Like millions of other people across the globe, the pandemic put the brakes on my little family’s plans. After nearly three years of living in the suburbs as our newborn baby grew into a spirited toddler, my husband and I were ready to move back into the city. At the end of February of this year, our application for a unit in a brand new 36-story building in the middle of Downtown Miami was approved, though our excitement was short-lived. We were paying close attention to the news of the novel coronavirus and becoming increasingly anxious about moving into a building with hundreds of other inhabitants in the middle of a crowded city. By the beginning of March, my husband and I made the decision to put a pause on our move for a little while.
By June, we decided that we would not be moving to the city, and instead started looking for a house near my parents, since they’d be helping us with our little one while we work from home for the duration of the pandemic. We were fortunate to find a house in their neighborhood. The house is lovely, just the right size for us, with a large fenced-in backyard (nearly half an acre –– which is very uncommon in South Florida) and a mango tree, banana trees, and citrus trees. The only issue? The house is older, built in the 1950s, and it had been sitting empty for nearly five years. After sitting for so long, the house had a long list of issues, but we were determined to make it work. First things first, we addressed the roof, which was long overdue for replacement. After that was taken care of, we started deep cleaning and working on smaller home improvement projects.
In this article, I’m going to dish out a few of the grimy details of our “new” old house and how we’ve tackled things so far. Thankfully, we’ve had a secret weapon –– Vital Oxide –– to help us every step of the way. Vital Oxide is a powerful all-in-one product that offers seven solutions: It’s an EPA-registered hospital disinfectant that can be used to kill 99.9% of bacteria and viruses, it can also be used to eliminate allergens (pet dander, dust mite allergens, and more), to eradicate mold and mildew, to sanitize food contact surfaces, to clean HVAC systems and air ducts, to banish foul odors, and to sanitize carpets, rugs, and other soft surfaces. And it does all of this without any harsh fumes or harmful residues. We’ve used Vital Oxide in nearly every capacity since moving into our new home and have used it for everyday cleaning as well.
Now, let’s get to the grime.
Walls, Ceilings, & Floors
After sitting empty for a few years, the inside of the house had accumulated quite a bit of dust. To remove the dust, I used my cordless HEPA vacuum with a large brush attachment. I started with the ceiling and worked my way to the walls, and then to the floors. I used a smaller brush attachment to vacuum the vents, ceiling fans, and baseboards. After thoroughly vacuuming the floors, I mopped with hot water and Vital Oxide. I also sprayed the walls down with Vital Oxide (I let it dry naturally) to eliminate dust mite allergens and lingering odors.
The kitchen is my favorite feature of the house. But after sitting for so long, the white cabinets were coated in dust, as were the countertops. Like the ceilings and walls, I used my vacuum with the brush attachment to thoroughly vacuum the cabinets (inside and out), the countertops, and the outsides of the appliances, then I wiped everything down with a damp microfiber cloth. The grout on the kitchen countertops was stained in a few places, so I sprayed it down with Vital Oxide and let it sit so it could work it’s stain-removing magic while I cleaned out the refrigerator, which, aside from a funky odor, was in pretty good shape. Vital Oxide is an incredibly effective odor eliminator, using the power of oxygen to eradicate odors rather than covering them up, and it’s also gentle enough to use on food prep surfaces, including refrigerators, whereas harsh conventional cleaners are not.
As you can see from the before photo, the natural stone tile on the bathroom floor was blackened with dirt, dust, and grime. I had never cleaned stone flooring before, and research told me that most cleaning products would do more harm than good. Luckily, Vital Oxide is much less corrosive than conventional cleaning products and is gentle enough to use on stone. After scrubbing the tiles with a scrub brush and hot water to loosen up grime, I mopped with plain hot water, and then liberally sprayed Vital Oxide over every inch of the floor. While the floor was still wet, I scrubbed it once again and mopped to remove residue. I sprayed it for a final time with Vital Oxide, and let it dry naturally. I couldn’t believe how beautiful the tile was under all that grime!
