What may appear to be a harmless black spot on your wall or ceiling, could quickly turn into clusters of mould, rapidly growing and contaminating the air in your home. From spreading diseases to causing structural problems, mould is a type of fungus you do NOT want growing in, or around, your house! As a responsible homeowner, it is your duty to inspect your property for mould or other types of fungus and, if found, take immediate action to remove it in a safe and effective manner.
It’s easy for people to think that their house isn’t at risk of a mould infestation, simply because the weather conditions aren’t ‘favourable’ for the fungus to grow; however, within the walls of every home, everywhere, there are certain indoor conditions that promote mould-growth. We’ll get to that in a bit, but first, let’s explain what this terrible thing called mould looks like.
Black mould (stachybotrys atra) is the most common type of fungus found in homes. It may not always grow in plain sight (which is why inspections are a must), however, one way to identify hidden black mould is by its odour. If you find a room to be smelling musty all of a sudden, you could very well have mould growing behind a covered area. Similarly, mould can cause a string of allergic reactions including sneezing, wheezing, coughing, and eye and skin irritation.
Of course, the biggest indication of mould buildup is a blackish discolouration on your walls and/or ceiling. It can appear as either a damp and slimy texture, or fuzzy black spots. On the other hand, different types of mould can be found in various colours including, green, brown, white and orange.
Other signs of mould include peeling of paint, small bulges in your walls/ceilings, overall discolouration, and unusual smells.
As we mentioned earlier, the weather doesn’t always play a role in the buildup of mould within your home; various factors contribute to the existence of the fungus and spreading of the same. For example, when condensation occurs, that is, humid air coming in contact with a cold surface causing water droplets to form, this creates a breathing ground for mould.
Typically, any room or area that encounters high humidity is considered a favourable environment for various types of mould to thrive in. This includes laundry rooms, basements, bathrooms, attics, garages, and even certain areas of a kitchen.
Other places to check for mould include around an air conditioner’s condenser, as well as behind or underneath washing machines and piping fixtures, are also common mould hotspots. Lastly, underneath kitchen sinks or areas that have encountered water leaks, should be inspected regularly for mould growth.
Safety Precautions When Removing Mould
Before we get to the process of removing mould from your walls and ceiling, it’s important to learn about safety precautions when dealing with this relatively dangerous fungus, as well as some of the chemical cleaning agents to be used for removal.
- Use old clothes when cleaning mould; long sleeves and long pants are advised
- Always wear gloves, a dust mask, and protective eyewear to avoid mould spores or cleaning sprays from making skin/eye contact
- Create as much ventilation in the room before you begin; open windows, doors and use exhaust fans (if applicable)
- Once the removal process begins, avoid touching clean areas or objects with the gloves on as this may spread mould spores around your house; wash the gloves thoroughly with a disinfectant after you are done using them
- Wash your clothes separately in hot water using a trusted anti-bacterial laundry detergent
- Asthmatics or anyone suffering from respiratory problems, severe allergies, or a weak immune system, should not attempt removing mould, nor be in proximity at the time of the removal process
How to Remove Mould in Your Home
With the information above firmly in mind, you are now ready to learn three respective methods to safely remove mould from painted walls/ceilings, drywall, and cement.
Painted Walls and Ceilings
Let’s start with the most common indoor surface where mould tends to grow first – painted walls/ceilings. With all the necessary safety precautions taken, follow the guide below to remove mould from your painted walls and ceiling.
Making the Cleaning Solution
Depending on how big the area to be cleaned is, make the desired amount of mould removal cleaner by maintaining the following ratios:
- 2 cups hot water
- 1/4 cup white vinegar
- 2 tablespoons borax
Mix these household ingredients in a bowl until the borax powder has dissolved completely; pour the solution into a spray bottle thereafter.
Step-by-Step Cleaning Process
STEP 1: Clear the area around the mould to avoid spreading the bacteria to other items. Place some drop cloths on the floor in case of spills and such (optional).
STEP 2: Spray the cleaner directly onto the mould to dampen it completely. Not only will this help to kill mould, but it also keeps the spores from becoming airborne as you begin cleaning.
STEP 3: Dip a clean sponge into a bucket of water and squeeze out the excess; gently wipe the wall one section at a time, moving the sponge in one direction – i.e. top to bottom, or left to right. Dip and wring the sponge after cleaning each section, and replace the water if needed.
STEP 4: Inspect the wall for spores that may be clinging to the surface and repeat steps 2 and 3 if required.
STEP 5: Wipe over the wall with a clean, damp towel or sponge to ensure that any residue from the cleaning solution is removed. Be gentle when cleaning walls that have been damp for a long period of time to avoid damaging the paint finish.
STEP 6: Blot the walls with a clean absorbent cloth to remove as much moisture as possible. It’s also advisable to ventilate the room by leaving windows open, and fans running to aid in drying the wall/ceiling faster.
