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Do Not Clean Mold With Bleach: Here’s Why

Do Not Clean With Bleach: Here's Why | Blog

A fairly common experience for homeowners is to find a small patch of mold and immediately reach for some sort of antibacterial cleaner, namely bleach, to deal with the issue. But did you know, you shouldn’t clean mold with bleach? We know, this raises a whole host of questions about modern cleaning practices:

  • But what if you’re cleaning your house all wrong?
  • What if you’re making it easier for the spots of mold to take over?
  • What if there is such a thing as too clean or too sterile?

Sadly, mold removal is never as simple as it looks on TV. But the good news is that it’s straightforward and safe to tackle small outbreaks of the mold without having to call in a professional – and without dealing with bleach fumes.

cleaning sponge - homebioticUsing Bleach To Clean Mold

We’ve all done it. Noticed a spot of mold in the shower, sprayed bleach then scrubbed away the discolored patch on the wall or grouting. That’s that.

Bleach works fantastically on tiling, and other hard surfaces, where moisture and humidity provide a friendly environment for mold. But bleach-based cleaners are not suitable for dealing with mold in the home, and, despite the convincing commercials, powerful antibacterial sprays that target black mold simply aren’t worth the money.

The truth: bleach is an excellent disinfectant, and fantastic at making everything look sparkling clean. A whitening appearance means that all the dirt and nasty stuff has gone, right? But appearances can be deceiving.

A common misconception is that mold behaves similarly to bacteria. While both live in colonies and are classified separately from plants or animals – mold is part of the fungal family, and bacteria are single-celled microorganisms1. Mold plays an important role in aiding the decomposition of dead matter in the wild and can be found in humid wet places2. Meanwhile, bacteria can be found all over our planet, in soil and water, inside plants and animals.

A common misconception is that mold behaves similarly to bacteria. While both live in colonies and are classified separately from plants or animals – mold is part of the fungal family, and bacteria are single-celled microorganisms Click To Tweet

Their behaviors are distinctive – mold reproduces by releasing spores into the air, while bacteria generally only release spores when there is no alternative: they usually reproduce asexually. In the same way that mold and its function is not inherently bad, different bacteria strains have different purposes in the soil, in water, and in your gut microbiome – and these are just a few examples. Both bacteria and mold are important to the ecosystem, and so cannot be dismissed out of hand as bad. But they are not the same thing, so it seems odd that we attempt to clean them up with the same cleaning products.

Mold growth - Homebiotic - get rid of moldWhy Is Bleach Bad For Cleaning Mold?

Bleach is an antibacterial product, often used for sterilization, normally with a chlorine base. Sodium hypochlorite is used in the production of liquid bleach. There are a handful of reasons that bleach is not the answer for cleaning mold:

Spores – Bleach is unable to kill off mold spores, which is their way of reproducing. Mold releases spores in order to create new colonies. Bleach can’t neutralize mold spores and mycotoxins, meaning they remain stuck to surfaces that are otherwise “sparkling clean”.

Porous Materials – Bleach is adequate for removing mold on non-porous materials such as work surfaces, sinks, hard plastic floors, tiles, and glass. However, on porous materials, bleach struggles to make an impact: killing the visible mold on surfaces such as wood, fabric, and drywall, but unable to reach the mold which remains underneath the surface ready to grow again3.

Available Mold Resources – Cellulose, the organic matter that feeds mold, can stop the bleach from fully sterilizing the area. Organic matter turns bleach inactive4.

Lack of Beneficial Bacteria – Bleach is an excellent antibacterial agent, but it works too well as a biocide, rendering places where it’s used completely sterile5. Not all bacteria are bad: some types of bacteria can do a lot of good, including the microbiome in your gut. Some bacteria in your home and in the wider world have the purpose of feasting on mold colonies. But if you kill off these friendly bacteria, you leave a vacuum where mold can flourish.

Not all bacteria are bad: some types of bacteria can do a lot of good, including the microbiome in your gut. Some bacteria in your home and in the wider world have the purpose of feasting on mold colonies. But if you kill off these… Click To Tweet

You may find it difficult to wrap your head around this information, after years of mopping, scrubbing, and spraying mold with bleach. Bleach may still have a purpose – though here at Homebiotic, we’d argue that a sterile home should be very low on your list of priorities. There are many more health benefits to encouraging friendly bacteria in your home.

soapy sponge - homebioticWhat Kills Mold Spores?

Since using bleach is highly not recommended, what is a suitable alternative to not only kill mold spores but ensure your family remains protected from harmful chemicals? The good news is that mold only releases spores when it’s thriving, so your plan of action is simple:

  • Cut the mold off from its creature comforts: Reduce the moisture and condensation in your home, and get your leaky roof and rickety plumbing sorted out once and for all6.
  • Control the humidity in your home: Dehumidifier machines are great for this, but depending on the climate of where you live, simply cracking open the window can help.
  • Use a HEPA filter vacuum cleaner: Frequently suck up any dust and mold spores that may be hiding in the carpets and upholstery. Mold spores can lie dormant for years7.
  • For killing mold on porous surfaces, use borax (sodium borate): Wipe clean the surfaces using borax. Borax is not an antibacterial substance: instead, it changes the pH of the area you’re cleaning, making it inhospitable for mold.
  • Additionally, you can use hydrogen peroxide or vinegar: Both options are effective, natural options for killing mold spores. When using hydrogen peroxide on fabrics be sure to use it on light fabrics ONLY at the risk of discoloration. Always allow the area to dry completely.
  • Replenish your beneficial bacteria population: Stop using antibacterial products, and spray Homebiotic Environmental Spray once a week to reinstate friendly bacteria – to consume mold, and to protect the natural microbiome of your home.

