Mold Remediation—To Bleach or not to Bleach?

Unlike most other fields related to home construction, there are no federal standards for mold remediation. While basic information and safety tips are suggested, there is no set of scientific data for interpreting indoor air quality readings, because mold is such a hugely diverse and un-standardized organism, behaving and appearing differently in different regions and affecting people’s immune systems in sometimes radically different ways. A general rule of thumb, however, is that when an air quality test shows more mold spores inside the air of your house than there are in your backyard, you DEFINITELY have a mold problem. Mold is everywhere around us. In the air outside, we breathe in mold spores every day without ever noticing. It’s only a hazard to our health when those same spores live with us in an enclosed space and the concentration per breath reaches too high a level. There are all sorts of homemade alleged remedies for treating and killing mold in the home. Often this abundance of unconfirmed antidotes leads to the assumption that professional mold remediation contractors are a waste of time and money. Most of us have already been able to remove small amounts of mold and mildew from the kitchen and bathroom with only a sponge and some products we got at the superstore. But what about the bigger spots? Can bleach take care of them too? The answer may surprise you . . .

Mold is found anywhere near a sufficient source of moisture and cellulose material. In the right conditions, mold grows quickly and becomes increasingly difficult to remediate because of its airborne ability. The simple answer is NO, you should never use bleach to kill mold, because bleach does not kill the mold, it only bleaches the mold, removing its color and nothing else. To elaborate, here are more reasons why you should never use chlorine bleach against mold.

Though bleach may be effective on bacteria and viruses, mold is neither of those. Study the composition of bleach and you’ll find that it’s mostly water, which is exactly what mold needs to survive and continue to grow. Also, chlorine bleach is an ionic solution, meaning that it only works on the surface level of the surface it touches. So while the active ingredient sticks to the surface of the stud or wall, the water in the bleach penetrates all the way down to the source, the roots of the mold, actually feeding and assisting its growth! This is why many people who attempt to get rid of mold with bleach have complained about it later coming back even stronger and more widespread. Basically, treating your mold with bleach is comparable to mowing your lawn and then spraying it down with Miracle Gro.

Here’s another little-known fact about bleach. It has an extremely short shelf-life, losing up to 50% potency within the first 90 days if left unopened. More importantly, chlorine bleach is most certainly not registered with the EPA as a mold deterrent, and we all know that it gives off strong gases, odors and fumes that are severely dangerous (not to mention altogether unpleasant) to inhale. A licensed mold remediation contractor is required to use EPA registered products for mold remediation, many of which are not only environmentally friendly but harness naturally occurring herbal formulas, such as those found in thyme, to create their mold killing properties. These are actually food grade products, meaning that they can be used in the kitchen and other areas where food is commonly stored, served or eaten, and they all smell a good bit better than bleach!

The most important thing to remember is that your ultimate goal should not be to eliminate the mold, but to eliminate the conditions which made the mold possible in the first place. A licensed mold remediator will not only clean, treat, seal and sanitize the area where mold was found. He will show you the steps you must take to properly ventilate the area and to keep mold spores gone for good. Conveniently enough, the conditions that make an area inhospitable to mold are the same conditions that are most comfortable and healthy for the human homeowner. Do yourself a favor by keeping your home microbial-ly unattractive, and remember that bleach is NOT the answer!