Story last updated at 7/8/2009 - 11:36 am
This is the final installment of a three-part series on mold and moisture in the home. The previous articles provided information on identifying mold and where mold would most likely grow in the home, as well as types of health problems caused by or related to the presence of mold. This last installment covers cleanup and prevention of mold.
Before launching into a discussion on cleaning and preventing mold in the home, it's important to remember that mold is not the problem. Mold is a symptom of a moisture problem due to water leaks and/or inadequate ventilation. Mold needs moisture to grow and to multiply as it eats your home building materials and personal possessions. The first step in mold remediation is to remove the cause, then tackle the mold issue.
What products should I use to clean and prevent mold?
Do not use ineffective chlorine bleach to try to kill mold growth and mold spores. Bleach is too weak even when freshly manufactured to kill mold. Bleach that sits on store shelves and in your home continually gets ever weaker over the passage of time. In addition, read the manufacturer's usage directions on the bleach container. The manufacturer does not recommend its use to kill mold. Bleach is not an EPA-registered fungicide or effective mold home remedy.
Other ineffective products to kill mold include Kilz - a primer applied to surfaces prior to painting. According to the company website (www.kilz.com) the product can be used to block mold and mildew stains: "Mold and mildew covered surfaces must be thoroughly washed with a mildew remover, rinsed with water and allowed to dry before priming." Painting over a mold problem does not solve it. It only hides the problem temporarily and gives the mold something delicious to eat - the paint itself. Lysol, ammonia, and other household cleaners and disinfectants are ineffective and should not be used.
Experts recommend spraying an effective mold killer, like Concrobium, to take care of the problem. Concrobium is an EPA-registered solution that works as it dries. The product hardens over the moldy surface to form an invisible film that physically crushes the mold micro-organism underneath. Additionally, Concrobium stays on surfaces to provide continual resistance against mold regrowth (www.concrobium.com).
How can I clean moldy surfaces?
How to clean areas contaminated with mold depends on the surface where the mold is growing. A professional should be consulted if large areas (more than 30 square feet) are contaminated with mold. Following are suggested procedures to remove small amounts of topical mold on hard surfaces where no major damage has been observed. This is usually found on windows and sills, in closets, bathroom walls and ceilings, and kitchen areas.
Dampen the area where mold is present. This will prevent the mold from producing additional spores and spreading to other parts of the house. Use a solution of household cleaner with either hydrogen peroxide or a antifungicidal cleaner added. Again, no bleach products.
Note: A good antifungicidal cleaner can be made by combining one-teaspoon borax with one-teaspoon liquid soap in one-quart warm water.
Carefully scrub the area and rinse with fresh water. Be careful not to spread the mold to other areas.
Wipe the area clean. Double bag and dispose of all cleaning materials (sponges, rags, paper towels).
Thoroughly dry and spray with Concrobium Mold Killer. The area may be stained but the mold will be dead and contained.
Thoroughly dry again. Paint if needed.
Absorbent or porous materials, such as ceiling tiles and carpet, may have to be thrown away if they become moldy. Mold can grow on or fill in the empty spaces and crevices of porous materials, so the mold may be difficult or impossible to remove completely.
A last word on cleaning mold - limit your exposure. Wear a mask to avoid breathing in mold or mold spores. Wear gloves and avoid touching mold or moldy items with your bare hands. Wear goggles that do not have ventilation holes to avoid getting mold or mold spores in your eyes.
Remember: If you see or smell mold in your home, you have a problem. For resources on mold problems and environmental health, contact the Juneau District office at (907) 796-6221.
Sonja Koukel, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Health, Home & Family Development Program for the Cooperative Extension Service UAF Juneau District. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (907) 796-6221.
The first two parts of Dr. Koukel's series on mold can be found in the May 6 and June 3 issues of the Capital City Weekly. Visit our archives a t www.capitalcityweekly.com.