotoxins.  You can rest assured that your car will be as remediated as it possibly can get!

Today, let’s talk about what causes mold in a car, how to remove mold in a car, how to prevent mold in a car, plus some other nuggets of information.

Getting rid of mold in a car with fogging and detailing

What Causes Mold In Cars

Like I said before, you can bring mold spores in from just about anywhere. Just because there isn’t actual mold growth, doesn’t mean there aren’t spores wreaking havoc on your health.

In addition, mold can start growing in a car from:

  • A bottle of water or other beverage being spilled on floor or cloth seats
  • Windows left open during the rain
  • Piece of food that was forgotten
  • Car interior being steam cleaned and not allowed to dry completely and properly
  • Living in a humid environment
  • Condensation issues
  • Moisture coming in from loose seals
  • Spores coming in through the car’s air conditioner
  • Car being stored in a damp, dark garage or storage shed
  • Flood damage
  • Hurricane damage
  • Pet urine
  • Human body fluids 

How Long Does It Take Mold To Grow In A Car?

Not long at all. In fact, mold has the opportunity to grow faster in a car than in a building. Why? Because cars are sealed up and lack ventilation. They might also be a lot warmer than your home or office. Stagnant air +heat + moisture makes it very easy for mold spores to flourish. 

Mold can grow in a car in about 12 hours given the right conditions. Often times you will get that mildew smell in 6-10 hours.

How Do You Get Rid Of Mold In A Car?

Before you get to the removing mold from your car steps, it is important to prepare your car first. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. If possible, move your car somewhere into direct sunlight.
  2. Open all the doors and windows to allow the car to fully air out – at least 30 minutes.
  3. Get and wear a particle mask to protect you from breathing in the spores that are floating around.
  4. Remove everything you possibly can from the car.
  5. Inspect all the seats of the car, underneath the seats, on the carpet, on the steering wheel, and on the seatbelts to see the full extent of the mold growth. (You can skip this if you are simply treating for cross contamination). Make sure you check under the seat lining and side seams.
  6. When looking for mold in your car, make sure you look for all types of mold, which can range in color from brown, grey, white, green or black. It will usually be in small circular patches.
  7. Using an old toothbrush or detailing paintbrush, try to break up large clusters of mold, using gentle strokes to avoid spreading the spores around further. Remember to brush into all cracks and crevices, under and over the seats and surfaces.
  8. Using a HEPA vacuum, vacuum up any loose mold that you have freed up along with other dirt and debris.

Once you have completed those steps, move on to the following steps to remove the mold and mold spores from your car.

Removing mold in cars is done with the same solution you use for treating and preventing mold in your home – EC3 Mold Solution. I would purchase the EC3 spray bottle as well as the concentrated version. I used the original spray bottle plus 3 bottles of concentrate to clean my mid-size SUV.

Step 1. If they are still open, close all your doors and windows. Turn your fan on high using the car’s air climate control system. Press the button that makes the car suck the air through the vents from the outside. DO NOT USE ON RECYCLED AIR SETTING; USE THE FRESH AIR SETTING.

Standing outside your car, pass a tissue over the outside vents next to the windshield wiper. Where you see the air being pulled down into the vent is where you spray a large amount of the EC3. This allows it to be pulled into the vent system then delivered into the car. Leave the doors open and the fan running for about 10 minutes.

Step 2. Moving inside your car, spray the inside of all the air vents with the solution. Run the AC with the windows rolled up on circulation mode for 5 minutes.

Step 3. Steam clean every fabric surface with the undiluted EC3 concentrate.

Step 4. Spray the EC3 spray everywhere else and let it dry. Go back over your car a second time, wiping it down afterwards.

Step 5. The detail work. Get into all nooks and crannies with the spray and then using a NEW detailing brush, toothbrush or q-tip, really get into those hard to reach places.

Step 6. Roll up the windows. Burn this candle in the car for 3 hours. Obviously keep a super close eye on this. There really isn’t a way for it to catch anything on fire but you never know.

You can also make things easier by just fogging the inside of your vehicle twice. A lot of people prefer that method. It ends up being cheaper in the long run if you were planning on hiring someone to clean the car. You can also just fog monthly to prevent mold spores from taking hold. My personal preference and recommendation is to use this small thermal fogger along with the HavenFog solution. It has consistently performed well, is easy to use, and a quart of the solution will stretch quite far.

How To Prevent Car Mold In The First Place

Cross contamination can be a bit difficult to prevent but with some easy precautions you can not only limit the amount of mold spores you bring into your vehicle but you can prevent mold from growing at all.

  1. Every 6 months, spray the interior of your car with Superstratum Mold and Mildew Protectant. This will prevent mold growth like no other product on the market. You can learn all the details about Superstratum here.
  2. Be diligent about cleaning up moisture. This means that you need to get spills or other water intrusions cleaned up immediately. They also need to be dried out either by rolling down the windows on a warm day or using a fan or blow dryer to keep the air circulating.
  3. Open windows and air your car out often.
  4. Put plastic or tarps down when transporting anything from nature (like wood, plants, rocks, etc…)
  5. Run a car air purifier while driving.
  6. Keep moisture absorbers in your car.
  7. Keep the inside of your car garbage free. Don’t leave used tissues, food wrappers, and the like on the floor or seats. In addition, don’t use your car as storage.
  8. Clean your car at least once a month both inside and out.
  9. In an effort to keep rouge mold spores and mycotoxins at bay, simply mist the entire inside of your car with the EC3 Mold Spray on a monthly basis or fog monthly.

And there you have it! A guide to dealing with toxic mold in cars.

Got questions? Leave a comment and I will help you out as best I can.

