A common feature in many homes, we show you how to get rid of mould without the harsh chemicals.
A common organism, mould is a fungus which can pop up virtually anywhere, indoors and out. It favours wet, damp and humid conditions which is why it flourishes in bathrooms, laundries and poorly ventilated kitchens – and can lurk in ceilings, insulation, walls and carpets. Left unchecked, mould will continue to grow and can cause a variety of health problems. Think runny or blocked noses, eye and or skin irritation and sometimes wheezing.
In rare cases, people develop mould infections, usually in the lungs. It can also kick off asthma attacks in sufferers and sometimes lead to pneumonia. Neither last nor least, mould is unsightly. It can damage property value and left unchecked, can become impossible to remove.
The good news is, most mould outbreaks are relatively simple to get rid of, requiring just a mild cleaning solution and elbow-grease.
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Prevention is better than cure
While mould can pop up anywhere it loves moisture, and requires it to grow. Reducing moisture in and around your home can help prevent it developing.
Tips to prevent mould:
- Use exhaust fans and open windows when cooking, drying laundry or showering. Essentially, if it is getting steamy ensure you have some kind of ventilation. Avoid line drying laundry indoors, especially in poorly ventilated areas.
- Limit the use of unfluted gas heaters, humidifiers, fish tanks and indoor plants to reduce humidity. If you love the look of indoor plants, try sticking to large, well ventilated rooms and clean up any water around them regularly. Additionally, never leave pots directly on carpet.
- Fix leaks as soon as possible and ensure any affected areas are thoroughly cleaned. If you’re dealing with leaky taps, once repaired follow the pipework as far back as you can and clean up any water deposits. If a leak has occurred on carpeted areas, clean and dry the surface and backing or replace. Mould spores can grow rapidly in carpet fibres and are often impossible to remove.
- Direct drainage away from your home. For example, ensure gutters and pipework flow freely and don’t pool around your home. Maintain and clean your gutters regularly.
- Regularly check areas you’ve cleaned mould from in the past. A regular clean may help keep it controlled. However, if you do notice it returning quickly, you may need a mould assessment. The mould could be coming from the ceiling or foundations and need a professional treatment to remove it
- Look out for signs of rising damp. If you do see it, consult an expert who can assess it and recommend a course of treatment.
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Ready to remove your mould? Step one is understanding how different surfaces react to mould. Super porous surfaces – think textiles, clothing or furniture – are tricky, while non-porous surfaces (for example, hard plastics) are generally far easier. Grout and silicone are near impossible to remove mould from because once mould grows, it develops hyphae, or roots. These grow into grout and silicone, meaning even when it looks like you have removed the mould, the buried roots are still intact and impossible to reach. If you have mould in either, your best bet is to re-grout or replace the silicone.
While you can buy mould removal products, these can be hard on your body as well as the surface you apply them to, and as they bleach the colour from the mould, it can be hard to know if you’ve removed it all. While bleach (the active ingredient in most of these products) can work, it needs to be at a 10% concentration. Even then, it won’t penetrate porous materials – meaning it will remove mould from the surface but leave anything underneath behind to flourish. Also note, bleach erodes and corrodes tiles and grout, ironically making them more porous and therefore more likely to develop further fungi growth.
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Natural cleaning solutions for removing mould
In most cases, natural products and some elbow grease will do the trick without requiring any harsh chemicals. In saying that, if you are dealing with mouldy fabrics, it is always best to either discard or have them professionally treated.
Products for getting rid of mould:
- Neat vinegar sprayed onto the surface. Washing clothes in vinegar can be an effective method for removing mould, but it’s best if you can leave items soaking in the vinegar for at least one hour.
- Baking soda and water. 1 tablespoon of baking soda dissolved in a bottle (500mls) of water.
- Oil of cloves and water. A quarter teaspoon of oil of cloves to 1 litre of water is strong to kill mould on most surfaces. You will need to leave it for 24 hours, then clean off with a mixture of two parts baking soda to one part of white vinegar.
- Dishwashing detergent and water. While not a natural solution, it is not as strong or toxic as bleach based sprays.
- NEVER mix bleach and vinegar as it can create toxic fumes.
If these methods fail, dilute 250mls of bleach in 4 litres of water, apply and scrub. If using bleach products, do use protective equipment including rubber gloves; safety glasses; and safety shoes, and ensure the area is well-ventilated. When you’ve finished cleaning the affected area, ensure the surface is dried completely.
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Should I test for mould in my home?
In most cases, testing is not required, as mould is easy to spot and even small outbreaks are easy to find when you know what to look for. If you see creeping ‘black fuzzy dots’, you probably have mould.
You may also notice a damp, musty smell, especially in affected cupboards or small enclosed spaces. Regular cleaning can also help reveal trouble spots which you can take steps to mould-proof.
However, if you think you have mould and you cannot find it; for example, you have spots that keep returning immediately despite cleaning, you may benefit from hiring an occupational hygienist. This is a professional who can audit your home and provide specialist testing, including measuring the damp in the air. They can also provide recommendations and specialist cleaning.
Mould may be common and rarely a health risk unless left to grow unchecked, but it can make your home less appealing visually and create a damp, dank smell, impacting the value of your home. Taking preventative measures and dealing with mould swiftly is your best bet to keeping this unwelcome guest from making itself comfortable in your home. Bigger mould issues are worth investing in professional help to remove.
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Words by Melanie Hearse
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