When you discover a mold problem in your home or business, you basically have three options. You can 1) Ignore the problem and hope it doesn’t get worse, 2) Call in the professionals to assess the problem and remove the mold, or 3) Take measures to clean up the mold yourself.
The first option really isn’t an option at all, since mold is associated with all kinds of health and property risks. The second option often results in a complete, lasting removal of mold from your home, but it does come at a price. The third option—attempting a DIY mold removal technique—is attractive because it allows you to act immediately with minimal costs.
Before we break down the three most common DIY mold removal techniques, it bears mentioning that attempting to remove mold carries risks. Handling mold and mold-infested materials is dangerous when you don’t use protective equipment and guard yourself against acute exposure to mold spores. It can also result in a temporary setback for the mold, instead of complete removal. This is because mold colonies often extend beyond what is visible.
That said, there are situations in which DIY techniques can be effective. Here are the three most common ways to remove mold yourself.
1. Bleach and other biocides
Biocides, and chlorine bleach in particular, seem like a great solution to knock out mold. After all, this stuff is powerful and unforgiving when it comes to microorganisms like mold spores. Most people will mix a solution of roughly one cup of bleach to 1 gallon of water, and transfer the liquid to a spray bottle which is then applied directly to mold growth.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not recommend the use of biocides as a routine technique for dealing with mold problems. This is because of the fact that biocides are extremely strong, and improper use presents its own dangers. Protect your skin from any contact with such chemicals, and make sure the area is completely ventilated after applying bleach. Also, never mix bleach with other cleaning agents, as the resulting fumes can be toxic.
2. White Distilled Vinegar
This is an attractive solution for many homeowners, especially those who prefer natural solutions that are easy on the environment and don’t present serious health risks. The most common technique is to fill a spray bottle with white distilled vinegar (no water or other admixtures) and spray the vinegar directly onto the mold without scrubbing or rinsing. Some reports indicate that over 80% of mold can be dealt with in this way. Also, your contact with mold spores is minimized since you aren’t doing any scrubbing.
The effectiveness of vinegar is a contentious topic. It may work in some situations, but even killing 80% of visible mold is usually not enough to deal with a colony.
3. Borax (or Boric Acid)
Borax is basically a mineral substance, and is basically natural although potentially dangerous. It’s commonly used to kill entire ant colonies, and has also been applied as disinfectant, herbicide, and deodorizing agent. The common treatment is to dissolve 1 cup of Borax into a gallon of water, mix well, and apply the solution directly to mold using a spray bottle. The mold is scrubbed off after several minutes, but the solution itself is not rinsed off.
Borax can be effective with minor mold infestations due to its high alkalinity, but professionals generally do not consider it a long-term solution for mold cleanup. People have, however, reported good results with Borax.
Which technique should you use?
People have often used one of these techniques in the past, and experience is always a good measuring stick. That said, mold comes in many forms. Professional mold removal companies will use different techniques depending on the type of mold they find, but they’ll always start the process with a detailed assessment. This allows them to outline a strategy for dealing with mold in a comprehensive way.
If you’re determined to tackle the problem yourself, any of these three methods have been known to bring good results, depending on the type and size of the infestation. Either way, the very best thing you can do is to understand and address the underlying conditions (such as leaky pipes) that allowed mold to grow in the first place.
Please feel free to leave your questions and comments below. We’d love to hear about your DIY mold removal adventures.