CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Moldy Oldy

I scored an apt with a garage and put my trusty 1993 Toyota Corolla in for a long winters nap. We have not been in the car which was shut up tight for about 10 months. To my horror, upon opening the car up today, it was FILLED with mold - mold on the seats, mold on the steering wheel, mold on the fabric covered side boards and even it seems on the plastic molding. We found a spilled water jug in the trunk and a molded over blanket. Oddly there was almost no mold in the back seat which was closest to the mold source. We put on masks, discarded all the molded over items and opened the car up to air. Is Old Faithful salvageable??? :frowning:

If you can clean out all the mold and it runs, sure. It’s kind of hard to say without being able to see it.

Thanks for your rapid hopeful reply! The mold is dramatic - it’s a pinwheel pattern splotched all over the front seats, the steering wheel, and the side fabric. There even seems to be a good deal on the plastic molding. It’s dramatic and depressing.

I’m not so sure - the mold is still there, unless you’ve replaced the seats, carpet, padding, etc. Given a chance, it’ll grow again.

Ugh - this is depressing . . . this is what I am worried about. Even if we hit it hard with chlorox and borax?

I don’t know. You might try and find a shop that works on interiors a lot - they may have experience with this. My concern is that the mold gives off spores, so you’ll need to do something to kill them, too.

Did you still have comprehensive insurance on your car? If so it should be covered. If you did not, well … I guess you now know why you should not cancel all your insurance if you are not driving your car. Comprehensive insurance is usually fairly cheap.

You may want to contact one of the companies that professionally take car of this kind of problem (usually listed for working on homes, but most if not all will also do cars.).

That is why you need to pros. They should have the equipment that pushes industral quanities of Ozone in there and kills the stuff.

Good idea about cleaning companies!! I don’t have comprehensive anymore . . . the car is over 17 years old. Thanks for the tip!

Thanks - I was thinking about the spore issue also. I have a feeling that it hit the front seats because it is attracted to the areas where there is epithelial cell residue. (Eeww) I’m going to price it with a professional interior type . . .before I throw in the towel . . . get a quote. Thanks again. I think it might be a lost cause. This forum sure helps get ideas.

The BEST fix for this problem will be to buy a complete interior from a salvaged car. Just strip the mouldy one out. Then clean the exposed metal areas with bleach, including inside the doors. Tilex spray works well. Wait for it to all air out. Then install the “new” interior to match. Plan on cleaning the new one, and letting it THOROUGHLY dry before you install it. Except for the drying time, you’ll kill an afternoon doing it.

The last complete interior I replaced cost the owners $300+ my labor . The original got “eaten” by a dog who wasn’t happy about his people leaving him alone in the car. That was for a four year old Galant. I’d expect to pay half that for a '93.

Amazing thought! My daughter (who was to be the recipient of this car) is still enthusiastic about it being fixed. In fact I put over $500 of work into it this last year so it’s pretty dismaying to think about tossing it. This is a wonderful idea. I’ll see who I can find in the area to help me with such an idea. There’s lots of interior shops around here - I’m in Northern NJ

And check with the junk yards/auto recyclers, there should be plenty of '93 Corollas to pick from for a “new” interior. The more leg work you do, the less the interior shops will charge you.

I’ve had a couple of occasions to park cars in garages for extended periods and I wondered, do I leave some windows open to “air out” the car? Or, leave the windows closed to keep out critters like stray cats, mice, etc.? Most often the decision was to leave the windows open at least 2 to 3" and sometimes all the way to allow air circulation.

My surfer son always had musty cars because all the damp wetsuits and junk in the trunk. Unfortunately you missed the moisture in your car when you parked it. Mold can be considerable and nasty stuff.

If you want to try cleaning it yourself I bought a handy little gizsmo called the “Bissell Spot Blot”. It is a wet style carpet cleaner made small for cleaning spots on carpet, not big enough for a whole carpet. It has a “manual” mode which is a small nozzle with a hose attached. It sprays a cleaner into the carpet and immediately vacuums the liquid out taking the dirt and gunk along with it. I’ve found this device is great for car carpet and upholstery cleaning since it is small and manuverable. It gets into most of the nooks and crannies common in automobile interiors. It costs about $100 and there are a variety of chemicals you can use with it.

I think it would to a good job on the mold. Chlorine could damage the colors of your interior but there are other effective mold chemicals that are color safe you can buy. If you use the spot blot you’ll have some risidual dampness after the cleaning which will require a good airing out. We’ve had so much rain in NJ (I’m in Denville) that finding a nice to air it out is a challenge, although today looks pretty nice.

I think once you get the mold killed and cleaned it will be ok as long as you don’t have mold allergies. Keep the car aired out and avoid using the AC for a long time. Drive with the windows open an suffer the heat a bit and you should have it back to normal eventually.

Here’s a video from the series “Wheeler Dealers” where they swapped out the some of the interior of a BMW, leather for cloth. It gives you a little idea of what’s involved:

Not all mold is created equal. Some types of mold are easy to kill just by steam cleaning with a chemical detergent and letting everything dry out. Some other types of mold are more dangerous and will make you sick. These types of mold can be harder to get rid of.

You need to have the car checked by someone who knows more about the different types of mold and the best ways to remove each of them.

If you decide to try to restore - be sure to research mold online. Just had this prob in my home (can’t toss that!!) and there is lots of good DIY stuff online - including pics to help you ID your prob. Of interest: a method for killing the stuff that uses dry ice (i.e: extreme cold) this might be an option in your case.