Molds are a natural part of our living environment. Their spores can be found almost everywhere, including indoors. They are usually harmless. However, if the mold concentration exceeds a certain level, it can lead to health problems for the residents. Mold needs a lot of moisture to grow. Indoor mold growth is mainly determined by humidity, nutrient availability and temperature.
“Mould” is a collective term for fungi that can develop typical fungal threads and spores. Mold fungi form cell threads during the growth phase. These are usually colorless, so that the mold is usually not visible to the naked eye at this stage. Mold forms “spores” to multiply and spread. These are often colored so that the mold infestation at this stage can also be seen with the naked eye (e.g. as black or yellow mold spots). Since more than 100,000 molds are known and many species can only be cultivated in the laboratory with great effort, it is difficult to clearly identify the species. Therefore, only important typical representatives are detected.
Some fungi have an indicator function for moisture damage, while others indicate the influence of the outside air, flower pots or organic waste. Indirect indications of mold contamination are a musty odor, moisture stains and colored dark spots. Even in the case of diseases such as allergies or respiratory diseases, the cause of which cannot be clarified, a possible contamination by mold should be considered.
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Adherence to general hygiene measures such as the disposal of leftovers or rubbish can limit the growth of mold in the refrigerator and in the organic waste bin, but mold growth on walls is usually due to physical building causes or incorrect ventilation. Therefore, the use of mold sprays for surface disinfection is ineffective if the causes of the infestation are not combated.
Prevention is better than cure!
The most important prerequisite for mold growth is the presence of moisture, which can usually be attributed to structural defects and/or incorrect user behavior. Proper on-site measures and reasonable room user behavior must work together to keep an apartment free of mold growth. The basic requirement for an apartment without mold growth is, on the one hand, that the building is constructed according to the state of the art.
The following serve to prevent mold growth due to moisture damage:
- Minimum thermal protection
- Protection against driving rain
- Sealing against rising soil moisture
- Regular roof construction
- Watertight installations
Particular attention should be paid to areas in the outer wall, ceiling and roof areas that are insufficiently or incorrectly insulated or have other leaky areas where condensation is more likely to occur.
In the case of newly built or renovated living space, significantly increased ventilation is required over a certain period of time due to the associated residual building moisture. When rooms are used with high levels of humidity and the building shell is highly airtight, it is sometimes not possible to reduce the humidity to the necessary level through reasonable manual ventilation. In these cases, mechanical ventilation can help.
The remediation of materials infested with mold must aim to completely remove the mold. Merely killing mold is not enough, since dead mold can also have allergic and irritating effects. Very high concentrations of spores can be released during the remediation of mold infestation on materials. Remediation should therefore only be carried out under suitable safety and occupational health and safety conditions.
It is often recommended to use a vinegar solution when fighting mold. However, this usually does not make sense, since many building materials and especially lime cause the vinegar to be neutralized and, in addition, organic nutrients get onto the material with the vinegar, which can even promote fungal growth.
If possible, the analysis of mold spores should be carried out by appropriately accredited laboratories.
Remedial measures for larger mold infestations (>0.5 m2) should definitely be carried out by specialist companies. Since there is currently no generally recognized qualification for mold remediation, the client should obtain information about references, further training, occupational safety and environmental protection measures from the company.
If the affected area is no larger than about half a square meter and there are no structural defects, the remediation can be carried out by laypersons. Smooth surfaces (metal, ceramics, glass) can be removed with water and a normal household cleaning agent. Infested porous materials (wallpaper, gypsum plasterboard, porous masonry, porous ceiling cladding), but also household textiles (carpets, curtains) or furnishings with upholstery (armchairs, sofas) can be cleaned with difficulty or not at all, since the mold growth has penetrated deeper layers of the material can. The same applies to infested wallpaper or silicone joints. All of these materials should therefore be preferentially removed and/or disposed of.
Superficially affected areas should be wiped off with a damp cloth or vacuumed with a vacuum cleaner with a fine dust filter (HEPA filter).
After cleaning, the affected areas can be disinfected with 70% ethyl alcohol
(ethanol) for dry surfaces and 80% ethyl alcohol for wet surfaces. (Caution: risk of fire and explosion! Only use small amounts, do not smoke, no open flames, ventilate well during and after use!)
The waste produced during the renovation and contaminated with mold can be packed in plastic bags and disposed of with the household waste.
Typical active ingredients
Mold removers are biocidal products that are usually used as a spray. The active substances used are mainly sodium hypochlorite, but also hydrogen peroxide, quaternary ammonium compounds, alcohols and glutardialdehyde. When using the products as a spray, a relatively high proportion of the active ingredients are distributed in the room air via the formation of aerosols. This leads to a higher exposure of the user through the breathing air than, for example, when painting or wiping the surfaces.