Home in Korea: Dealing with Mold

You will have a huge mold issue in your Korean home if you don’t manage your house carefully. Here are tips to reduce the likelihood of having a mold issue in your home.

About Mold Season in Korea

South Korea gets HUMID, especially in the summer. The Pyeongtaek area is especially prone to wet and humid weather due to its proximity to the sea and wide open spaces, which makes it a great region for agriculture. The same weather conditions that make Pyeongtaek great for farming also make for a great breeding ground for mold.

Worst Seasons For Mold: Spring and fall are the two times of year you will have the most trouble. That is because the air-con and the floor heat aren’t being used.

Preventing Mold

The best way to combat mold is to avoid it. Ventilation and dehumidifying are the best ways to prevent mold before it has a chance to get started. Areas, where mold can commonly form without your realizing it, include: the back of the free-standing wardrobes, corners, the back of any furniture pushed up against the wall, shoe closets, the inside of wardrobes that aren’t opened often, and the medicine cabinet. Basically, anywhere that doesn’t get sun and has poor ventilation.

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Ventilation

Opening windows can do wonders to prevent mold in your home, especially when it is the rainy season. The airflow lets the mold spores out. However, it is important to monitor the air quality when you want to ventilate so that you know when it is safe to open your windows. Even in the winter and rain, I open my windows for at least 30 minutes on good air days. Some people prefer to leave some windows cracked all winter long. 

It is especially important to ventilate areas that create a lot of moisture, like bathrooms and laundry rooms. If you can’t open a window, keep a fan running for atleast a few hours daily. When it is really humid in July and August, I keep the bathroom fans running most of the day. Your air conditioning unit may also have a fan or vent function that can be really helpful in the winter. Look for 송풍 / 환기 (fan/vent) button on your remote or on the LCD screen on the remote or unit as you cycle through the operating functions.

Also, let in as much sun as you an when you are ventilating. The UV rays help right the mold in the air that you might not even be able to see!

Dehumidifiers/dehumidifying setting on A/C unit

Dehumidifiers and A/C units are the most effective way to combat mold from forming, especially during bad air days. Almost all air conditioning units in Korea have a dehumidifying function.

Look for a 제습  button on your remote or on the LCD screen on the remote or unit as you cycle through the operating functions.

You may find you need or want separate dehumidifier units. These can be purchased at most Korean retailers or through the local buy/sell groups. 

Disposable Humidity Absorbers

These little disposable tubs are truly amazing. You can purchase them from any Korean retailer. I prefer to order them online and have them delivered in bulk.

Put these EVERYWHERE. I have one in every room, closet, and anywhere that might have excess moisture like under the kitchen sink. 

To use, peel off the top film leaving the filter layer on the tub, and put the plastic ventilated top back on. These disposable humidifiers need to be discarded when they are full. Some turn the moisture into gel, others just collect the moisture and trap it inside. Be sure to drain the water or dispose of the gel before recycling the plastic tub. 

Picture of gel once moisture gets traped in the disposable dehumidifier

Cleaning Mold

Even with the most robust prevention strategy, if you live in Pyeongtaek or the surrounding area you are going to get mold eventually. The Pyeongtaek area is just really moist – which makes it great for agriculture and, unfortunately, mold. 

If you have mold on your wallpaper, contact your realtor before attempting to clean the area. Some wallpaper can be very delicate and may need a specialized treatment plan. 

Vinegar (식초)

White distilled vinegar is one of the best cleaning solutions for mold. Vinegar penetrates deep into porous surfaces and kills the root of the mold. Cleaning mold with vinegar is also really easy. Simply pour the vinegar into a spray bottle undiluted, spray the moldy areas and let it sit for about an hour so that the mold absorbs the vinegar deeper into the roots. After it has sat for a while, rinse with water. If the mold is gone from the surface, spray the area again with vinegar and let it air dry to make sure all the mold spores and roots have been killed.

WARNING: DO NOT EVER MIX VINEGAR WITH BLEACH. Mixing bleach and vinegar creates a toxic chlorine gas that can kill you or your pets. This includes washing the same surfaces with the two cleaners without significant time between applications. We have caught friends washing the bathroom with both at the same time.

In fact, don’t use bleach to clean mold at all. Bleach is a wonderful disinfecting solution and works great on surfaces. It certainly removes the appearance of mold from your walls. However, because of the way mold grows, you need a deeper cleaning using a solution that will penetrate the membrane of the mold spores and soak into the surface of the wall. Using a powerful surface cleaner like bleach can actually make mold spread because it causes the spores to retreat deeper into the wall.

Baking Soda (식소다)  

If you need to scrub the mold, use a baking soda solution. Pour 2 cups of water and 1 teaspoon of baking soda into a spray bottle and shake well. Spray the moldy area with the baking soda mixture and scrub using a brush or scouring pad (a toothbrush or toilet brush will work in a pinch) then rinse. Once all the surface mold is removed and the area is dry, spray vinegar over the area and let it dry naturally. This will get to the root of the mold and help prevent mold from forming again.  

Clean OK

Clean OK is a super powerful mold cleaner for bathrooms and laundry rooms. It is not suitable for softer surfaces like wood, laminate, or wallpaper. This stuff is so powerful that you just spray it on, let it sit and spray it off. 

Purchased at Diaso

Personally, I don’t like to use this harsh chemical cleaner in my home but it is a lifesaver if you have mold in hard-to-reach places like the wall behind a washer and dryer. 

Clean Immediately

Waiting will only help it spread and if mold gets out of hand, it can become extremely hazardous to your health. A wall or room completely covered in mold is extremely difficult to clean and should only be done by professionals. During the rainy seasons, check moisture-prone areas like bathrooms, laundry areas, and under sinks regularly for signs of mold.

Clean Thoroughly

Generally, you are going to need a multiple-step approach to cleaning mold. Spray with vinegar, rinse, scrub with baking soda mixture, rinse, spray with vinegar, and air dry.

Additionally, it is recommended to clean the entire surface rather than to spot clean. If you see mold on the surface, there are probably spores around that same area that aren’t visible yet.

If these cleaning techniques do not help or your mold issue is too widespread, contact your realtor immediately. Large amounts of mold can be very dangerous and may require specialized equipment to remove. 

Keep the furniture 2-3 inches away from the walls

Last, but not least, try to avoid keeping things pushed up against walls. If your furniture is up against the wall, be sure to check behind it every month just to make sure nothing is happening back there.

Good luck! If you have any of your own mold-fighting tips, please put them in the comments! We will add them to the blog.