Mildew is typically white or gray, is powdery and grows on top of moist areas. Mould is black or green, and is a larger, more serious problem. Mould usually grows beneath the surface of a moist area.
Going green is the way to go
The problem is that many of the cleaning products you see in stores to tackle mould and mildew are also bad for you, made with ammonium, bleach, dangerous chemicals and toxins. That is why more and more people are choosing natural-based cleaners. “Going green” is becoming more than just a trend.
“I do not like using products in my home if I can not pronounce the ingredients,” says Sebastian Sevallo, host of HGTV’s Worst to First. “Chemicals that are made in a lab can be extremely harsh. When you use them in your home, you are exposing yourself to that chemical and the health risks associated with it.
Sevallo says he once mixed bleach and an ammonia-based cleaner in his home by mistake.
“I created a toxic and potentially deadly chlorine gas – in my own bathroom!” he says.
Natural cleaning products are better for you and the environment.
Natural cleaning products will tackle the problem
There are many natural remedies out there; including products, you likely have in your kitchen cupboard. The most popular are:
- White-distilled vinegar: a mild acid that kills most mould species.
- Hydrogen peroxide: another inexpensive product that does not contain harsh chemicals, and is safe to use. Unlike something like chlorine bleach, it is kind to the environment.
- Baking soda: a mild powder great for killing mould and for absorbing moisture to keep mould away.
Sebastian Clovis, host of HGTV’s Save My Reno, has a natural, two-step process to get rid of mould:
- Mix a teaspoon of baking soda with two cups of water into a spray bottle. Apply it to the affected area, and wipe off.
- Pour regular household white vinegar into a spray bottle, apply it to the area, let sit for an hour, and wipe off.
Other natural remedies include grapefruit extract and tea tree oil.
Are mould and mildew lurking in your home?
First, you have to understand what you are dealing with; your basement, kitchen, and bathroom are the most common places to find mould and mildew.
Carl McDowell of Canada Waterproofers remembers walking into a client’s rental property in Toronto to find a basement covered in black mould. It was the worst he had ever seen. There were water leaks through the basement walls of the house and no ventilation. Solid black mould had spread four feet up the walls. There were black spots all over the rest of the walls and the ceiling.
“I could not stay in the room,” he says. “It was terrible.”
Mould and mildew will grow anywhere in the home where there is moisture, he adds. Mould also does not form just because you have a leak somewhere, it can also be found in foundation cracks in your basement.
“Mould loves warm and damp, wet areas,” Sevallo says.
When you look at mould it might seem harmless, but mould spores can travel anywhere in the home. Mould can lead to throat and eye irritation, coughing, headaches, fatigue, fever, skin problems, nasal congestion, and nose bleeds. It can also cause allergies. There are types of mould that are more toxic and more dangerous to your health. It is important to get rid of it as soon as you see it.
When to DIY and when to call in the pros
Check your shower, baseboards, windows, ceilings, and around the pipes, for signs of mould and mildew. There are mould-testing kits out there, and if you suspect there is a more serious problem (like mould behind the walls) call in a professional to make an assessment.
“Any contamination that has spread over 30 square feet should be left to professionals,” Clovis says.
When cleaning with natural products, always have a good scrubbing brush and wear rubber gloves to protect your hands. Clean and dry the surface properly first. Buy a really good dehumidifier to dry out the room as well so the mould does not re-appear and watch for water leaks around the home, in places such as the basement, or around the plumbing.
Mould and mildew are the unfortunate by-products of all that moisture, so use natural remedies right away when mildew or mould appear. You will have better air quality and a healthier home environment.