Dr Chemical on how to erase mould
Picture: Gyprock

Banishing mould doesn't mean reaching for the bleach. Try these tips from Dr Chemical instead.

Spring is upon us, at last. We can now throw open our doors on a Saturday morning and be greeted by sunshine and the twitter of baby birds, instead of the dank inrush of wet, wintry air.

There are, of course, a number of things that should be done to freshen up our homes at this time of year.

As well as the usual dusting and cleaning of last summer's grease off the barbecue, this spring - as it has been a particularly wet winter - there is something else we have to deal with: mould.

Mould grows where four factors come together: moisture, darkness, inactivity and the right surface.

Aside from the unsightly appearance, there are potential respiratory problems that may arise, particularly for the elderly and toddlers.

So how do we get rid of it? The first thing to consider is that mould is actually living biomass that is adhering to its substrate. That means we can't just spray a surface cleaner on it and wipe it off.

First, it must be killed. This will cause it to release its grip from the surface it is on and it can then be wiped away.

One option is of course bleach (such as Exit Mould). If it's mould in the silicone beading of a shower screen, we take this option as it will not only kill the mould but also bleach it white.

For other surfaces, however, bleach is a poor option as it is an aggressive oxidiser that will damage many surfaces, including natural fibres and many synthetic laminates. In addition, it will strip colour from many things even if it doesn't damage them.

There are several other options, all based on drying out the organism. This is how alcohol hand sanitiser works. The 70 per cent ethanol creates osmotic pressure that ruptures the cell wall of the organism and kills it.

So that is one option - 70 per cent metho (ethanol). Other options are 80 per cent vinegar (the cheap stuff from the supermarket) and plain old table salt, made up as about a five per cent solution.

Spray on your formula of choice, leave it for half an hour, and you'll find the mould will be easily removed by physical means (a hose or steam cleaner).

The best cleaner for mould, however, is caustic soda.

This is a much stronger chemical than any listed above, _so a one per cent solution (made from caustic soda pellets from the hardware store) is plenty. Spray it on, leave it to dry, then remove it by mechanical means.

Always wear safety glasses when handling caustic soda pellets. If you get one in your eye it's as bad as sulphuric acid.

If the mould is on a limestone wall, one option is to use a 50 per cent hydrochloric (muriatic) acid solution as it will remove the mould by dissolving the limestone underneath it.

Dr Chemical's top five spring cleaning tips:

1. Use Mr Sheen on everything to remove accumulated winter dust.

2. Lubricate window tracks and latches with silicone spray (such as WD40) from a car shop as it is odourless and doesn’t pick up dust.

3. Use one part ammonia in 50 to mop dirt and grime off your floor and leave it smelling fresh.

4. A bit of washing soda on a washcloth will clean grubby fingerprints off light switches.

5. Rub a bit of detergent on your bathroom mirror to stop it fogging.

For more of Dr Chemical's advice, visit drchemical.com.au.

The West Australian

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