Well, OK, let’s see if there are 33, but there aren’t films, just thoughts and ideas. But I couldn’t resist the pun and apologise to Glenn Gould and the fine people who made that wonderful documentary about a great Canadian pianist.
As a self-proclaimed expert on mould these days, I am all for wiping it out altogether! Kill it all!! But I gather it has a really strong rationale for its existence in the process of composting and is an important element in our ecology. Many living creatures were descended from an accumulation of slime moulds that clumped together eventually creating something of form and shape.
However, almost the most distressed I have been in my life is when I came back from my daughter’s wedding this year to find that every room in our house was mould affected. Certainly, it has been a record wet season with high temperatures and our house was shut up as tightly as a drum. Faced with the prospect of handing my key over to someone I didn’t know to open windows, air the place daily, I felt it better to leave the place closed. So shut it was, but not to the humid air which sneaked in through every crack and up through the pipes leading to our toilets and shower rooms. We stupidly did not realize that to drape sheets over every horizontal surface and also leave cupboard doors open, again with sheets draped rather than shutting them, would have been preferable. Here is what I learned in the weeks following our return as I cleaned EVERY single cupboard out.
What is mould?
Mould is a fungus that grows on vegetation or anything fibrous (and, I notice, even on glass and plastic!) and is most often seen or smelt in damp, closed locations. Darkness also is a good host for mould. Bathrooms, laundries, garages, basements and attics will often have mould, and also pantries and closed off cupboards. Mould is airborne as tiny spores which land in wet areas where they will breed. If mould is detected, it’s best to take action immediately to avoid it spreading. Sometimes it is a symptom of a moisture problem (leakage or condensation) which should be dealt with straight away.
It not only looks awful (who can forget those mildew spots on sheets in the 1950s?) but can present a health hazard. It is an allergen and an irritant and can set off asthma attacks and give migraine headaches to those prone to these conditions. Breathing can be affected and a conjunctivitis type of affliction has also been seen. Mould is a respiratory no-no.
A good pre-indicator is rust. If metal is rusting, mould will not be far behind.
- Air-flow is by far the best preventative, but in the tropics, even the air is humid and damp (or just plain wet!) and extreme measures may be needed.
- Leave cupboards, windows and doors open to air. But not if they let in water.
- Use Damp Rid or other crystal in all suspect areas and check them daily. Empty the liquid and top them up.
- Silica Gel sachets should be slipped into every shoe and anything made of leather.
- Kitchen cupboards are usually targets. Make sure you dry everything properly before putting away. Small damp spots on saucepans for instance will make mould grow.
- Bleach – a one part to three parts water solution will remove mould. Scrub surface and get into corners with an old toothbrush. (Mask, gloves and old sacrificial work clothes are important). Do it TWICE and allow the second coat to air-dry. Do this in hot dry weather. Large areas can be attacked with a weaker solution (a half cup to four litres of water).
- Paint the interiors of your closets and cupboards with a carb-soda formula paint. The one I have used is American ‘Dutch Boy’ but I know that Dulux has numerous bathroom options in latex paints (plastic paints, water based) that will do the job. Paint sides, under, over and edges to seal and also to establish a cleanliness. Two coats.
- Line the cupboards with a quality lining paper. I lined all my vanity cupboards with a beautiful lining paper bought at David Jones and it has lasted already for three years and the fragrance is a very light rose, not headachey and intrusive by any means. I store my towels in each vanity unit and freshness is important and the ones with lining paper are always fine, the others that are not lined are not so good.
- When you go away for an extended time, especially in the wet weather, leave cupboards open but cover everything with sheets. I just pin or staple to the top of the door frames out of sight. DON’T use steel pins. Aluminium is the only choice here or rust will be the result. Cover every horizontal surface. When you come back put all the sheets carefully in the washing machine and do a hot wash with a little bleach in there (but don’t breathe the fumes).
- If you have black mould infestation it is best to call an expert as this is a massive job to remove and you will almost certainly need some preventative plumbing works. Black mould is toxic.
- If you are away for a very long time, see if a trusted neighbour will come and open the house for you at least weekly. Air is important.
- Humidifiers are excellent but expensive to run. You may be able to set yours to come on during the day for a few hours. There are lights you can get for inside closets and they take as much power as a 75 watt light bulb. If you have articles such as leather and fur, this may be worth considering to preserve your precious clothing but otherwise, air should be fine.
- Woodwork is very prone to getting mould. Keep it well oiled (olive oil is fine) and rub it in very thoroughly. Leave wooden boards in the sun to dry after you have washed them but not too long as they may split.
