Not all mould is bad – after all, it helps convert grapes to wine, milk curd to blue cheese and has even contributed to medical breakthroughs like penicillin. But that’s very cold comfort when this living organism has invaded clothes or ruined timber.
Mould can grow on almost any surface at any time of the year and it’s hard to destroy. It usually shows as black, brown or green spots, and this microscopic fungi can thrive in any damp, warm or humid environment. While mildew is technically a species of mould – you can’t miss its strong odour! – it grows most commonly as a fuzzy white build-up in the bathroom. It clings to the grout between tiles and it’s a real headache.
Mould and mildew not only affect houses – they can affect people too. They release particles that can aggravate asthma and allergies and even cause headaches. So, to avoid these problems, here’s how to seek and destroy mould and mildew build-up…
The right conditions needto be present for mould to grow. “Prevention is key, so the first thing to look for is moisture,” says Penny Tralau of Mould Rescue.
Excess or trapped water acts like a petri dish for mould. “Check for condensation in bathrooms, laundries and kitchens, taking careful note of windows, areas around appliances, toilet tanks and plumbing fixtures.” Also investigate any standing exterior water. Black or dark green mottling on surfaces is a sure sign that mould is present.
How to banish mould
- The key to preventing mould is reducing moisture, and the easiest solution is prevention. “First job is to have a maintenance check and fix any leaky pipes, dripping taps, roof leaks or foundation cracks,” says Penny. And ensure you mop up any water immediately after spill.
- If you’ve had common mould occurrences, check the walls behind the sofa or the bed to make sure no longstanding mould has settled in.
- Air-conditioners and heating ducts can also harbour mould. If any moisture appears near a vent, or if there’s a mouldy smell, hire a specialist. And during warm, dry summer days, give your house, and particularly your basement, a good airing.
- In the bathroom, there are some quick daily duties to combat mildew build-up. Make sure all surfaces are free of dirt, grease and body oil, and spread towels so they can dry completely. “A heated towel rail means you won’t have any soggy wet towels in the room,” says Penny. “Also, a dehumidifier in the problematic months of the year will help keep the environment dry.”
- Remember, the biggest mistake is just wiping the mould away. “Spotting mould is an early warning sign of a moisture problem inside the walls or ceilings,” she says. Finding and stopping the water source is the only way to prevent future problems or if you’re not confident, bring in a mould specialist.
- If you’ve found mould on your clothes, throw them in the washing machine, and add white vinegar to the rinse cycle. Vinegar also works fantastically well if you have any mildew on a hard, non-porous surface, such as porcelain or ceramic tiles.
- To clean stained tiles or grout in the bathroom, use a mixture of a half cup hydrogen peroxide to one cup water. Simply spray it onto a surface, allow to dry, then wipe with a damp cloth.
- If the bathroom or kitchen wall is sound but the mould stains still won’t go away, it’s time for the big guns – regrouting. It involves scraping out the caulk and stained grout, the applying an antimicrobial treatment before regrouting. But be prepared – this is definitely a job for a professional.