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Topic: Living with (and killing) mold  (Read 2132 times)

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Living with (and killing) mold
« on: May 06, 2007, 09:26:52 AM »
This is based on what I've learned from my (unfortunately too extensive) experiences with black, green, yellow and grey molds (mould) since moving to the UK.  We’ve had to throw away leather shoes and lots and lots of books due to mold damage, it's made my husband very sick, and it's just a general pain in the butt.  I hope that this prevents at least one person from dealing with the same problems we’ve had. 

What is mold, where will it grow?  Mold is a living, breathing, breeding thing.  It is an allergen to many people, causing itching, sneezing, coughing, asthma attacks, etc.  My understanding is that when mold breeds it can spread directly adjacent to its current location, or it can launch off into the air as spores.  Spores are dormant molds, housed inside a very tough casing.  They protect the mold from dying due to drying out, being physically damaged, etc. and allow it to travel.

Mold needs damp, dim, cool places with relatively poor air circulation in order to thrive.  They will spread on porous surfaces - cloth, plaster, wood, leather, paper.  You will find mold growing only where it has a regular source of dampness.  In the UK, this can come from the high humidity in the air in the winters combined with moisture from your own respiration and poor ventilation.  If you regularly wake up to find your inner window and sill covered in a puddle of condensation, you will probably develop a problem at some point.  Other sources of excess moisture include cooking, showering/bathing, and using improperly ventilated clothes dryers (or line-drying clothes inside).  Mold will also grow on walls where there is a leaky pipe within.  Remember that we have water pipes in many more walls here due to radiator heating.  Don't forget about moisture seeping in from outside due to poor guttering/broken downspouts, too.

Great.  I found my mold, now what?  Now that you've found it, you can identify the source, then kill it.  Before wiping it all away, follow its trail.  This will indicate where your moisture source is coming from.  Is it an outside wall?  Check the guttering.  If that looks fine, consider if it is a leaky pipe.  Have you noticed condensation in the area in the mornings or after high moisture activities? 

How can I kill my mold?  After you think you've identified the source, you can kill your mold.  You may want to wear a mask while doing the cleaning if the mold bothers you.  You may also want to send any allergic family members out of the house for a little while (I kick my husband out).  And you should be careful to work wet and not flick the mold off the surfaces/items and into the air (as much as possible). 

I've found two decent options for the killing:

Bleach  Everything I’ve read has said that bleach solution is the most effective chemical killer that is available to the general public. This will work on solid surfaces – walls, ballistic nylon suitcases, window frames, etc.  Adding bleach to a suitable wash load will work for fabric, too.  For surfaces, make a 10% solution of liquid bleach (1 part bleach to 9 parts very hot water).  In my reading, I have found it repeated that this 10% solution is more effective than using full-strength bleach, so stronger is not always better.  I’ve also seen reference to adding a bit of white vinegar to the solution, but I have never bothered with that.  Using a rag or sponge moistened with the bleach solution wipe the mold from the surface.  Rinse your rag in your bucket of bleach solution and repeat until the surface is clear.  You may need to dump the solution and make a fresh batch to get everything off the surface. 

Sunlight  UV light kills mold spores and the sun is a pretty good source of UV light.  If the item is not suitable for bleaching and you can get the surface mold off the item, try putting it out in the sun for a day or two.  This will obviously only work for items where the sun can reach all parts of the item – clothes, for example.  For clothes, try washing them in a separate load and then hanging them outside – rotating the side that is in the sun and turning them inside out, too.

Bad news…it’s about books.  It is my understanding that you will never, ever get the mold out of books.  The mold will damage the paper, leather, binding – everything.  You can make the spores dormant by keeping the book very dry, but they are still there.  If you do not want them to spread to your other books, it is my understanding that you just need to get rid of the affected books.  (If anyone knows this not to be true, please respond and let us know.  Similarly, if you throw away your books and later find a way that you could have cleaned them, don’t blame me – that decision is up to you.)

How do I prevent mold?  After our experiences in this flat, we have learned that sometimes you can prevent the mold outright, but sometimes you will be stuck preventing its spread and return. 

  • Do not allow condensation to build up in any room in your house – especially not in the bedroom.  The bedroom has so many soft items – the mattress, carpet/rug, all of your clothes, pillows – too many places for mold to effectively hide and prosper.  Your rooms in the UK probably have vents to the outside world – do not block them.  If you are unable/unwilling to control the condensation by opening windows, invest in a dehumidifier.  Our dehumidifier saved our bedroom.
  • If you notice dampness, identify its cause immediately and fix the problem.  Alternatively, notify your landlord and follow up with them until the problem is remedied.
  • While waiting for a problem to be fixed, remove any mold-able items from the area.  Leave plenty of room for circulation next to damp walls. 

Whose responsibility is my moldy rented flat?  This depends on what is causing the mold and what your lease says.  Faulty, leaking piping or water seeping in from outside – probably pretty safe to say that’s the landlord’s responsibility.  Condensation inside?  My new lease says that the tenant is responsible for maintaining proper ventilation (not blocking vents, opening windows after showers, etc.) and for not allowing condensation and mold in the building.  Under the wording in my new lease, if your mold is caused by drying load after load of clothes on the radiators in your flat, you’d probably have a pretty hard time convincing anyone that it is the landlord’s fault.  (However, I’m no lawyer, so I’m not sure about that one.  Perhaps the Citizen's Advice Bureau would be a good resource if you are facing significant mold-related costs and living in rented accommodation.)

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Re: Living with (and killing) mold
« Reply #1 on: May 06, 2007, 10:36:12 AM »
Excellent information Carrie. We had these issues in a 1970s flat. The ventilation relied solely on opening windows. But as it was a ground floor flat, we weren't keen on doing that all the time. The landlord bought us a dehumidifier instead.

We also found that making sure furniture was not pushed right up against the walls was a good idea as if we left it there, mold would grow on the wall and furniture.
When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life. ~ John Lennon

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Re: Living with (and killing) mold
« Reply #2 on: May 06, 2007, 12:34:39 PM »
For mould on fabrics a 50/50 solution of white vinegar and water in a spray bottle works wonders.

I also second the dehumidifiers, airing the room as often as possible and keeping items away from walls.

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