Mould buildup on drywall presents more of a problem when compared to painted walls, simply because it is a porous surface. This allows the mould to grow into the structure more easily, making it rather troublesome to remove. Nevertheless, with the steps below, you can safely and effectively remove mould from your drywall.
Step-by-Step Cleaning Process
STEP 1: Use a HEPA filter vacuum cleaner to remove mould from the surface, as well as spores that have threaded their way into the structure. The reason why this type of vacuum cleaner is advised over traditional ones is owed to the fact they are more effective in removing extremely fine particles. It’s also advisable to vacuum the areas surrounding the mould on your walls to remove spores that may not be visible to the naked eye.
STEP 2: For a severe case, select a suitable mould-killing product intended for drywall. Milder cases, on the other hand, can be cleaned up using the same homemade solution for painted walls. With your chosen cleaning solution at hand, apply it directly onto the bristles of a soft, handheld scrub brush, and begin cleaning the wall by brushing in circular motions. Rinse out the bristles at intervals to avoid spreading mould spores around, and be sure to keep the saturation of your wall to a minimum by removing excess water from the brush before reusing it.
STEP 3: Wipe the wall with paper towels to absorb as much moisture as possible. The quicker your wall dries up, the better.
STEP 4: Using a sanitary wipe (or multiple for large areas), wipe over your freshly cleaned wall to ensure that any spores remaining on the surface are picked up or killed. This also aids in keeping mould at bay.
STEP 5: Grab some more paper towels to help dry the wall. Turn on the fan(s) in the room and leave windows open for increased ventilation. If you happen to own a pedestal fan, face it towards the wall and run it on the highest speed.
In places like garages and basements, unfinished cemented walls and floors are not uncommon; unfortunately, mould-growth on these surfaces is (common)! Particularly in rooms that encounter high levels of moisture and/or humidity, the buildup of mould is generally found on unfinished cement before other types of surfaces. Here’s how you can get rid of it.
Making the Cleaning Solution
The strength of the cleaning solution will depend on the severity of your mould problem. Keeping that in mind, mix the following ingredients together:
- 1 part water
- 1 part household ammonia
- Liquid dish soap
To increase the strength, simply add more dish soap and household ammonia. It’s advisable to begin with a weaker solution, increasing the strength when/if needed.
Step-by-Step Cleaning Process
STEP 1: Wet the cement by spraying it with plain water to keep mould spores from dispersing into the air.
STEP 2: Dip a scrub brush with medium-hard bristles into the cleaning solution and begin scrubbing the mould away. If you are removing mould from a cemented floor, opt for a long-handled broom with stiff bristles. Bear in mind that the cleaner should start to foam or create suds as you scrub the cement; if this doesn’t happen, a stronger solution is advised.
STEP 3: Allow the cleaner to sit for about 30 minutes before inspecting it. As the foamy coat of your homemade cleaning solution starts to dry or set in, you will notice if the mould has been removed, or not (check for dark patches). For stubborn mould, a second scrubbing (or coat) without rinsing the surface is recommended.
STEP 4: Depending on whether you are removing mould from a concrete floor or wall, you can either rinse it off with a hose, or use a wet brush (respectively). The latter option will require more time and effort to remove the soapy residue, however, if you intend on keeping water usage to a minimum, this is the way to go. You will need a bucket of water (to be replaced with fresh water at intervals), and a large enough brush to cover a wider area as you go about scrubbing off the cleaner.
STEP 5: Speed up the drying process by running fans and increasing ventilation with opened windows and doors.
Preventive Measures to Keep Mould at Bay
The time and effort you spend in removing mould from your home should not go in vain. In other words, simply cleaning up mould isn’t enough unless you take measures to prevent it from growing back (because it will)! The key here is to banish mould in your home once and for all so that you needn’t go through this entire process again.
Here are some routine, household practices you can adopt to ensure that mould is kept at bay:
- Install exhaust fans in rooms with high humidity or moisture
- Ventilate your home by keeping windows open whenever possible
- Run ceiling fans more often during damp weather
- Increase the amount of sunlight coming into your house by opening curtains
- Use dehumidifiers in rooms without windows
- Keep the window and door open after showering or cleaning the bathroom to help it dry out faster; run the exhaust fan during these activities, as well as for about 15 minutes after you have finished
- Dry up shower curtains or doors with a towel as soon as possible
- Mix 2 parts white vinegar, 1 part water, and a few drops of essential oil; pour the solution into a spray bottle and use it to spritz and wipe down common mould hotspots in your home
- Do routine inspections on your pipes for leakages or other signs of dampness in and around your house
- Check the foundation of your house for water collection during the rainy season or after a storm
- Look for any cracks in your home’s foundation which primarily implies that you have a bigger problem on your hands, mould-growth being the second
- Get your carpets cleaned professionally at least once a year; if it encounters prolonged exposure to water, call in a professional immediately
- Keep your house clean and sanitary on a regular basis
There’s no need to panic when you find mould growing in your home; simply follow the necessary precautions to go about removing the fungus and keeping it at bay, once and for all!