How to Remove Mold, Prevent Mold Growth and Mildew vs Mold

Previous we had to replace a leaking sink and remove mold that was growing underneath due to the damp environment the leak was causing. While researching how to remove mold and mildew, I found information about how mold affects our health, mildew vs mold, alternative methods for removing mold and how to prevent mold from growing in the first place. Here is what I found.

mold on walls and paint

Mold growth on walls in a house that was flooded by Hurricane Katrina. Photo courtesy: User Infrogmation at Wikimedia Commons.

How Dangerous is Mold in our Homes?

When you hear people talking about “Toxic Black Mold” cleanup, visions of asbestos clean up come to mind, with men in bio-hazard suits and where the entire house needs to be sealed off with plastic and positive pressure fans run to keep mold spores from leaking into the house. The CDC says mold spores are linked to allergies and damp indoor environments are also linked to asthma and asthma like conditions, but the CDC also says “The term “toxic mold” is not accurate” and the link to other very serious respiratory conditions and mold spores have not been proven.

There are still many claims about serious health issues that were caused by mold, but science has not been able to conclusively link these ailments specifically to mold. There is no doubt that people (and animals) that are immuno-compromised can have serious issues with mold. Mold is definitely not good for the wood in your house, it can’t be good to breathe spores into your lungs, molds can cause allergies and some allergies can cause serious problems and some molds, like other fungi are toxic if ingested.

So the CDC says there is no conclusive link between molds and illness, but many people think mold has made them sick. With both of these statements in mind, I find the following statement baffling: “There is currently no method to test humans for toxigenic molds” (Toxic Effects of Indoor Molds-PEDIATRICS Vol. 101 No. 4 April 1998, pp. 712-714).

If there is no way to test to see if people are sick from mold, how could there be a proven link between mold and illness? But this knive cuts both ways. How can any person that has an illness prove it was caused by mold? This may be yet another case that our dependence upon the Government for accurate information and guidance may leave us dissapointed, but the private medical community hasn’t done any better.

Doctors may not be able to test for mold or link mold to illness, but common sense tells me to avoid breathing mold spores if possible. I also know that mold spores, like pollen and dust are probably in every breath of air we take, so a small mold infestation probably doesn’t raise the level of mold spores in my house any more than a windy, rainy day. If I had an 8 foot wall full of mold and spores, I would be more concerned, but my mold problem covers a 1 inch strip that is less than 2 feet long.

Mildew vs Mold

Is there a difference between mildew and mold? Well, they both are types of fungus that grow in moisture-rich conditions. Mildew is in fact a mold, often referred to as powdery mildew and is typically white or gray in color. In a FEMA document about dealing with mold and mildew after flood damage, mildew is described as a “mold in early stage”.

The texture and appearance of mold is usually fuzzy and is often black or green in color. You can prevent both mold and mildew by keeping surfaces dry and not allowing wet areas remain wet for any significant amount of time. Mold and mildew will start to grow within 24-48 hours of water exposure. You can clean up both mildew and mold using similar products such as the ones listed below. Certain types of mold such as black mold, can be more difficult to remove than mildews, as well as the depth of penetration into porous materials like walls and wood.

How to Prevent Mold

Mold spores are everywhere, just like yeast spores and pollen. Mold spores are too small to keep out of the house, but if areas where mold attempts to grow are kept dry, mold will not grow.

  • In humid areas, dehumidify; keep humidity less than 50%
  • Ventilate wet areas such as bathrooms and laundry rooms
  • Fix leaky sinks, windows and roofs promptly
  • Clean and dry any spilled water quickly

Should We Use Household Bleach to Remove Mold?

I have read that cleaning mold with bleach is the wrong thing to do. I even watched Mike Holmes on his TV show, laugh and shake his head like this was a stupid thing to do when someone tried to use bleach to kill mold, but never said why it was stupid.

Not that any parts of the U.S. Govt. are the smartest or fastest organizations to learn and disseminate information, the CDC says that we should use bleach on mold.

The EPA says to clean the mold with detergent and water and then to dry completely, but says nothing about using bleach.

OSHA has come out and said:

The use of a biocide, such as chlorine bleach, is not recommended as a routine practice during mold remediation, although there may be instances where professional judgment may indicate its use (for example, when immuno-compromised individuals are present). In most cases, it is not possible or desirable to sterilize an area, as a background level of mold spores comparable to the level in outside air will persist. However, the spores in the ambient air will not cause further problems if the moisture level in the building has been corrected.

I read several other articles about people that successfully used bleach to clean up their mold problems, so it is not necessarily a bad or laughable thing to use bleach to kill mold, it just may not be enough to kill all the mold in situations where the mold runs deep into wood. But if we fix the leak that is allowing the mold to grow, it may not matter if we kill it all the way down to it’s toes or not.

using bleach to kill mold

Bleach may be best used on non-porous surfaces to kill mold.

Household bleach is a biocide and will kill most everything it comes into contact with on hard, non-porous surfaces like sinks, tubs and counter tops. It will kill mold that it can come into contact with, but may not be able to soak down into the wood as far as necessary to kill all the mold.

There may be better products made specifically to kill molds and mildews, but keep in mind, some products are simply stain removers and may not kill mold.

Bleach Safety Tips and Facts

Never mix bleach with other chemicals, chlorine gas may be produced, and chlorine gas is deadly. Be very careful about using any chemical, especially indoors and do not use chemicals that were designed for outdoor use indoors.

Some sources say that bleach looses it’s power as much as 50% in 90 days as the chlorine constantly leaks out of the jug.

Chlorox is not the only household bleach available, but Clorox says they try to maintain a 6% hypochlorite solution so add more hypo in hot weather, it should be at least 6% if stored in a normal home for at least a year and if stored in extreme sunlight and temperature conditions, it may drop below 6% in 3-4 months, but should still work for laundry and home cleaning for 9 months. Those of you storing household bleach to disinfect water for future disasters might want to recycle it at least once a year and also store it the coolest part of your house.

FYI, to disinfect drinking water, the EPA says Add 1/8 teaspoon (or 8 drops) of regular, unscented, liquid household bleach for each gallon of water, stir it well and let it stand for 30 minutes before you use it. EPA on Disinfecting Water (pdf file).

Mold Removal Products

Here are a handful of products that have been found to remove mold:

  • Alcohol
  • Ammonia
  • Baking Soda
  • Bleach
  • Borax
  • Detergent
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Tree Tea Oil
  • Salt
  • Vinegar

This page goes into detail with each of the above listed items on how to use the product for mold removal.

Q: What methods have you used to remove mold? Which have failed and which have been successful? Have a mold problem that you can’t seem to get rid of? Let us know below in the comments.

See what the EPA has to say about mold along with further resources.

Comments, Opinions, Questions?

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