The time has come. After years of hard work, you can finally afford to buy your first home. Living in a rented place isn’t bad, of course, but it’s not doing it for you anymore. It doesn’t feel like home.
So you set on a search that takes a lot longer than you anticipated. Every place the realtor shows you seems worse than the one before.
It’s too small. It hasn’t been renovated since the time of Margaret Thatcher. The location’s not right. There’s always something.
You start to lose hope. “I have one more to show you”, says the realtor. “Might as well,” you think to yourself. You walk in with low expectations.
Suddenly, a smile appears on your face. It looks amazing! It’s been renovated. It’s in a great location. And inexplicably, it’s within your budget.
You sign the contract to buy it without a second thought. Otherwise, someone else might snatch it from right under your nose.
You move in. It’s perfect. Three months of bliss. Sure, the place feels a bit humid, but it’s not too bad. And then you see it – mould!
It’s just there, in the corner of the window at first. But soon it spreads. It begins to pop into the bathroom, the kitchen walls, and it’s completely overtaken the basement. And there is no more landlord to fix it. So what now?
In this article:
What we call “mould” is actually multiple species of fungus. These fungi are microscopic and they’re literally everywhere. We don’t notice them most of the time because there’s not enough of them in one place to notice.
However, in the right conditions, they multiply like, well, mushrooms. The spores germinate on a surface and begin to sprout their microscopic tentacle-like appendages. That’s when we can finally notice those black spots slowly creeping on our walls, windows, bathroom tiles, and grout.
Mould has an important role as nature’s organic recycling service. Its main function is to decompose living matter, making it an important part of the natural ecosystem.
That’s lovely and all, but what does it have to do with your bathroom? What’s mould doing there?
It’s simple – it’s doing its job. It’s decomposing organic tissues. Every time you take a shower, you leave behind an all-you-can-eat buffet for microscopic fungi. Not to mention the dampness and high temperature – a perfect environment for them to multiply.
What about the kitchen? Well, when you’re cooking, a part of the organic ingredients you boil, fry, mash, and bake stick to your walls. Besides, you’d be surprised at how many organic materials we use in buildings.
And since mould is literally everywhere, all it needs is a bit of a hospitable environment to begin colonising. Whether it’s your bathroom tiles, kitchen walls, or that piece of bread you left on the table last night.
As I said, mould is everywhere. With every breath we take, we inhale an invisible soup of fungi, bacteria, viruses, and their byproducts. In case you were wondering about the “mouldy smell” you feel when you enter a damp room, it’s mould… byproducts.
This sounds like a horrible thing (hey, I don’t like this idea any more than you do, OK?), but there’s a silver lining. Our immune system has gotten lots of practice over its 500 million years of evolution.
So we have protection against mould and we can fight it off without even knowing.
Once we inhale all the little buggers, our immune system mounts a response and swiftly deals with the intruders. This means we have nothing to worry about, right? Mmmm, not so fast. We do have protection, but that protection is not infinite.
There are many microorganisms attacking our immune system from all sides, daily. This process is strengthening it because it introduces it to new pathogens, so it develops new ways to fight off infections. Target practice, if you will.
But all these attacks can also overwhelm it. Once our resources are depleted, we become much more susceptible to infection. Now imagine what happens when you live in an environment where your immune system needs to deal with the threat of mould constantly. And what happens when it fails.
I haven’t even touched on people who suffer from other chronic conditions and whose immune systems are compromised in some way. Either overreacting (like in the case of allergies), or having completely depleted firepower (like with chemotherapy, organ transplants, or simply a weakened immune system).
To top it all off, people with chronic lung conditions can also suffer greatly from excess mould. Even more alarming, mould has been linked to asthma in children.
In other words, we can’t simply count on our immune system to save the day. We need to do something about mould, ourselves. And we need to act quickly.
Side note: there are lots of unsubstantiated and outright alarmist claims (such as neurological damage, heart disease, and more) from questionable websites. These websites use unproven claims to increase their sales. They often offer mould removal services or products so they exaggerate the health threat because they stand to gain from it. This doesn’t mean mould is safe, but you shouldn’t make decisions based on unfounded claims. As always – keep with the trusted sources.
There are two things you need to address if you want to solve your mould problem – the conditions, and the mould itself.
First things first – moisture is the biggest problem, so you need to tackle it before anything else. Nothing else you do will help if you don’t solve the moisture issue.
