Bleach kills mold and mildew dead -- but it kills everything else it touches, too. If you're looking for a less-toxic way to stamp out mold, you're in luck. Several alternatives are more environmentally friendly and safer for your family. You may need to try these options separately and in combination until you find the method that works best for your home.
Mold and mildew simply can't live in dry air, so your first method of attack should be to improve ventilation in affected areas. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that you use bathroom fans, open windows and wipe down surfaces after showering. Check your air conditioner drains, pipes and faucets for leaks. Clean and dry water-damaged rugs, and replace any carpet that is obviously moldy. Where possible, let sunlight shine directly on affected surfaces. Oregon Metro, the regional government for the Portland, Ore., area, recommends using kitty litter, which is highly absorbent. Place bowls of it in damp areas, and replace them weekly (see References 2).
Oregon Metro has a simple solution to fight mold and mildew: Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spray directly on affected areas and wipe clean (see References 3). Green living activist Annie B. Bond says undiluted vinegar may kill up to 82 percent of molds. If you have a serious infestation, spray or pour vinegar on the affected area, then let it set without rinsing. The smell will dissipate within a few hours (see References 4).
Use hydrogen peroxide as an alternative to bleach in your laundry room. Hydrogen peroxide is a highly active and effective cleanser, but it may need a vinegar boost to be fully effective against toxic mold. Oregon Metro recommends disinfecting surfaces by spraying them with vinegar, then following with a spray of 3 percent peroxide. Wipe clean afterward to remove any remaining matter. (See References 5)
Tea Tree Oil
According to Bond, nothing natural kills mold as well as tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is expensive, but if you have seriously infested spots, it may be a worthwhile investment. Mix 2 tsp. of tea tree oil with 2 cups of water in a spray bottle. Spray on problem areas, but do not rinse off. Tea tree oil has a very strong smell, which will dissipate in a few days. (See References 4)
You can remove mold in the toilet bowl by using a thick, mildly abrasive scrub made of baking soda and white vinegar. For the tub and tiles, cut a lemon in half and dip it in borax, then scrub by hand and rinse. For a thicker lather, combine baking soda with liquid soap until the texture approximates frosting. Scrub with a sponge, then rinse. (See References 3)
An award-winning blogger, Jessica Blue has been promoting sustainability, natural health and a do-it-yourself attitude since graduating University of California, Berkeley in 2000. Her work, seen in a wide variety of publications, advocates an environmentally-responsible and healthy lifestyle.
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