How To Safely Clean Away Mold in Your Home
Can You Just Wipe Household Mold Away?
Are you wondering why you’re still experiencing mold issues despite wiping the affected area? You may need to do more.
You probably don’t know that mold is growing in your home. Mold thrives in dark, humid places such as your bathroom and basement.
Mold can develop within 24-48 hours under the right conditions and can potentially cause health problems or affect your home’s air quality if untreated. Once faced with this issue, you must recognize how to eliminate it.
If you’re wondering how to perform mold cleanup, here’s how.
Signs of Mold on Walls
The most common causes of mold growing on walls are high humidity, condensation and water leaks (which are often hidden inside the wall).
Condensation forms when water vapor in the air meets cold surfaces and cools to become liquid. Condensation is especially common on walls which form the perimeter of a house. These walls are often colder because of cool outdoor air on the other side.
Things like drying wet clothes inside or steam from hot water increases the humidity in the home. If humidity stays high in your home for a long time then you might see mold starting to grow on your walls. Usually the best way to decrease the humidity is to ventilate your home by opening windows and doors.
Leaking pipes near or inside of walls are a common cause of mold. If there’s a leaking pipe inside a wall cavity then mold will usually be well and truly set in before it’s discovered.
- cracked or peeling paint
These are all tell-tale signs that there could be moisture in a wall. If you notice any of these things in a wall in your home, take a closer look and you might see the beginnings of small amounts of mold growth.
These signs could also indicate that mold is actually growing hidden behind the wall, in the wall cavity. Seeing small spots of mold on a wall can sometimes be a sign that there is actually a larger mold colony on the other side which is slowly growing through.
Smelling a moldy odor or suffering allergic reactions are also good indications that there could be mold growing hidden behind a wall in your home.
Most mold symptoms are caused by mold allergies. When you breathe in mold spores your immune systems responds by creating allergic reactions. These reactions are the immune system’s defense against foreign particles entering the body.
The more a person is around mold the more sensitive to it they will become. This means that they can end up unable to tolerate being around even small amounts of mold. Their allergic reactions will also become more and more severe.
Symptoms that mold allergies cause include:
- Cold or flu like symptoms
- Sore throat
- Irritated, itchy throat
- Blocked nose
- Itchy nose
- Runny nose
- Sinus congestion
- Sinus headaches
- Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath
- Irritated, itchy skin
- Skin rash, hives
- Watery eyes
- Red, bloodshot eyes
- Itchy eyes
- Itchy ears
- Hair loss, baldness
- Hay fever symptoms
Toxic Symptoms from Exposure to Toxic Mold
There are about 16 mold species which are toxic to humans. These molds put out highly toxic chemicals called mycotoxins.
Mycotoxins cause toxic symptoms which are much worse than the allergic symptoms caused by ordinary molds. Some of the symptoms caused by toxic molds include bleeding, damage to internal organs, mental impairment, cancer and even death in some cases.
Sometimes mold spores that are breathed into a person’s lungs begin to grow inside them. Mold infections like this can also grow in the sinuses, skin or digestive system.
These mold infections usually don’t occur in healthy people. Elderly people or those who are sick with compromised or suppressed immune systems can suffer these infections though, since their immune systems might not be strong enough to fight off the mold. Sometimes these mold infections can even cause death.
Mold species that can opportunistically infect people include Trichoderma, Penicillium marneffei and Aspergillus fumigatus.
It is virtually impossible to eliminate all molds and spores indoors. This is because some spores float in house dust and through the air. However, the mold spores won’t grow in the absence of moisture.
However, you can and should prevent or control mold growth indoors through moisture control. Although eliminating mold completely in a household setting is almost impossible, you can reduce an existing infestation to a point where it’s no longer harmful.
How to Remove Mold from Different Areas
You can simply scrub and wipe non-porous areas with a cleaning solution, sponge the affected area, and dry it fast (drying fast eliminates moisture that would allow recurring mold growth). This method is ideal for areas with small quantities of mold. An unscented detergent will enable you to smell residual moldy spots.
To remove and kill the mold, I recommend using Borax.
There are many advantages to using borax to kill mold. For starters, borax is a natural cleaning product and although it is toxic if you swallow it, borax does not emit chemicals or dangerous fumes like some other mold killers. Borax, a white mineral powder, has a pH level of about 9 (baking soda is pH 8.1 and pH 7 is neutral) and a low toxicity.
Borax is commonly used as a deodorizer as well as for cleaning toilets and drains. Borax is also used as an insecticide, herbicide and fungicide and it can be mixed with water in a solution to kill and remove mold as it is a natural mold inhibitor. You can buy borax in supermarkets for a few dollars from the laundry section.
How to Kill Mold with Borax
- To kill mold using borax, create a borax-water solution using a ratio of 1 cup of borax per gallon of water.
- Vacuum up any loose mold with a HEPA filtered vacuum cleaner to lessen the number of spores stirred up into the air during the cleaning process.
- Use a scrubbing brush with the borax-water solution to scrub the mold off the surface.
- Wipe up any extra moisture and excess mold particles or dust/debris to prevent them spreading into the air once the surface has dried.
- You don’t need to rinse off the borax as the solution will prevent more mold beginning to grow on the surface again.
- Leave the surface to dry completely.
