Can you safely and permanently clean up mould and mildew in your Muskoka Home? We have all heard about how some moulds are toxic so how do you know what you can tackle and what you should leave to a professional?
As a Realtor, I see all types of homes and cottages, from elaborate and grand to small and cozy and I can assure you, that any one of them can be prone to mould. It is not a question of cleanliness but more one of ventilation. When you find mould in your home it is better to take care of it sooner rather than later. Mould can cause health problems and damage what it grows on. The spores of mould fungi commonly float through the air and when they adhere to damp surfaces and start to grow, they can gradually consume the surface. The key to keeping your Muskoka home in great shape is to get the cleanup done before any damage happens.
There are lots of different types of mould which are more accurately called fungi. Many produce allergens that can cause health related reactions in some people
- Eye, nose and throat irritation
- Coughing and phlegm build-up
- Wheezing and shortness of breath
- Symptoms of asthma
- Allergic reactions
Health Canada has a great web page with helpful video segments and lots of tips and recommendations.
Moulds cannot grow without moisture so controlling moisture is the key to preventing and or eliminating mould growth. Moulds are very fast growing organisms and can take hold in a very short time. Add a little heat to the mix and in just a few hours mould can have a real grip on your home. In warm Southern climates, if you leave your laundry in the washing machine for just a few hours after the cycle has finished, you could have mould all over the laundry.
Where is Mould Most Common
A leaky roof or plumbing, flood damage, or indoor humidity that’s too high and without proper ventilation can all lead to mould problems. Anyplace that remains damp and unventilated is a potential mould-forming zone. “Anywhere water travels” in a structure is vulnerable to mould. That includes areas where major plumbing arteries are located, crawl spaces with drains, walls plumbed from bathroom to bathroom and between floors. Incorrectly sealed tubs and faulty construction can cause water to seep into crevices and create big problems over time. Buildings that are tightly sealed may lack adequate ventilation, which can lead to moisture buildup.
Most Mould-Prone Areas
- Basements or cellars
- Under kitchen and bathroom sinks
- Under or behind refrigerators
- Behind walls that house plumbing
- Around air-conditioning units
- Baseboards or around windowsills
- Under carpeting
Mildew is another fungi-produced coating that can form on damp surfaces. Mildew usually grows in a flat pattern and appears powdery and white or gray. Moulds are darker in color, usually black or green but can be almost any colour. Moulds penetrate the surface of what it’s growing on. You may follow the same cleaning steps below to remove mould and mildew.
Here are some options I’ve seen on a variety of websites for simple surface mould removal.
Bleach: Mix 1 cup bleach with enough water to make 1 gallon. Put the solution in a spray bottle, or spread it with a sponge or cloth. There’s no need to rinse.
Borax: Mix 1 cup borax with enough water to make 1 gallon. Borax is less harsh-smelling and corrosive than bleach. Apply the solution to the surface and scrub with a brush; don’t rinse. Wipe the surface dry.
Vinegar: Use full-strength vinegar in a spray bottle. Spray the affected area and wipe off.
Ammonia: This is suitable for killing mould on smooth, nonporous surfaces. NEVER USE IT WITH BLEACH. Treat the area with a solution of equal parts ammonia and water, leave on for 10 minutes, and rinse with water.
Hydrogen peroxide: Spray full-strength (3%)hydrogen peroxide on the mouldy surface and let it sit for 10 minutes to loosen the mould. Wipe the surface and don’t rinse.
Baking soda: Mix ½ teaspoon baking soda in 1 gallon water and scrub the mouldy surface, then rinse with water. This is particularly useful for killing mould on upholstery.
Tea tree oil: Use 1 teaspoon tea tree oil per cup of water and spray on the surface. Leave it on for a few minutes and then wipe off.
Note: Health Canada suggests that before beginning any mould clean-up, take steps to ensure that you do not expose yourself or others to mould spores. It is recommended that you wear an adequate breathing mask (N95 or better respirator), safety glasses or goggles and rubber gloves.
Even with adequate precautions, mould spores may become airborne. As a precaution during clean-up, children, the elderly and sensitive people such as those with asthma, allergies or other health problems should leave the house. Consult your physician if in doubt.
To Clean or Throw Away?
If the mould is on a porous surface, such as carpeting, ceiling tiles, drywall or wallpaper, the items might have to be thrown away since the mould may be impossible to remove.
When Should You Call a Professional?
Wiping down mildew in damp areas is always a good idea, but how do you know when it’s time to bring in a professional? Health Canada advises using a mould remediation expert if there is
- One or more patches of mould larger than 1 square metre
- More than three patches of mould less than 1 square metre
- Patches of mould that keep coming back after cleaning
- A mould problem that you cannot solve on your own
Testing for Mould
Chronic allergy-type health problems or mildew odors mean it’s time to consider more extensive mould treatment. Start by using a mould testing company, which will take samples, send them to a lab, and obtain a report on mould levels and species. Use a company that does testing only, to avoid a conflict of interest. Once the mould species are identified you can determine if a remediation specialist is indicated.
There is no doubt that some types of mould are toxigenic meaning they produce substances toxic to humans. They are rare in this region but it you have a lot of mould or several different looking moulds you really should call a professional to take care of the situation. Below are several companies that service this area and should be able to assist you.
How to Prevent Mould
Just like granny always said “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” so the very best way to deal with mould and mildew is to prevent it from growing in the first place. Controlling moisture inside your Muskoka home is the key to avoiding mould. Consider an annual inspection of roofing, plumbing, exterior drainage and interior ventilation to verify that there are no repairs required. Check for leaks under sinks and in crawl spaces. Always use ventilation in a bathroom to remove condensation from showers.