The bathroom in my new apartment has a rather common problem found in older buildings: mold. Sometimes it can be a battle to kill mold naturally without resorting to toxic products.
Built in the 1940’s, designing the bathroom to be efficiently ventilated when bathing was not high on the builder’s list, leaving a tiny window that struggles to open even using all my might. No fan and no air circulation leads to mold and mildew growing in and around the tile grout in the shower.
Typically, the first thing someone does when facing a mold problem is head to the store to buy bleach. It’s a sure-fire way of killing mold spores and making your bathroom sparkling “clean” again. However, bleach is toxic for people and the planet and while it certainly gets rid of the mold, what’s the point of eliminating one toxin with another? Bleach releases dioxin, furans and other organochlorines into the air and studies have shown a relationship between dioxin exposure and cancer, birth defects, and developmental/reproductive disorders. It kind of defeats the purpose of cleaning the bathroom in the first place. There will be bad mold cases when bleach is your only choice to initially remove the problem, but if you find it necessary to use it, please use caution. Wear gloves, protect your eyes, and open any windows to ventilate the space. That all being said, I say you should still avoid it if possible. Ammonia is also said to kill mold, but I don’t like using that either.
So if we shouldn’t use bleach, what can we use without potentially hurting ourselves in the process? Luckily, there are a few ingredients that are safer and that are a decent way to kill mold without the toxicity of bleach. Let’s take a look at each.
Expensive, but it works. Tea tree oil, also known as melaleuca oil, is an essential oil from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia. It can be found at most natural food stores and for a little less money at Amazon.com. It has antibacterial, antifungal, and antiseptic qualities and has also been shown to help with skin and acne issues. Combine 1 teaspoon of tea tree oil per cup of water in a spray bottle and you have an efficient way to kill mold naturally. Spray it right on the mold, let it sit for a few, and wipe it down if necessary. Letting it sit and not wiping it off could help inhibit new growth. Not only will it kill mold, but it makes your bathroom smell pretty good too.
Grape seed is available everywhere, but I don’t think it works as well as tea tree oil does. The good news? You can also cook with it, so you may already have some (non-extract) in your house to give it a try in the bathroom. Try mixing 10 – 15 drops of extract per cup of water in a spray bottle to kill mold.
Cheap, safe, and available everywhere, vinegar is a great ingredient to use for all your cleaning needs around the house. It does an alright job of killing mold, but it is nowhere near as efficient as tea tree oil. You would be better off using tea tree to eliminate the mold and then use straight vinegar as a bathroom spray-down once in a while to inhibit mold growth. The smell will go away, trust me. Here are 23 ways to use vinegar for nontoxic cleaning and don’t forget that it is also a fantastic way to naturally unclog your shower drain.
I have used borax off and on over the years for tougher cleaning needs and I just found out that it also may be effective at killing mold. It is a natural mineral product that can be mixed with water to both kill and inhibit mold growth.
Having only used hydrogen peroxide as a mouthwash, I can’t say that it works to remove mold. But the word on the street is that it does, so I wanted to add it to the list. It’s a nontoxic anti-fungal and anti-bacterial that is cheap and available everywhere, so it may be worth giving a shot. Spray it directly on mold, full strength, let it sit for a bit, and then scrub off the mold.
You may have to try several different methods in order to kill mold naturally at your house, but with some experimentation you should find something that works for you. The important thing is to try to avoid using toxic products whenever possible. Have any suggestions of your own not listed here? Please be sure to share so we can try your solutions for ourselves!
Image Credit: Black Mold from BigStock
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