Everyone has to clean mold from their home from time to time. Whether you live in a mansion or an apartment, your home is your safe place. The place you feel most comfortable.
Many, many of the cleaning products sold today are full of toxic chemicals and undisclosed ingredients. Keeping it clean is essential, but how do you do that safely?
How can you protect your pets, children, guests, and yourself from harmful chemicals?
This simple guide will equip you to clean mold from the hard surfaces in your home with non-toxic ingredients you already have in the pantry.
WHAT TO WEAR
Before even choosing a cleaning product, you should know what kind of safety equipment to wear to clean a moldy surface.
Mold is a respiratory irritant and allergen, so a mask with a N-95 respirator is important, especially if you know you are allergic to mold. A simple dust mask will not protect you from the mold spores. For more information about safety, visit https://www.cdc.gov/mold/What-to-Wear.html
WHAT NOT TO USE TO CLEAN MOLD
The first thing people often turn to to clean mold is the worst choice. Bleach.
Bleach is a combination of chemicals used as an agent to kill bacteria and whiten clothes, floors, and walls. Bleach contains sodium hypochlorite which is toxic to bacteria, fish, and human beings. Sodium hypochlorite is a known carcinogen (cancer causing agent), and can cause both respiratory and skin irritation or damage. This alone is enough reason to find a better alternative cleaning agent!
But there is more. Bleach is designed to kill bacteria, and will not completely remove a mold problem. Molds are fungi, and they can and will grow back after bleaching.
WHAT TO USE TO CLEAN MOLD
There are 3 simple ingredients you can safely use to clean away mold in your home: white vinegar, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide.
Each of these ingredients has the highest safety rating on the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning (EWG).
To clean a hard surface (like a shower stall, tiles, toilet, sink, or floor), simply add hydrogen peroxide OR white vinegar to a clean, empty spray bottle undiluted. Never mix these chemicals! Choose one or the other.
For hydrogen peroxide, spray the area to clean thoroughly, and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. Then, scrub the area, and rinse it clean with water. Repeat if needed.
For white vinegar, spray the area to clean thoroughly, and let it sit for at least 15 minutes or up to one hour. Then, scrub the area, and rinse it clean with water.
To use baking soda, add a teaspoon to a tablespoon of baking soda to a clean empty spray bottle and fill the bottle ¾ full of hot water. Shake to dissolve. Spray the area and use a scrub brush to clean the mold away.
Baking soda works best with a white vinegar spray following. Baking soda is a base and vinegar is an acid. When they are used together, they react to form carbon dioxide gas and heat. The heat helps clean the surface and the chemical reaction kills fungi and bacteria alike.
Running a bathroom fan while cleaning will also help remove odors from the room as well as any smell from the mold or cleaning supplies.
5 to 10 drops of tea tree essential oil can be added to the white vinegar spray to increase the disinfectant power. Tea tree essential oil is distilled from the Melaleuca alternifolia tree from Australia. The essential oil is antifungal (kills fungi), antiviral (kills viruses), and antimicrobial (kills microbes, including bacteria). I advise people with allergies or asthma to use this oil with caution, as it can be irritating to the skin and lungs.
TIPS FOR CLEANING MOLD
- Remember that your goal is not to kill the mold spores but to remove them. When they have been removed completely they cannot grow back.
- Be sure to spray and then wipe all surfaces with a damp rag. Dry wiping will disturb spores and send them into the air! Airborne spores can regrow in new locations, and cause even more mold to grow. Mold spores are not visible to the naked eye, so be sure to cover all surfaces with your cleaner of choice, even if they look ‘clean’.
- Do NOT use a vacuum to clean mold unless you have a vacuum with a HEPA filter. Remember that you will eventually have to empty the vacuum, and it will be filled with the mold. The HEPA filter should be changed periodically to increase efficiency. Mycotoxins may not be filtered out even when using a HEPA vacuum.
- Ventilate, ventilate, ventilate! Ventilation is important during cleaning so that any disturbed spores exit the building. Close and tape off doors to the rest of the house and use a box fan in a window pointing out while cleaning.
KNOW WHEN TO CALL THE PROS
It’s easy to take care of mold as a homeowner, but it’s also a good idea to know when to call in the pros. If the area of mold covers more than about 10sf, there is a good chance the mold problem is more than an isolated issue.
Mold is great at hiding in hard to detect locations. A mold inspection by Branch Environmental can help you get to the bottom of the problem.
For more information go to:
A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home – https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-10/documents/moldguide12.pdf