BY MELANIE LASOFF LEVS

Mold and mildew are natural byproducts of warm weath­er. That doesn’t mean that you want to share your house with the spores, however. Rather than turning to harsh chemicals, such as bleach or borax, to banish mold, there are eco-friendly, natural ways to kill mold at home that won’t hurt your family, pets or the environment.

A solution of vinegar

Though you can dilute it with water to cut the pungent scent, vinegar works best as a mold-killer when it’s sprayed straight up from a bottle onto the offending area. Leave on for a few hours, then scrub the mold with a brush. If the vinegar smell bothers you, add a few drops of essential oil, but otherwise, know that the powerful scent will be gone when you return from running errands or going to work. Studies have shown that white vinegar kills 82 percent of mold spores, as well as viruses and bacteria. Vinegar also can prevent mold if you spray it on surfaces and leave it to dry.

Tea tree oil solution:

Tea tree oil, though effective as a natural mold remover, is more ex­pensive than some other eco-friendly remedies, but just two teaspoons of tea tree oil mixed with two cups of water can last you a while. Spray the solution onto the mold spores but do not rinse. Tea tree oil also has a strong scent, which will dis­sipate within a few days.

Hydrogen peroxide

Spray three per­cent hydrogen peroxide from a bottle onto the moldy sur­face and leave on for about 10 minutes. Scrub clean, then wipe with a damp cloth to remove residual mold spores. You can also use hydrogen peroxideBaking soda and vinegar together, and then store the bottle in a dark area (as light breaks down the potency of the hy­drogen peroxide).

Citrus seed and water

Unlike vinegar and tea tree oil, citrus seed extract (such as grape­fruit) does not have an odor. Dilute about 20 drops of extract with 2 cups of water, mix in a spray bottle and spray onto the mold. As with the other solutions, do not rinse.

Baking soda

Used with vinegar and water or alone with water, baking soda is ef­fective at removing mold naturally. Dissolve baking soda into water or water-and-vinegar solution, and spray onto surface. Let it sit, then scrub and wipe with a damp cloth. Baking soda is a natural disinfectant and very mild, so this solution will clean mold without leaving behind a scent.

How do you prevent mold natural­ly? Wipe damp surfaces frequently, run a cool mist humidifier, spray vinegar onto damp surfaces such as showers when you’re through, and, above all, be vigilant about leaks. Mold is natural, but in the house, not so much.

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