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Mold Clean Up

Photo by Billie Nicholson

We thought we would be saving money on our electric bill while we were traveling out of town by raising the thermostat on our air conditioning system. Little did we know, until we returned home, that this was a big mistake. The first clue was some fuzzy, blue dust clinging to the edge of our bathroom pocket door. On further examination, we discovered that all our bedroom furniture had a white, patchy film over it. Guess what – it was mold! All the humidity built up inside our warm house was the perfect growing environment for mold. As we explored from room to room, we discovered mold was growing on lots of surfaces. So much for going through the mail. Our first project was to begin a room by room mold eradication process. We used gloves and masks during the cleaning process.

There are several products you can use to kill and remove mold. Some of the most effective products include:

  • Bleach – will kill virtually every species of indoor mold that it comes in contact with along with its spores, leaving a surface sanitized and resistant to mold growth. Unfortunately, it is only effective on non-porous materials. Bleach cannot penetrate materials like wood and drywall to kill the organism within. The mold will soon return if the environment remains the same.
    To kill mold with bleach, use a ratio of one cup bleach per gallon of water. Apply with a spray bottle or using a bucket of solution and a sponge or cloth. Rinse surface if it will be used for food preparation or may be touched by small children. Bleach is not the best product to choose, especially in light of the recent published toxicity reports, and its harsh corrosive nature.
  • Borax   is a natural cleaning product, and although it is toxic if you swallow it, borax, does not emit chemicals or dangerous fumes. You can buy borax in supermarkets for a few dollars in the laundry section. It can also be used as an insecticide, herbicide and fungicide.
    To kill mold with borax, mix 1 cup borax per gallon of water. Vacuum up any loose mold with a HEPA filtered vacuum cleaner to lessen the number of spores that can be stirred into the air during the cleaning process. Use a scrubbing brush with the borax-water solution and wipe up any extra moisture and excess mold particles. No rinsing requires. Allow surfaces to dry completely.
  • Vinegar – is a mild acid can kill 82% of mold species is also natural and non-toxic.
    To kill mold with vinegar, use white distilled vinegar also available in the supermarket. Pour it into a spare bottle without watering it down. Spray the vinegar onto a the moldy surface and leave it to sit for an hour. Wipe the area clean with a damp rag. Allow the surface to dry. any vinegary smell will clear with a few hours. To prevent mold from growing on surfaces, spray it and leave it. Repeat every few days to ensure the surface will stay mold free.
  • Ammonia – is another harsh chemical that can kill mold on non-porous surfaces, but it will not penetrate wood or drywall. Never mix it with bleach because together they create a toxic gas.
  • To kill mold with ammonia, create a 50% clear ammonia and 50% water solution in a spray bottle. Spray on the moldy area and leave it for a few hours before wiping and rinsing.
  • Hydrogen Peroxide – kills molds, viruses and bacteria. It is a good alternative and doesn’t damage the environment. It is available at the drug store or grocery in a 3% solution. It is a bleaching agent and can remove mold stains, but it will also bleach wood furniture if left for too long. A lesson we learned the hard way.
    To kill mold with hydrogen peroxide, pour the 3% solution into a spray bottle and wet the moldy surface completely. Allow it ti sit for 10 minutes, then scrub the surface and wipe it down. You can also mix vinegar with hydrogen peroxide. Store any unused agent in a dark place since light reacts with hydrogen peroxide and reduces its effectiveness.
  • Detergent – and warm water can be used to scrub surface mold off non-porous surfaces. Detergent doesn’t kill mold, but you will need to clean away all the mold.
  • Baking Soda – is well known as a natural and are household cleaner. You can use it to kill mold and it is harmless toy your family and pets. It also deodorizes to rid the smell of mold and absorbs moisture to help keep mold away. It can also be mixed with vinegar. To kill mold with baking soda, add one quarter of a tablespoon to a spray bottle of water. Shake the bottle to dissolve the soda into the water. Spray the moldy area then use a sponge, cloth, or scrubbing brush over the moldy area. Rinse the surface with water. Respray and allow to dry to kill any residual spores.
  • Tea Tree Oil – is probably the most effective of all the natural mold killing solutions. Although it is expensive, a little goes a long way. You can buy it from most natural food stores, but make sure it is derived from Melaleuca alternifolia.
    To kill mold with tea tree oil, make a solution of 1 teaspoon per cup of water in a spray bottle. Spray the surface and wipe off the mold. No need to rinse.
  • Grapefruit Seed Extract – is another expensive but very effective natural mold killer. It has almost no odor, an advantage over tea tree oil. Buy it at a health food store. It disinfects and deodorizes and small amount goes a long way.
    To kill mold with grapefruit seed extract, create a solution of the extract and water in a spray bottle using 10 drops of extract per cup of water. Shake the bottle to mix the solution thoroughly and then spray on the surface where mold is growing. Wipe away the mold with a damp cloth. Both tea tree oil and grapefruit seed extract oil have long shelf lives, so you can use these again and again.

Billie Nicholson, Editor
August 2018

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