- Cupboards and joinery – this will get mouldy in the wet areas (tropics especially). Obviously it is better by far to have teak and other tropical woods as these seem resistant to the wet, but if you have pines and other temperate timbers, you must keep them oiled with something like Marveer (but don’t wet it) and if you notice a mould infestation and it is not something you can put in the sun, then use the above bleach solution, allow to dry and use a hairdryer to make sure, Marveer it and polish well. Waxing is also excellent and especially beeswax as this is an antiseptic and mould won’t grow.
- Buy a bottle of silica gel (around $15) and make some sachets. Use these anywhere you have a problem. The silica gel can be re-dried and used many times. We had cookie tins in the 1950s that had a screw in jar of silica gel in its lid and it kept our Butternut Snaps crisp!
- Cleaning leather that has gone mouldy is difficult. Use saddlesoap and get into cracks and every part of the shoe or whatever it is. Polish. Allow to dry well and then pack each shoe with a silica sachet and put in a ziplock bag with air sucked out.
- Check your entire house for leaks and water getting in or lying around where it should not be.
- Check your plumbing for un-insulated pipes that may be causing condensation anywhere it shouldn’t. The tendency for hidden pipes in modern houses certainly looks great but if it is not designed with proper insulation and air around the pipes you can get patches of wetness in walls.
- Wipe down the shower recess after using. That goes for all wet areas. A little old-fashioned housework on an ongoing basis will save you so much trouble down the road!
- Do not eat mouldy food. Some people are even allergic to the moulds in blue cheese. If you see an orange with blue-green mould, cover your nose before you pick it up to throw it out. The spores are so quick-acting that you can become ill. If you allergic to penicillin, be extra careful.
- The smell of mould in clothes is a symptom that the mould is already living in there. Add a cup of white vinegar to the wash to get rid of the smell (with your usual laundry liquid).
- Put clothing in the sun to bleach mildew spots (only partially effective). But at least sun and air cost nothing and eventually the smell and marks will fade.
- Always make sure that anything you put in your wardrobe is BONE DRY. If not, you will get those tell-tale little mildew spots. After you steam iron clothes, allow them an hour or so to air before putting them away.
- Good products for anti-mould include Glen-20, Microban, (the latter is hard to get in Australia), bleach solution, bathroom paint with mildewcide in it (or ask your paint shop to add some before they do the automatic shake).
- Vapour barrier installation in the roof or under the house if you have room will assist with keeping the house dry. This is like sheet insulation and you put the vapour barrier side facing up in the ceiling and down under the house and staple it everywhere you can in effect, sealing the house.
- Read the National Library of Australia guidelines to mould at:http://www.nla.gov.au/pres/conver/100196.html. This mostly pertains to books.
- Machines? We have been helping clean out a massive book collection and it had not been cleaned for decades. It was very unpleasant. Every book smelt. I borrowed an Ozone machine and put that in the room with the books and it seemed to make a difference, though the smell of the Ozone was horrendous. Hotels use them to freshen rooms between bookings and car detailers and rental companies also use them to remove the odour of smokers: http://www.epa.gov/iaq/pubs/ozonegen.html Make up your own mind about this! They are sold ‘Advertised on TV’…
- Clean the gaskets of your refrigerator regularly with an old toothbrush dipped in the bleach solution. Again mask up! You will prevent damage to the gasket and thus the life of your food and the fridge will be extended.
- If you are away for a while, empty and turn off the fridge, DRY every surface and leave it open. Don’t leave drips underneath or melted ice as this will cause a general mould build up in the kitchen.
- Most written about moulds pertains to the wine industry and poisons such as Benlate and other copper based sprays are used and are effective. In fact, the fruit industry used to dip apples etc. in weak Benlate solution to stop rotting. While I know that this is important for that industry, I think that if we were locavores and permaculture farmers, Mother Nature would just deal with the problems herself.
- Camphor is good to mask the smell of mould. Don’t use mothballs or poisonous naphthalene though. Also boxes made of camphor don’t allow clothes to get mouldy.
- Have less to get mouldy in the first place! Don’t stuff your cupboards with possessions. My wardrobe is a disgrace but I am gradually using up, recycling and giving away stuff without replacing. This will allow more air to flow. I am also hanging more clothes rather than folding up and keeping in drawers.
- Finally – if you WANT mould to grow as moss on your rocks, paint yoghurt on them and keep in a shady spot and within a couple of weeks you will have a nice little base for attractive mini plants. Shade is the friend of mould. Sun is its enemy.