DIY mould removers
The mould that appears in the apartment in winter and early spring is not only ugly but also unhealthy. Are expensive commercial products more effective against mould than homemade, green cleaners?
Mould is built up primarily from fungi that grow rapidly at high (above 70%) relative humidity and produce a large number of tiny spores that are easily transmitted by the movement of air. They are very useful organisms: in the garden and the forest they help the decomposition of dead plant parts and the formation of humus. A hidden corner in a poorly ventilated, damp room – well, that’s a paradise for these fungi. As soon as the residents spot the mould, however, they start cleaning the house desperately.
The human organism is normally able to cope with 100-500 spores per cubic meter. At a spore load higher than that a state of hypersensitivity will sooner or later occur. Afterwards even a lower spore count will trigger an allergic reaction of the human body.
Allergy symptoms vary depending on where the spores had settled within the body: spores established in the nasal passages can cause allergic rhinitis, those settled in the bronchi and bronchioles may lead to asthma while those entering the air sacs may result in the inflammation of the wall of the air sacs. Other allergic symptoms may include rash, eczema, gastrointestinal allergy (diarrhea) or allergic conjunctivitis.
Why do we have mould in certain places all the time?
In all cases, the main cause of mould is the high humidity of the air – due to a leaking plumbing or drying clothes for instance. Mould is often produced when a poorly insulated wall cools down so much in winter that moisture condenses on the interior walls.
What is wrong with commercial anti-mould agents?
20 commercial anti-mould agents were tested by the German consumer organization Stiftung Warentest a few years ago. Results of the test show that each agent is indeed effective in killing mould, but all of them have a detrimental effect on their users. These agents contain the non-green substance hypochlorite (commonly known as bleach), which might remain in the air of the room for a long time and have a harmful effect on the human body. Hypochlorite-containing agents are deceptive because they actually only whiten the treated wall surface but leave mould pieces behind, which is detrimental to health.
How do traditional agents work?
Conventional agents are effective against moulds too and pose fewer health risks.
✓ Alcohol: pharmacy alcohol (ethanol / spirits) is an effective and cheap solution as it evaporates quickly so no harmful substances remain in the air. Do not inhale while using it. Alcohol is flammable. Make sure you open the window during / after treating the wall.
✓ Hydrogen peroxide: it is also effective against mould and it also whitens the wall. As it decomposes into water and oxygen there isn’t any harmful residue left. A solution of about 3% is recommended by experts. In its concentrated form it is irritating the skin so do wear gloves when using it. Mould is often found in bathrooms, on the tiles or grout. After a hydrogen peroxide wash rub the surface using a scouring agent and a brush. Wash with hydrogen peroxide again.
When using any of these two conventional agents, apply them to the affected surface at least twice in a row. No matter which agent you have used to remove mould – always ventilate thoroughly during / after cleaning.
Can mould be removed with vinegar?
Unfortunately, vinegar in itself is not sufficient to remove mould. If you clean with vinegar only, some of the mould will remain, which is an excellent medium for “new-comer” moulds to thrive.
Tips against mould in the apartment
The agents alone do not eliminate the problem. In order to prevent mould from reappearing in the area, keep the walls as warm and dry as you can and keep humidity low. To achieve this, good external insulation and ventilation are crucial. This is how you can determine the relative humidity inside your home: The ideal humidity range in the apartment is 40-60% for adults and 60-70% for small children. Does your apartment mould too often? You might want to purchase a humidity meter – a simpler device costs 6-7000 HUF.
- Ventilate thoroughly three times a day
The most effective way to expel mould from your home is to fully open the windows at least three times a day and do a 5-10 minute cross ventilation. The best is to open the windows in the morning before heading off to work, in the afternoon when you get home, and in the evening before going to bed. We recommend that you do a cross ventilation after cooking or bathing.
- Maintain a steady indoor room temperature
The ability of the air to absorb moisture depends on the temperature: the air can contain more water at higher temperatures and less water at lower temperatures. The “extra” water precipitates at lower temperatures, which is why intermittent heating often generates mould.
- Wipe off the tiles, leave the bathroom door open
The bathroom is an ideal terrain for mould. Wipe the water off the tiles after showering. You might want to install a fan, but it also helps to open the door after taking a shower. During the day, keep the bathroom door open as long as you can.
- Keep your bathroom warm
High temperature air can absorb more moisture than cold air, so as long as you keep your bathroom warm you will prevent precipitation.
Looking for more tips to go green in your household? Join one of our EcoTeams!
Green&Safe LIFE-styles is supported by the European Union LIFE program and co-funded by the Hungrian Ministry of Agriculture. Project ID: ENV GIE HU000622 Green & Safe LIFE-styles.