Mould loves moisture, so a well-ventilated home is its Achilles’ heel. If you have ventilation installed, check if it’s working properly.
If you don’t, either invest in it (though it can be costly), or start airing out your home the old-fashioned way – by cracking open a few windows. Obviously, the second option doesn’t work well in the winter.
Side note: Ensuring your bathroom is well-ventilated and dried out after you take a shower or a bath should be a priority. Find a solution that’s viable for your particular home and budget.
Where there’s mould, there’s usually a leak. Carefully inspect your roof, walls, and pipes for any leaks. Especially in the basement. If you live in a flat, there might be a leak from your upstairs neighbours, so you might want to talk to them.
Mould becomes especially prevalent in the winter due to excess condensation. There’s a huge temperature difference between the inside of your home and the outside so water is sure to condense.
Proper insulation is one of the ways to solve this problem. Investing in a dehumidifier is another.
Side note: some companies tout their dehumidifiers as “mould killers”. This is complete and utter rubbish. If you see something like this – run. A dehumidifier may be effective at lowering your indoor humidity and therefore reduce the chance of developing a mould problem. However, it will not kill mould or solve the problem on its own.
We’ve dealt with the moisture. Now it’s time to cut the mould’s food sources. Regular cleaning, especially in kitchens and bathrooms, helps to achieve it.
However, it will do nothing if you don’t resolve the moisture problem first. While cleaning makes it harder for mould to find a food source, it doesn’t eliminate the threat completely. It’s more of a prevention method that lowers the chances of a problem ocurring.
Side note: the fact that regular cleaning helps prevent mould is easily verifiable. That being said, it’s not going to solve your mould problem if you already have it.
OK, you’ve solved your moisture issues. Your home is well-ventilated and regularly cleaned. Now it’s time to tackle the mould that’s already there.
Side note: only attempt to deal with mould on your own if it affects small areas. For big affected areas, it’s best to look for a mould removal specialist. Just make sure it’s a reputable one.
A white vinegar solution is the staple of every green cleaning household. There’s a good reason for that. While it’s not as strong as bleach, it’s non-toxic (unlike bleach).
White vinegar has some strong antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties. However, it’s not a universal solution. While it works great against some types of mould, it’s completely useless against others.
This means you’ll have to try it out for yourself and see if it works. Here’s what you need:
This will help you to safely get rid of the mould.
And here’s how to clean mould with white vinegar:
Avoid using white vinegar on:
Like vinegar, hydrogen peroxide has some powerful antifungal properties. If vinegar is not applicable in your particular situation, you can try removing mould with hydrogen peroxide.
The method is the same as the one showcased above. The only difference is you let the hydrogen peroxide sit for 10 minutes instead of an hour.
Hydrogen peroxide is highly unlikely to work on porous surfaces, so only use it on a hard surface.
Baking soda is another natural supercleaner. In this case, it can be used as a fungicide. At least one study suggests that baking soda can be effective against certain types of mould.
Use the same cleaning method as the ones above, except instead of spraying it (you can’t since it’s not a liquid), you should create a paste from baking soda and water. Then simply apply it to the surface and scrub it off in 10 minutes.
Some people resort to bleach, though I don’t recommend it. Bleach is toxic and often gets mishandled. Not to mention people often mix it with other cleaners, which creates a health hazard.
If you absolutely feel you must resort to bleach, then by all means, take care. Make sure the space you can air the space out. Don’t mix it with any other chemicals. Don’t inhale the fumes. And read the label before you use it.
There are commercial products that market themselves as mould removers. Some of them work well, while others simply diluted bleach.
If you decide to use one, research it well and check out the online reviews. Also, carefully read the label and follow the instructions before use.
Mould is an annoying problem to have, yet it’s prevalent in everyday life. Almost everyone has had to deal with it at one point in their lives.
Luckily, there are things we can do to prevent mould and remove it if we’ve missed out the window of prevention.
Since mould can be a health hazard, we shouldn’t take it lightly.
Disclaimer: Samyx Cleaning is a cleaning company and this is a cleaning blog. None of the advice above should be interpreted as medical advice. If you have any medical problems, make an appointment with your general physician or another health specialist.
Hi, I’m Atanas - brand consultant and writer. I’m helping Samyx Cleaning create the best cleaning company blog on the Internet. Join us on our journey and learn how to live a cleaner, healthier, happier life in the process.