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK8120/
https://www.cdc.gov/mold/faqs.htm
https://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/articles/6969z1338?locale=en
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK214356/
https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-10/documents/moldguide12.pdf
https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-10/documents/moldguide12.pdf
https://pubs.ext.vt.edu/content/dam/pubs_ext_vt_edu/2901/2901-7019/2901-7019_pdf.pdf

 

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Cleaning Mold: Bleach vs Hydrogen Peroxide

Cleaning Mold: Bleach vs Hydrogen Peroxide | cleaning mold with hydrogen peroxide or cleaning mold with bleach

Although minor mold spots are easy enough to wipe away while cleaning, the mold often returns quickly. While you might think to reach for the disinfectant spray or prepare a bucket of bleach to douse the area to kill it once and for all, these are not the best solutions for fixing a mold issue. These disinfectants are named for their ability to dis-infect, or kill, microbes and while that may sound good, in many cases this can actually make a mold problem worse!

BLEACH 101

If you look underneath the sink of an average home, you’re most likely going to find a variety of disinfectants, including bleach. Bleach is often a go-to remedy for stubborn stains and is used for making areas of the kitchen and bathroom sanitized and clean, but have you ever wondered why?

The most common kind of bleach is chlorine bleach, a water-based solution containing sodium hypochlorite as the active ingredient. Bleach removes stains from fabrics and non-porous surfaces by oxidizing and breaking down networks of double bonds between the carbon atoms making up the discoloration, removing the stain’s ability to absorb light. So the bleach doesn’t really neutralize and break down the matter creating the stain completely, just the bonds that make it visible to the human eye!

DOWNSIDES OF USING BLEACH

When you apply bleach to mold or mildew on tile grout, for example, it’s killing what’s on the surface and lightening the stain that the mold growth has caused, which makes it look as though it’s gone. But, that’s not the whole picture.

Bleach only works well on non-porous surfaces, and isn’t effective on porous surfaces such as wood, drywall or tile grout. While it may be effective at killing mold on the surface, the chlorine is unable to penetrate into the surface, so is either left on the surface or evaporates into the air of your home. Meanwhile, some of the water does seep into the surface and provides moisture to help the surviving mold grow back. And it does, more quickly each time it seems! If that wasn’t bad enough, you’ve now added harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in your home as well.

Bleach only works well on non-porous surfaces, and isn't effective on porous surfaces such as wood, drywall or tile grout. While it may be effective at killing mold on the surface, the chlorine is unable to penetrate into the surface,… Click To Tweet

Another reason to not use bleach to clean mold is even if the actively growing mold is killed, many of the health effects of mold are actually due to their byproducts, called mycotoxins, which bleach doesn’t affect. Bleach is also highly irritating to use, and should only be used with personal protective gear such as eye protection, a mask, and gloves, as well as good ventilation. For these reasons, we definitely recommend against using bleach to clean mold.

IS HYDROGEN PEROXIDE BETTER?

You may be more used to seeing a familiar brown bottle of hydrogen peroxide in your first aid kit than in your cleaning supplies, but it’s actually a very handy product to use for home cleaning! Hydrogen peroxide is often referred to as an oxygen bleach, because it acts as an oxidizer, chemically attacking the cell wall of bacteria, often rupturing it entirely. The oxidizing function when cleaning with hydrogen oxide means that it works similarly to chlorine bleach in killing microbes and eliminating stains, but without leaving toxic residues behind which pollute the air in your home – hydrogen peroxide leaves only water and oxygen as its byproducts.

Regular 3% hydrogen peroxide is effective at killing surface mold, and only needs to be sprayed on and left for 10 minutes or until it stops fizzing. Repeat as necessary until the visible mold is gone, taking care to not over-wet the surface.

Regular 3% hydrogen peroxide is effective at killing surface mold, and only needs to be sprayed on and left for 10 minutes or until it stops fizzing Click To Tweet

Don’t mix hydrogen peroxide with other cleaning products, including natural ones. There have been many “DIY Cleaner” articles posted online which recommend mixing hydrogen peroxide and vinegar, but this reduces the effectiveness of either the hydrogen peroxide or vinegar compared to when used alone, and it also creates peracetic acid which potentially toxic and irritates skin, eyes, and lungs.

I’VE CLEANED THE MOLD, NOW WHAT?

Regardless of what product is used to clean a surface, if the surface is left bare it will quickly be repopulated. If nothing is done, either sub-surface mold will grow back, or perhaps a harmful bacteria lurking in your kitchen or bathroom will move in.

The solution is to reintroduce friendly bacteria from healthy soil

These friendly bacteria naturally balance out these unwanted guests. When cleaning your home, and especially when cleaning mold growth, applying Homebiotic immediately afterwards will help keep these surfaces stay clean at a microscopic level. Homebiotic is colorless and scent-free, so you won’t even notice it’s there. It just forms a probiotic barrier for your home… naturally.

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