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April 30, 2020 – Published in Design & Decor Spring 2015 issue
Words: Marika Azzopardi
The wet and the humidity have contributed significantly towards the proliferation of mould in just about every home on the island. On ceilings, walls, corners and window cornices… those pesky black and greyish stains of happily growing spores are the bane of most of us and there are very few places which have not borne the brunt of mould attack.
What is even more annoying is that the mould patches are usually found in the most unreachable of places so that getting rid of them is not a very straightforward thing. At the same time, green mould is sometimes amazingly found inside cupboards or drawers where articles containing leather items – leather jackets, belts and purses, bags and boots and even jewellery that includes leather straps – can become nastily tainted and marked. Not a happy sight and the first urge is to just throw it all away. One word of consolation – it’s only the real leather that is attacked by mould spores, and that at least, means you’re not wearing imitation stuff!
Back to the crunch. How to avoid mould formation? Once you have it, you are most likely to get it again unless you take some specific measures to create an environment that strongly discourages future formation of mould.
The first step is to remove the mould, carefully and completely. Dusting it off walls, furniture and objects is not a very wise idea. The dust released will include dangerous airborne spores which can be easily inhaled and this can cause throat and eye infections so quickly you won’t know what hit you. The safest way to remove mould spores and to literally exterminate them, must be systematic.
Health and safety first – wear gloves, eye protection (even beach goggles can do) and cover your mouth and nose with a wet scarf. Keep children away during this cleaning operation. For very small patches, tissue wipes of the antibacterial kind can be a quick-fix solution if you don’t want to resort to neat bleach on a dry cloth – but beware of using that on wallpaper or certain types of paint as the bleach can fade it off.
For larger patches there are two ways of cleaning the mould off the walls – you either use a mix of water and white vinegar, or you use a mix of water and bleach. The vinegar solution is suitable for people who have respiratory problems and who might find the smell of bleach too disturbing. It does remove mould spores, but be sure to use only white vinegar and lots of it. Do not allow neat vinegar to drop on furniture or floors as it can leave a mark. If you use bleach, make sure you’re wearing clothes you won’t regret damaging and avoid spilling drops of the concoction over furniture and upholstery. If you’re of a clumsy inclination, it is best if you just cover everything in close proximity to the mould, before you proceed with the cleaning.
Scrub down the mould with a wet cloth or a sponge dipped in the water solution of your choice. You will need to change the water solution frequently to avoid nasty streaks forming on your walls. Keep repeating the wiping process until all traces of mould are removed. This is generally a very good way to remove the black stains. If the mould is located around a window or a door, wash and dry that well, inside and out, taking care to also clean corners, crevices and handles. Once the project is done, you should air the room well, and allow to dry. If it is cold and wet outside, switch on a dehumidifier, but try to avoid introducing steam into the room concerned for at least 24 hours. During the night try to leave some ventilation to avoid condensation.
Once your walls/ceilings are clean of mould and dry again, it is best to proceed immediately with a whitewash. If left unpainted, the clean wall is more than likely to have spore attack next winter. Try to purchase paint which is specifically made to counteract spore formations.
To help avoid mould from forming in rooms after you’ve done all this cleaning and repainting process, try to keep rooms aired. With modern aluminium apertures, we tend to seal off air completely and where air shafts are non-existent or blocked, air cannot make its way into a room. It is best to leave windows slightly ajar during the day to allow the air in, because high humidity typical of our islands, tends to get mould growing fast. If there is a lot of condensation on apertures in bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens or other closed spaces, the trick is to dry it off immediately and keep the space well aired.
Incidentally if you’re still wondering how to clean the mould off leather items, the antibacterial wipes are a good first step to remove the spores. You can proceed with cleaning off the spores with a soft flannel, water and a drop of dishwashing soap. Wipe clean and allow to dry well before storing away. An excellent tip is to keep all the small silica gel packets you find in your shoe boxes before throwing the boxes away. To avoid stored items from moulding, throw in a couple of silica gel packets in the storage space, and these will effectively absorb moisture for you.