Mold is a serious problem. It can cause thousands of dollars in damage to a home and serious health risks. 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.
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.
That is why it’s so important to have any type of water damage or flooding handled by an IICRC-certified professional. Water damage can be deceptive. Water penetrates into structural cavities creating trapped pockets of saturation. The detection of water in these areas can often only be discovered with sophisticated moisture detection meters. Undetected moisture will continue to cause damage. This damage, at a minimum, will cause odors. Greater damage will surface when materials delaminate, shrink, split and further deteriorate to where costly repairs are required.
More than just removing excess water, IICRC-certified restorers have the knowledge and equipment to further dry a home or facility (including substructure materials) completely back to pre-loss conditions. Through timely response and the careful monitoring of water damage, mold and other health issues can be prevented. If water damage has been present too long, mold will occur.
IICRC-certified professionals have the training and experience to identify moisture sources, evaluate mold growth (visible or suspected), contain damage, remove contamination and dry materials to ensure that mold will not return.
But what if you have decided to try to clean the mold yourself? What can you use and what are the advantages and disadvantages? Keep in mind that many things can kill mold and its spores leaving the SURFACE sanitized and resistant to future mold growth. But using a surface cleaner is only effective if the mold is growing on non-porous materials such as tiles, bathtubs, glass and countertops. A surface cleaner cannot penetrate into porous materials and so it does not come into contact with mold growing beneath the surface of materials such as wood and drywall. Using a surface cleaner on these materials will kill the mold above the surface but the roots within the material will remain and the mold will soon return. Here are some products that can be used along with their advantages and disadvantages.
Bleach – Although the active ingredient in bleach, sodium hypochlorite, is the main ingredient in many mold removal products, there are many reasons to use alternatives to chlorine bleach when killing mold. One reason is that bleach cannot completely kill mold growing in porous materials. The chlorine in bleach cannot penetrate into porous surfaces such as drywall or wood. The chlorine is left on the surface of porous materials and only the water component of the bleach is absorbed into the material, providing more moisture for the mold to feed on. Some of the mold on the surface might be killed but the roots of the mold are left intact meaning the mold soon returns, leaving you in a cycle of repeated bleaching. Perhaps this is why some people believe that spraying bleach on mold doesn’t affect it but instead just bleaches its color so you can no longer see it. Another disadvantage of bleach is that it can damage the materials it’s used on as it is a harsh, corrosive chemical. Chlorine bleach also gives off harsh fumes and it even produces toxic gas when mixed with ammonia. There are safer alternatives such as borax or vinegar which don’t produce dangerous fumes or leave behind toxic residue. For these reasons try to avoid using bleach and if you must use it, only use it on non-porous surfaces.
Borax – There are a lot of 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 used as a deodorizer, insecticide, herbicide, fungicide and can be mixed with water in a solution to kill and remove mold as it is a natural mold inhibitor. You can buy borax at the supermarket in the laundry section.
Vinegar – Vinegar is a mild acid which can kill 82% of mold species. However it also has the advantages of being natural and safe. Vinegar is non-toxic and doesn’t give off dangerous fumes like bleach does.
Ammonia – Ammonia will kill mold on non-porous surfaces but it a harsh, toxic chemical. Make sure you never mix ammonia with bleach because the gas they create when combined is toxic. Chlorine mixed with ammonia was even used as a chemical weapon during World War 2. Additionally, although ammonia can kill surface mold, dead mold and dead mold spores are still allergenic so you will need to make sure to remove them afterwards.
Hydrogen Peroxide – hydrogen peroxide kills mold as it is an anti-fungal as well as anti-viral and anti-bacterial. It is a good alternative to chlorine bleach because it is safe to use and doesn’t damage the environment, nor does it leave behind toxic residue or produce toxic fumes like chlorine bleach does. You can buy hydrogen peroxide from drug stores very affordably. It kills mold effectively on many materials and since it is a bleaching agent it may also help fade the stain mold leaves behind. Spot test hydrogen peroxide on the material you’re going to be cleaning to make sure it won’t fade the material’s colors.
Detergent and Water – a solution of warm water and detergent can be used to scrub surface mold off non-porous surfaces. Although detergent itself doesn’t kill mold, if the mold is on non-porous materials then the solution doesn’t need to kill it as long as you completely clean away all the mold on the surface.
Baking Soda – Baking soda is well known as a natural and safe household cleaner. but you can also use baking soda to kill mold in your home. Unlike other mold killers which contain harsh chemicals, baking soda is mild (ph of 8.1) and harmless to your family and any pets. Besides killing mold, baking soda also deodorizes and so using it can get rid of the smell mold leaves in your home. Baking soda also absorbs moisture to help keep mold away. Vinegar is often used along with baking soda when cleaning up a mold problem since vinegar kills different species of mold to baking soda.
As seen above, mold can cause serious health issues. Surface mold CAN be cleaned with many common cleaners but internal mold or serious water damage should always be handled by an experienced IICRC-certified company such as True Clean Restoration. The “root” of the mold must be killed or it will just keep coming back/getting worse. We are available, 24/7 to help by calling 309-664-8577 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You can trust True Clean to help.