September 8, 2009
When it comes to mould, prevention is the best remedy
Help, there’s mould in my house!
Should you discover a mould presence in your home, you need to act quickly so as to limit its spread, even if it seems to be an insignificant amount. Mould is in fact a microscopic fungus that is harmful to your health. This type of fungus, unlike those that are harmless such as yeast, develop in humid areas where it finds the nutritive elements it needs.
In a home, damp zones may be created by water infiltration, by regular activities that require water (shower, laundry or dishwashing), by a deficient ventilation system that keeps humidity in and/or by construction materials which may themselves contain sufficient moisture to allow the formation of mould.
Mould can be difficult to detect. It does not always manifest itself in a visible recognizable form, however it is extremely important to be vigilant in checking for its presence. Some of the indications of mould that you should check for are fading or black, white, orange, yellow, blue or violet spots. To differentiate mould from regular run of the mill spots, pour a drop of Javel water on it. In the case of mould, the stain should disappear or change color. A typical musty or earth smell can also indicate a mould presence even if you can’t see it. If you see any water spots, water condensation or a leak, it is likely that, sooner or later, mould will grow in these areas.
Mould has two major effects. First, it can cause material degradation that could damage your property structure. Of course, it all depends on the quantity of mould and its development stage. It can also cause serious health problems, especially among pregnant women, babies, the elderly and those who suffer from other health and respiratory problems.
Mould presence can be divided in three categories. Firstly, it is considered to be a “small zone” when the mould covers an area smaller than one square meter. You can clean a “small zone” yourself using a detergent solution such as an odorless dishwashing liquid. Note that, contrary to popular belief, bleach cannot be trusted for disinfection purposes, since too many immeasurable factors must be taken into account.
When cleaning, make sure to wear a mask, rubber gloves and protective glasses. Use a cloth soaked in detergent and water to clean hard surfaces, and rub the affected area. Then, rinse with clean water with another cloth and dry the infected area as soon as possible with a fan. When cleaning gypsum and softer materials, one must use baking soda and a damp cloth to rub the area. Painting over mould will not be an effective remedy. This will only act as a temporary camouflage as the stains will reappear shortly after. It is therefore important to clean and dry the surfaces before painting.
If you detect more than 3 mould plates each covering less than one square meter, or if combined they cover an area greater than one square meter, but less than three square meters, you are in the presence of a “middle zone”. It is still possible to clean a “middle zone” yourself, however, if mold reappears after washing, it is recommended to contact a specialist to assess its origin, because the problem could get worse with time.
Finally, if the affected area is greater than the size of a sheet of plywood, you’re facing a “large zone”. In such cases, it can cause serious health issues and you should not attempt to clean these surfaces yourself. Contact a specialist who will find the source of the problem and will establish an appropriate intervention plan. At this level, you might need to replace the materials rather than simply washing them.
The best way to avoid the appearance of mould in your property is to always keep it as dry as possible. Your goal therefore is to reduce moisture sources and, if necessary, change some of your habits. Immediately repair any damage that could cause water leakage, frequently clean all surfaces and recycle any unused items instead of storing them in your garage or basement. Tour your property regularly to detect mould and check all areas subject to water leakage. Use a dehumidifier if your house is prone to humidity and use a hygrometer to maintain the relative humidity below 45% in winter. Install a good extractor fan in your bathroom, take shorter showers and choose a high quality kitchen hood to make sure the air is well evacuated to the outside.
In short, when facing mould, it is very important to act quickly to avoid its negative effects and before it spreads to other surfaces. Prevention is always preferable to the remedy!