After the last few weeks of rain here in Sydney we have seen an increase in mould concerns from tenants. So we thought this article might be helpful for everyone trying to prevent or remove mould from his or her home.
What Causes Mould?
Moisture is a vital element in the development of mould. There are several ways in which moisture can enter the home and create a mould problem.
A leaky roof, broken pipes, or water from a flood can be external causes of moisture in the house. Mould grows very quickly and becomes a problem in areas that have been flooded – Hurricane Katrina, the Brisbane floods and the Japanese tsunami all saw serious mould issues emerge very rapidly once the flood waters had subsided.
However the most common cause of moisture is created within the building itself: through the overcrowding of rooms (people breathing and sweating creates moisture), air drying of clothes indoors, appliances such as stoves, washing machines and dishwashers with no exhaust systems and poor temperature control, leading to condensation on windows and walls.
When it’s 40 degrees outside and you set your thermostat to an icebox inside, if there’s a gap in the window or you open the door then hot, moist air will enter the home and condense on interior surfaces. This also happens if it’s very cold outside, but you inconsistently heat the inside of the house.
Mould needs organic matter – such as dust or dead skin cells – to thrive, so it’s important to keep up with regular vacuuming and dusting.
How to prevent mould.
Prevention is key when it comes to mould. Bathrooms are havens for the stuff! To keep it to a minimum, install a good exhaust fan and prevent moisture build-up on surfaces. Squeegee or towel-dry your tiles and floors immediately after showering, and make sure you clean up scum, which mould feeds on.
Once mould gets its grip on grout or silicone, getting rid of it is almost impossible. When mould grows, it develops hyphae, or roots, which grow into the grout or silicone. You can clean the surfaces of the grout or silicone, but not deep into it. In those cases you have to replace the silicone or re-grout your bathroom.
Building ventilation is vital in homes. Inadequate ventilation is one of the main reasons homes become vulnerable to mould growth. When the air stops moving, you can get a build-up of humidity and moisture in those areas.
Australians need to make informed heating and cooling choices to ensure mould doesn’t develop. Several experts we consulted warned against the use of un-flued gas heaters, which release moisture into the air, and can lead to problems – particularly because people trying to heat their home aren’t exactly going to open the windows to let the air flow!
Top tips for keeping your house mould-free
- Keep the temperature in your home even. Try not to let one room get much warmer or colder than the next.
- In winter, have small heaters spread throughout your home rather than one large heater in the centre.
- Never use un-flued gas heaters because they can release water vapour into the air.
- Always use the exhaust when you’re showering or cooking and open windows when possible.
- Clean up mould as soon as you notice it. Don’t let it settle in.
- Wipe up condensation on walls or windows whenever you notice it.
- Keep blinds and curtains open during the day.
How to remove mould
- The first step is to vacuum up the mould, but only if your vacuum is equipped with a good HEPA filter, otherwise you could be making the problem worse by spreading it around.
- The second step is to remove the remaining mould. Our experts recommend using diluted vinegar (which causes mould to overeat and die) to clear surfaces of mould in the home.
How to use the diluted vinegar solution
- Pour a concentration of 80% vinegar to 20% water into three buckets.
- Grab a microfibre cloth, dip it into the first bucket, then use it for cleaning a patch of mould.
- The same microfibre cloth should then be rinsed in the second bucket, then rinsed again in the third to ensure cross-contamination doesn’t occur.
- Microfibre cloths, which reach deep into tiny crevices and have a slight electric charge, can be bought cheaply and washed on a hot cycle in the washing machine with vinegar up to 100 times.
- Using vinegar may leave streaks on surfaces, so further clean-up of those areas may be required for cosmetic purposes. In this instance, bleach can be used to remove discolouration.