Air Free Page 2

Maintenance Q & A — November 2003
By Capt. Ken Kreisler

Air Free
Part 2: Treating Mold
 More of this Feature
• Eliminating Air
• Treating Mold, and more
• PMY Tries... Cruisin’ Caddy

 Related Resources
• Maintenance Q&A Index

How do I treat mold on my headliner? G.B., via e-mail
Molds grow from spores that are constantly floating around in the air. When they settle on damp spots, they begin to expand and grow. Once a mold colony takes hold, the parasitic organisms digest and damage the underlying surface.

Depending on the severity of the infestation—how long it’s been there and how widespread it is—whatever is affected will often have to be thrown out.

Mold is hard to kill, so you’ll need to do a thorough washing with detergent and bleach, followed by a rinsing, after which the area should be allowed to dry completely. Wiping it off with a damp rag will not do.

However, before you go at it, there are some precautions. As mold is a health risk, especially to those with respiratory problems such as asthma, make sure you wear a HEPA filter respirator, protective goggles, and rubber gloves when doing your cleanup. Not only will you be protected from inhaling the spores, but you’ll be safe from any harsh detergents. And as you don’t want the mold getting on you, you may want to wear disposable protective clothing.

First cover the area around your workspace, including any furniture, with a plastic drop cloth. Shut off all air conditioning and fans to prevent the spores from traveling to other parts of your boat during the cleanup. In addition, cover the return-air intake with plastic and seal the edges with masking tape.

Put on your respirator, gloves, and goggles, and wipe down the affected area with a rag dipped in a solution of 1/2 cup of chlorine bleach and a gallon of water. Once done, throw the rag away in a garbage bag. Next mix up a paste of Spic And Span with water and apply it to the area. Leave the paste on for a few minutes before wiping it down with a wet rag (water only), also disposing of the rag once the area is clean. You may have to apply more than one coat of paste if there is still a stain or mold residue.

Wash down the area again with a fresh solution of 1/2 cup of bleach to a gallon of water, after which you should leave it to dry. However, if it takes more than one application of the paste, your headliner may be permanently stained and need to be replaced anyway. You can try removing the stain with any of a number of available products before throwing in the towel. If it’s possible, you may also want to look under your headliner in case there is any mold growing in the space between it and the actual overhead.

When cleanup is complete, roll up the drop cloth and any other materials you used, including your gloves and disposable protective clothing, and seal them in a garbage bag for disposal. Change your clothes, take the dirty ones home in a plastic bag, and wash them in hot water and detergent. And take a shower. (If the affected area is small, a few inches all around, there’s no need for these elaborate precautions. Just make sure you protect your eyes when using the bleach and detergents. If you happen to be working in close quarters, that respirator might be a wise choice.)

The best means to prevent or control the spread of mold is to deny the spores the moisture they need to develop. And while there are many products on the market that may “guarantee” positive results in keeping things dry, adequate air circulation is key; an exhaust fan as well as proper venting will help to increase circulation. In addition, make sure you repair any area where water may be infiltrating, and keep the space free of dust, dirt, and organic debris that can nourish spores.

Nicro, a subsidiary of Marineco, has a line of passive solar fans. The company claims the units are easy to install and will provide more than adequate air movement to prevent mold growth. (888) 394-4556 or visit Click on the left side boat image and then on Nicro.

Need help with a maintenance problem? Write to Maintenance Q & A, Power & Motoryacht, 260 Madison Ave., 8th Fl., New York, NY 10016. Fax: (917) 256-2282. e-mail: No phone calls, please.

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This article originally appeared in the October 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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