DIY Mold Removal

by Alina Bradford

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Mold is a big problem in the steamy South where the high humidity feeds its need for moisture. My home is constantly under attack it seems, and every member in my family is severally allergic to mold. Being frugal, I wanted to try getting rid of the mold without the help of a professional, which would cost me more than $1,000.

First, I tried scrubbing the walls with bleach. It seemed to work at first, but within days, it looked as if I hadn't done anything at all. Why? "Bleach does not kill mold," says Michael Dooley, the Vice President of the New Mexico chapter the American Society of Home Inspectors. I was shocked when I heard this, until I did some research and realized that the reason you use bleach on white clothes is to remove color. Essentially, I was just removing the color from the mold; fooling myself into thinking it was gone.

Dooley says that there are some great, inexpensive solutions to killing mold. One of them is using a cleaning product that contains at least 3% hydrogen peroxide for non-porous materials. Inspired, I made a solution that was one part hydrogen peroxide and three parts water and put it into a spray bottle. I applied the mixture to the mold in my house, and I have to say that it was very effective. And since a bottle of hydrogen peroxide costs less than a dollar, it is affordable, too.

"Another inexpensive alternative," says Dooley, "is to make a paste with borax and water. Use the paste to scrub the surface that is infected with mold and rinse." Borax can be found on the same isle as laundry detergent at your local grocery store.

Wood with mold contamination can be sanded and/or wire-brushed, then sprayed with an anti-microbial agent, and refinished. I find that painting the walls in my bathroom with Kilz brand paint has slowed, if not gotten rid of my mold problem in that room. Many people think that Kilz kills mold. I haven't found any proof that it kills the mold. It works by blocking it. It seals out moisture, so the wall doesn't become infected with mold. Kilz can be found in Wal-Mart stores, and is cheaper than many regular paint brands.

"Most porous materials such as sheetrock, carpeting, ceiling tiles, and so on, should be cut out and disposed of and replaced with new materials," says Dooley. This can get expensive! So, of course, the most affordable way to combat mold is to avoid it growing all together. Make sure your rooms, especially the bathroom, are well ventilated. If you live in a humid part of the country, it is a good investment to buy a dehumidifier (ideally, humidity levels should stay below 60% in your home). If you see any condensation on walls and window sills, keep it wiped dry. Fix water leaks right away and keep the area dry.

Remember, when you are getting rid of mold, the spores can become air borne and travel to other places in your home. Dooley recommends putting plastic sheeting around the contaminated area until the work is done. He also says that, "If you decide to remove mold yourself on an area more than a few square feet, you should wear some protection such as a NIOSH approved N95 protective face mask."

I had to admit, all the mold in my home made me think we were going to have to move. Following these tips has made my home a much more comfortable place to live. We are sick less and have less allergy related symptoms, and I didn't have to spend very much money.

Alina Bradford is a freelance writer, artist, and the owner of a website for moms.

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