The thought of mold is an unpleasant one. In fact, it’s embarrassing for those of us who find it in our homes. How did this happen? Am I not cleaning well enough? Will this harm my family? How do I get rid of mold? All of these are likely questions that crossed your mind at some point. First, take a deep breath and know that mold is a more common problem than most homeowners realize. It’s usually found in excessively moist places like bathrooms and basements where humidity is higher.
Mold is a fungus that breaks down plant or animal matter, like leaves, dirt, wood, and food. Any found in the home comes from the outdoors. Spores are transported in the air which is why high levels outside make for favorable conditions to find growth inside. This is one reason that any home can develop a problem given the right conditions. Mold has varieties numbering into the hundreds of thousands with some (see Aspergillus and Penicillium) more likely to be found indoors.
Molds require two factors to grow indoors:
Molds particularly like to grow on wallboard, damp wood, fabrics, leather, and paper products. They can also grow on concrete or the dirt on windows or window frames. Food products, particularly vegetables, fruits, and breads provide a good place, also. It spreads by producing spores that can become airborne when disturbed directly or by air currents. These spores end up on surfaces where they grow.
Everyone is exposed to mold spores, but they affect each person differently. Those with allergies can suffer effects year-round. The spores can trigger reactions like allergic rhinitis or asthma. They can, also, produce volatile organic compounds, or VOC’s, which is the musty odor that irritates eyes, nose, and throat. Mold grows where there is enough moisture, like on basement walls, in crawl spaces, on damp carpet, or behind bathroom tile, and the time of year doesn’t matter. Indoor varieties can be a problem even in winter months.
Besides the unappealing look and smell, mold can trigger allergic reactions such as respiratory irritation, watery eyes, coughing, and headaches. Coughing, wheezing, runny nose, or irritated eyes and throat are all signs of a mold allergy. These can also trigger an asthma attack, with symptoms like wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath. Some strains may also be toxic which is why we want to address an issue promptly.
The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that you use bathroom fans, open windows, and wipe down surfaces in rooms like the kitchen and bathroom. Check your air conditioner drains, pipes, and faucets for leaks. Clean and dry any water-damaged rugs, and replace carpeting that is obviously damaged. Use air conditioners and dehumidifiers inside, and change filters regularly. Any surface consistently exposed to moisture like windowsills or indicators like peeling paint should be investigated. Consider placing a dehumidifier in the basement to get rid of any dampness. Finding and addressing mold today will produce a better result than waiting until tomorrow when it may be worse.
Quick Tip! Kitty litter is highly absorbent. Place bowls of it in damp areas and replace them weekly.
1. Add dish washing liquid soap and one teaspoon borax to a quart of warm water. Soak moldy areas with the mixture. Rinse. Let dry.
2. Add twenty drops of grapefruit seed extract to two cups of water and spray. Let dry.
3. Tea tree oil is a natural antimicrobial that attacks mold. Mix a teaspoon of it with two cups of water in a spray bottle. Spray. Let dry.
4. Mix two parts baking soda with one part vinegar and one part water. Mix until it becomes a thick paste. Spread some of the mix onto the surface and let it dry. Scrub. Repeat until the mold disappears.
5. To fight mold and mildew, mix white vinegar and water (equal parts) in a spray bottle and spray on affected areas. Wipe clean. For tougher areas, pour vinegar on the affected area. Do Not rinse.
6. To remove mold in the toilet bowl, make a scrub of baking soda and white vinegar. To clean the bathtub and tiles, cut a lemon in half and dip it in borax. Scrub and rinse. Or, combine baking soda with liquid soap, scrub and rinse.
7. Wash mold off hard surfaces with soap and water, or use a mix of vinegar and hydrogen peroxide to kill mold. When cleaning mold, always wear a filtered face mask so you won’t inhale spores.
8. Add a half cup hydrogen peroxide to one cup warm water. Apply.
9. Use hydrogen peroxide instead of bleach in the laundry. Disinfect surfaces by spraying them with vinegar, followed by a spray of 3% peroxide. Wipe clean.
- Baking Soda -
Baking soda is well known as a natural and safe household cleaner. Baking soda can also be used to kill mold in your home. Unlike other mold killers which contain harsh chemicals, baking soda is mild (pH of 8.1) and harmless to your family and pets. Besides killing mold, baking soda also deodorizes, so it can also get rid of the smell mold leaves in your home. Baking soda also absorbs moisture to help keep mold away.
- Vinegar -
Vinegar is a mild acid which can kill 82% of mold species. However, it also has the advantages of being natural and safe. Vinegar is non-toxic and doesn’t give off dangerous fumes like bleach does. It’s sometimes used along with baking soda when cleaning up a mold problem since vinegar kills different species of mold than baking soda.
- Hydrogen Peroxide -
Hydrogen peroxide is an anti-fungal, an anti-viral, an anti-bacterial, and it can kill mold. This is a good alternative to chlorine bleach because it is safe to use and it doesn’t harm the environment. It also doesn’t leave behind toxic residue or produce toxic fumes like chlorine bleach does. Hydrogen peroxide is also inexpensive to buy.
Hydrogen peroxide kills mold effectively on many materials such as clothes, floors, bathrooms fixtures, walls and certain items such as kitchen appliances. Being a bleaching agent, it can also help fade the stain that mold leaves behind.
*Always remember to spot test hydrogen peroxide on the material before cleaning to make sure it won’t fade the material colors.
- Tea Tree Oil -
Tea tree oil is an essential oil which is harmless to people and pets. It’s an antifungal and is capable of killing all types of molds. Tea tree oil is, also, an antibacterial. Most natural food stores carry it. Make sure the oil you buy is from the Melaleuca Alternifolia, which is the technical name for tea tree, as not all brands always are. Since it doesn’t lose potency quickly, the solution can be stored away after cleaning. Of all the natural mold killing solutions, tea tree oil is the most effective. Although it can be costly, a small amount goes a long way. When used, the smell is strong but does go away after some time.
*Remember to always wear gloves when cleaning to protect your hands.