If the mold has left a stain, try RMR-86 Instant Mold & Mildew Stain Remover. It works on wood, concrete, drywall, siding and walls, tile & grout, fiberglass, vinyl and fiberglass. It has lots of terrific reviews at Amazon.
Note though, that this is a very powerful product (which is why it’s so effective for removing tough mold stains): use it in a well-ventilated space, and wear gloves.
Mold Growing Behind Walls
Mold commonly grows out of sight behind walls in the wall cavities. These spaces often contain pockets of humid, moist air. Mold can also grow hidden behind wallpaper. Wallpaper glue can hold organic debris which can then become a food source for mold growth.
To find hidden mold behind walls you need to use invasive inspection methods and, optionally, mold testing. It’s best to talk to a professional mold specialist in this case.
Porous Areas (Like Unpainted Drywall)
If you discover mold on a porous area for instance, an unpainted drywall, you’ll typically need to cut the wall where there’s mold growth. Because drywall is a substance high in cellulose, it is one of the most common materials mold grows on in the home. As there is no practical way to completely remove mold from drywall, you will have to cut out and dispose of any drywall you discover which has mold growing on it. Bottom line – for such an area, you can’t merely wipe it because mold growth occurs inside the material rather than on the surface.
Use an externally vented or HEPA vacuum cleaner for wood surfaces. Scrub using an unscented detergent solution, rinse and dry fast. You may have to sand and refinish the surface if the stain does not come off.
You should perform sanding with a sander/vacuum combination, allowing the vacuum to pick up the spores emitted by sanding.
Mold on the Ceiling
If you see mold on the ceiling in your home then you probably have a humidity or condensation problem. It is also possible that the mold is caused by a water leak above the ceiling.
Removing Mold on the Ceiling
Like with mold on walls, if the ceiling is made of a non-porous material then you can usually just wipe the mold away with a wet cloth. You can use a mold killing product like bleach if you like too.
If the ceiling is made of a porous material though, like unpainted drywall, then you may have to cut away the material where the mold is growing since the mold has probably grown inside the material.
Condensation frequently forms on windows due to cold outdoor air on the other side of the window which cools the glass. Although mold cannot feed on the glass itself, if the window is dirty then mold can feed off of the grime on the window glass.
Condensation can also lead to mold growing around window frames because of moisture condensating on the glass and then running onto the frame. The other place to watch out for mold growing around your windows is in the seal where the window frame meets the wall.
So discovering mold on your windows isn’t uncommon if you have a condensation issue. After removing excess mold, you’ll be in a better position to establish the full extent of the issue.
Mold in Floor
Mold can grow beneath the floor in your home just like it grows above ceilings and within wall cavities. Dirt and dust which fall under the floor become trapped, along with moisture, leading to perfect conditions for mold growth.
Tiles and especially carpets trap large amounts of dust and can become a haven for mold growth. Carpets hold moisture particularly well, taking a long time to dry out, which means they can very easily foster mold growth if there are spilled liquids, water leaks or floods.
Mold on Furniture
Furniture left in storage can accumulate mold and mildew, especially in damp, dark conditions. Mold thrives in moist environments, and fabrics such as upholstery can absorb moisture from the air and provide an ideal place for mold and mildew to grow. It usually appears in patches, and can give off a foul, musty odor. One of the best ways to prevent future mold growth is to keep the area and items as dry as possible.
Furniture made of organic materials, such as wood, are another thing that mold soon ends up growing on if there’s a moisture problem in your home. Upholstered furniture in particular absorbs moisture, making it a prime candidate for mold growth.
Your household furniture should not be kept close to, or touching, the walls as this diminishes the air flow and creates condensation. When you check your furniture for mold remember to check underneath pieces of furniture. Also look inside furniture like cupboards, drawers, etc.
How to Remove Mold from Upholstered Furniture
Lay down newspaper around the couch to catch any falling mold. Brush the couch with a stiff broom or brush to loosen the spores and knock them onto the newspaper. Pick up the newspaper and throw it away.
Combine 1 qt. of warm water and 1/2 tsp. of liquid hand soap in a container. Alternatively, you can use equal parts rubbing alcohol or white vinegar and water. You can also use 1 qt. of warm water and 2 tbsp. of ammonia.
Dip a sponge into the liquid and squeeze it until suds form.
Apply the suds to the couch, focusing on the moldy areas.
Rub the upholstery with the sponge to remove any mold, rinsing and wringing the sponge as you go.
If you use alcohol, rinse the upholstery with a clean, damp sponge.
Dry the couch completely in a well-ventilated area or in the sunlight. Use fans or open a window, if possible.
Allow it to dry before using.
As an alternative to preparing your own cleaning solution, try Chem-Girl No Rinse OxyPro Deodorizer Biodegradable Peroxide Cleaner. It’s very effective at removing mold and mildew, it utilizes hydrogen peroxide (not bleach), so there are no fumes. Plus, you don’t have to rinse it off. 6 oz of OxyPro makes 1 quart of cleaning solution.
Testing For Mold
If you suspect that your home has a mold problem, and want to be sure, you can pick up a mold testing kit. Keep in mind that a mold testing kit is for mold only, and does not test for any other volatile organic compounds or off-gas. For that, you will need a comprehensive test.
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