After my success with the floor, I worked on the shower. The tile and bathtub was covered in soap scum, buildup, and dust so after scrubbing with a scrub brush and hot water, I sprayed everything down with Vital Oxide and let it sit for a few minutes before scrubbing again. After rinsing all of the gunk down the drain, I sprayed it once again with Vital Oxide and let it air dry. Voilà! The bathroom was ready to go. We plan to renovate the bathroom ASAP post-Covid, but for now, it’s wonderful knowing that the bathroom is clean and germ-free.
Thanks to high humidity (the average humidity in South Florida is 93%), poor ventilation, little natural light, and low air circulation, the attached garage was a dusty, musty, moldy, mildewy mess. The musty smell from the garage was permeating into the house, so we began working on the garage before anything else.
Important Safety Tip: There are a few basic precautions everyone working in moldy areas should follow. First, avoid breathing in mold or mold spores. Undisturbed, mold isn't likely to be airborne. But during cleanup, spores will float on air currents and can enter the lungs unless precautions are taken. A disposable respirator (such as an N95), will provide suitable protection for light cleanup. It’s also a good idea to wear heavy-duty work gloves and safety goggles or other protective eyewear without ventilation holes, as well as a hat if you'll be cleaning up mold on ceilings. Those who suffer from respiratory issues or a weakened immune system should avoid entering the space entirely. If the mold problem is severe, it’s a good idea to seek the help of a professional who is trained in mold cleanup. Always err on the side of caution when it comes to major mold issues.
Here’s how we tackled the mold & mildew in the garage:
- First, we opened up the doors for a day before doing anything, just to let the space get some fresh air.
- Next, we took most of the contents of the garage outside –– lawnmower, leaf blower, weed eater, rake, ladder, mango picker, and various tools, and inspected for mold and mildew. Just to be safe, I filled up a bucket with hot water and scrubbed everything down with a scrub brush, then sprayed with Vital Oxide to eradicate any mold. We left everything outside while we worked in the garage. The washer and dryer are located in the garage but we were unable to move them. We were actually planning on replacing them, but I thought I’d try to clean them up first to see if they could be saved. After brushing the dust off the outside, I let them sit while we tackled the next few steps.
- We used the leaf blower to remove dust on the ceiling, walls, closets, and crevices, and then thoroughly swept everything out with a broom.
- There was obvious mold growth on the ceilings and walls (see 'before' photo above) in the garage, so we filled up a bucket with hot water and used a deck brush to scrub it off. (Note: If the mold problem in your home is severe, it’s a good idea to seek the help of a professional who is trained in mold cleanup.)
- We then sprayed Vital Oxide liberally on the ceiling, walls, and floors. To apply it throughout the space, we used a standard 1-gallon pump sprayer, but if I were to do it again, I would invest in an electrostatic sprayer to ensure even application and to save time. Vital Oxide is a proven mold and mildew killer with up to seven months of residual effects. It can also penetrate deep into semi-porous surfaces like concrete to kill the root of the problem, so it’s extremely handy in areas like garages. After we sprayed the area down, we left the garage doors open and ran a drum fan for around 6 hours to circulate the air and speed up the drying process. We plan to paint the interior of the garage, and install an exhaust fan, but in the meantime, Vital Oxide has truly been a lifesaver.
- After eliminating the mold in the garage, I went back to the washer and dryer. I wiped both appliances down with plain hot water and a microfiber cloth to remove dirt and lingering dust. For the washer, I added a cup of Vital Oxide and ran a “heavy” cycle with hot water to eliminate odors, germs, and mold and mildew. After running the cycle, I sprayed it down with Vital Oxide and left the door open to let it air dry. For the dryer, I wiped out the inside with hot water and a microfiber cloth, and then sprayed with Vital Oxide. It’s been over two months of using both appliances without issues! It was such a relief that we didn’t have to dip into our home project fund to replace two major appliances right after moving in.
The Everyday Cleaner
Aside from using Vital Oxide to deep clean when we first moved in, and to clean around the house every day, I also take a little bottle with me on the go, which has been handy on my dozens of trips to the hardware store since moving into this old house. Vital Oxide has been approved by the EPA for use against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19, so it’s great to use on surfaces like shopping cart handles when I’m out and about.
Working on this old house has definitely been an adventure, and I’m so thankful to have a product that really helps get the job done.