Detailing a car's air vent to remove mold

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  1. Braden Bills says:

    Some of my car got flooded, and I’m not sure what to do about it. I didn’t know that cars could be at risk of mold if this happens! It would definitely be a good idea for me to get a professional to help me get it cleaned. That way, I don’t have to worry about getting sick.

  2. A customer rep at MicroBalance said that EC3 will be “rendered useless” if used in a steam cleaning system. The high temperature kills the antifungal properties of EC3. Have you confirmed that your protocol is correct with MicroBalance?

    1. Hi Joe! Interesting. Do you have the name of the person you spoke with? I have worked closely with MicroBalance to ensure the accuracy of my protocols. Their laundry additive (which is nearly identical in formula) is safe for high temp washes and can also be used in the dishwasher at high temps. They have not reformulated so I find this interesting. Let me speak with them but I would like to know who you spoke with.

      1. Jennifer – this article was written in September, 2019. I do not know when Joe posted or you replied, but I was wondering if you could provide and update after your outreach to EC3. And can you specify how to use it in a steam – does it get diluted (how much?) or used full strength?

        1. Hi Chuck! Thank you for the reminder that I need to update! Yes, you can use EC3 in a steam cleaner BUT you need to use their Laundry Additive as it is designed for high heat. You can use the EC3 concentrate if your steamer has a lower heat setting.

      2. Did you ever confirm that use of EC3 concentrate in the steamer was acceptable for EC3?

  3. Car Cleaning Service says:

    Thanks for sharing such great information, I highly appreciate your hard-working skills as the post you published have some great information which is quite beneficial for me.

  4. Levi Armstrong says:

    It’s alarming to know that mold in cars is a health hazard since it could be contaminated with mycotoxins, which is unhealthy and dangerous. There is some mold on my boyfriend’s car’s backseat. I’ll call him later to take his car to a vehicle mold remediation service to have it cleaned before he lets me sit on his car again. Thanks.

  5. Holistic Health and Wellness says:

    I have three mold spots because on condensation and I am inclined to fog but it’s winter and raining and very little sun. What do you suggest for drying out the car if there’s not the sun and heat to do that? Also what do you recommend for the air purifies?

  6. What about clearing it from car carpet and the foam insulation under it that houses water when flooded?

  7. Erica Neff-Griffin says:

    I bought a UL Cold fogger from Biocide Labs which I cannot return. If I use it, do I add a gallon of distilled water to each bottle of ec3 concentrate or do I use it undiluted?

    Also, I do not have a steam cleaner..is this step necessary when fogging?


    1. Hi Erica! You do want to dilute it although in that particular fogger, I would use 3 quarts water per bottle of EC3.

  8. Harry booth says:

    Do mycotoxins seep through vinyl flooring I have in the back of my van….I have a foam underlay and rubber matting under the vinyl….thanks. Harry

    1. Mycotoxins are able to get into impossibly small spaces. So while they won’t “soak in” to the flooring itself, they will find a way under it. Likely they would have embedded themselves into the foam underlay. But remember, mycotoxins can stick to anything including a speck of dust on the flooring as well.

  9. What kind of vacuum do you recommend for vacuuming car with mold in it. I have a Bissel with an airtight system with a hepa filter but I use it in the house and not sure I want to use in my car?

    1. I would just purchase a cheap vacuum. Possibly you can find one in decent shape used. I would opt for a vacuum WITH a bag if purchasing used.

  10. I am a little confused. In the above narrative you state to close all windows and doors, turn fan on high, spray outer vents and then open doors and let air circulate for 10 min. Should the doors remain closed for this?

    1. Hi there! I know this sounds a wee bit confusing. But the doors DO get opened back up. You close everything up so you can perform the test to see where the air is getting sucked in. What you are doing is creating an air exchange action much like you would get from an air purifier inside your home. Step 2 is where you perform the recirculation to get the solution throughout the air inside your car.

  11. I’m also in a climate of rain and no sunshine for several more months, but discovered has overtaken my car (it’s been parked pending a repair). I do not have access to a garage to air it out. How would you suggest I handle the step of airing/drying? My apartments do not even provide a carport to use.

    Thank you for this very informative piece!!!

    1. Hi there! Do you have a parking garage or any sort of covered parking nearby that you could use? Perhaps it would be worth putting a post on NextDoor to see if you could “rent” a garage for a few hours.

  12. Jennifer,

    Thanks for the useful information. If I fog my car twice do I need to do any of the other 6 steps in addition to fogging? Also, if I fog with ec3 concentrate instead of haven fog will that still take care of the problem? I’m thinking of buying a thermal fogger on Amazon and using ec3 undiluted concentrate to take care of it. Thanks for any information.

    1. Eeek! Your comment got buried. I am so sorry! You can fog twice and yes, you can use EC3. However, you still want to remove the spores by either vacuuming them up or wiping the inside down.

  13. Hi Jennifer,
    Hoping you can help with this. My family has been exposed to mycotoxins in our apartment for the past year. We have been tested and have several mycotoxins in our bodies and have started a yearlong detox through an integrative doctor.
    We have moved and disposed of most of our belongings except for our car, which was used in the move for bags of clothing and such. We have of course also used our car on a daily basis this past year not knowing that we were exposed to toxic mold.
    Every time we get in and out of our car, we all suffer the same symptoms of living back in that apartment, migraines, tummy aches for my child, fatigue and more.
    Is it possible the car is now infested with these mycotoxins and triggering us again?

    1. Cross contamination is a very real thing and if you did not remediate your car, it is very likely that you are suffering from exposure from any cross contamination. Definitely remediate your car as soon as possible.

  14. H. Jordan says:

    Does car detailing remove mold?

    1. Regular detailing? It can do a decent job but you really need to use products that are specifically formulated to remove mold.