1 October 2019

Home health: the dangers of mould and how to rid your home of it

Pat Carbone
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As we transition further into the warmer seasons, one of the undesirable impacts of trying to warm our homes in winter rears its ugly (and toxic) head. Closing doors and windows and turning up the heat makes us toasty warm, but it also creates a breeding ground for scungy muck in bathrooms, walls and ceilings.

If you’ve been feeling a little short of breath, notice an odd, almost alcohol-type scent and have developed an annoying cough that doesn’t seem to pass, you could be living with mould.

WHAT IS MOULD?

There are various types of mould, but they are all microscopic, multicellular fungi organisms that flourish in humid environments. It can take hold anywhere that it has access to moisture, the right temperature and a source of sustenance.

It absolutely loves damp, non-porous surfaces like tiles and grout where it can easily attach itself, which is why it is often found in bathrooms. However, it also thrives off the proteins from timber and plaster, which is why it is also commonly identified in walls and ceilings – especially when there is poor or inadequate ventilation.

WHAT ARE THE DANGERS?

The vast majority of types of mould are pathogenic to humans, causing a host of health concerns to those exposed for extended periods. This is because mould propagates itself by releasing spores into the air. When inhaled, they can cause an allergic or immune response, or most often respiratory issues.

Breathing in mould spores inflames airways, congests nasal cavities, and causes chest tightness, wheezing, throat irritation and coughing. Prolonged exposure can even reduce the capacity and function of your lungs and bring about chronic health issues like adult atopic asthma. In extreme cases, it has been linked to dementia.

HOW TO GET RID OF IT

Step 1: Assess the damage

If the mould is attached to a material that is extremely porous (e.g. clothing, carpet or furniture), there is a good chance that it cannot be removed.

If it is in semi-porous materials (e.g. timber or plaster), you have a chance of removing it, but there is always a chance it will return.

For non-porous materials (e.g. hard plastics) you should be able to completely eradicate it.

Step 2: Get rid of materials that can’t be cleaned

If you have mould on an extremely porous material, don’t even bother. Just throw it out. The chances of getting rid of the mould are basically nil, and by keeping the material in your home you risk spreading the infestation further.

Step 3: Surface clean the affected areas

Start by vacuuming the area with a good vacuum cleaner that features a HEPA filter. Old vacs that don’t have these filters could end up spreading the spores, so make sure yours is up to scratch. Following that, a good clean with a surface spray will remove the top layer of nastiness on the mould patch.

Step 3: Scrub the area with mould killing treatments

If you are using a bleach-based cleaner, it must contain at least 10% concentration of bleach, otherwise you are likely wasting your time. Alternatively, mix one part bleach with three parts water in a bucket and give the area some solid elbow grease.

Many experts agree that vinegar solutions are extremely effective at killing and removing mould. Mix one part vinegar with four parts water, get a stiff bristled brush, and give it a thorough scrub.

Step 4: Rinse thoroughly

Once you’ve killed the mould and removed it from your surfaces, the spores and fragments from your scrubbing efforts can turn into toxic particles. To prevent this, wash the area with water and generic cleaning agents and then ensure you have dried it as much as possible.

FINAL WORD

If you notice a few blackish-green spots on your walls, ceilings or grout, take action immediately. The longer you leave it, the worse it will get, and the more dire the consequences. If you’ve tried to remove mould and it simply won’t budge, it’s time to invest in your health and call in the experts to get rid of it once and for all

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