Mold can grow anywhere there are damp conditions – from a windowsill to a
bathroom, to a whole house. While the health effects of most common molds are minimal, the chemicals we commonly use to remove the unsightly growth can harm our health. Mold cleaners can contain toxic chemicals such as pentachorophenol, which can be harmful through skin absorption or inhalation, and formaldehyde, which can cause cancer as well as irritate eyes, throat, skin, and lungs. Many mold cleaners carry the "DANGER" warning label and state that they should be used only in a well-ventilated area (next time you want to clean mold from your shower, look around for the ventilation …)
Fortunately, there are ways to clean and even prevent mold that are natural and safe
for you and your family.
Mold is a living organism that needs certain conditions to stay alive. A moist, dark,
environment with little moving air is perfect. Mold just can not live in an environment
that is dry, light, or breezy. The solution to any mold problem of any kind is to
introduce heat (to dry the moisture), light, or moving air (such as from a fan).
I used to live in an old house in a forest, next to a creek, in an area that has a lot of
rainfall in the winter. One year was particularly cold and rainy and so to conserve
heat, I closed the door on my extra bedroom, which contained books and research
papers, a bed, and out-of-season clothing. By the end of winter, there was so much
mold in that room that was was literally growing on my clothing. My cotton espadrille
shoes and cloth-covered binders were covered with blue fuzz. What to do? Mold was
covering literally everything!
In my situation, I opted to use heat. I put a portable space heater in the room and
closed the door. After several hours I peeked in and steam was rising. It was like a
sauna. After twenty-four hours, however, all was bone dry and I was able to brush
visible mold (now a dry powder) from walls, clothing, and other surfaces. The moral
of the story: if you live in a damp environment that does not get much sun, make
sure your heat circulates completely around the house, and even though it may take
more energy, it's needed to keep your home dry and safe. Mold can do damage to
material possession and human health, so its better to stay warm and dry.
If you have just a small area of mold, use a hand-held dryer to dry it up in just a few
You can prevent mold from growing by keeping areas dry. Find the source of
moisture and control it. Mold in an undersink cabinet, for example, may require
fixing leaky pipes. Controlling mold in a bathroom may involve installing a small
space heater to run after a shower to dry out the room, or using a fan for the same
purpose. No moisture – no mold.
In a closet, hang garments with space between them to allow for air-flow and install
a small light, both to dispel darkness and provide a little heat. If you live in a very
humid area, a dehumidifier may be necessary.
To remove mold from shower tile or other hard surface, mix borax and water, or
vinegar and water, in a spray bottle. Spray it on and the mold wipes right off. Borax
inhibits mold growth, so wash down the walls in your bathroom with a borax
solution and just leave it on, or sprinkle borax in damp cabinets under the sink. If
you need something stronger to remove stubborn mold, use hydrogen peroxide.
Steam cleaners – which clean, sanitize, and deodorize using only hot water – also
work great on mold. You can purchase small hand-held steam cleaners in the
housewares department of discount stores for about $ 50 or larger units on the
Read more about controlling mold without toxic chemicals in my new book Home
Safe Home, at http://www.dld123.com/homesafehome.html .