Mould warning for homeowners

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What you need to know to remove dangerous mould safely from your home.

Mould on wall in house

South-east Queenslanders impacted by floods and rain events have been urged to look out for mould in their homes.

The combination of heat, humidity and water can cause mould to appear in the weeks and months following wet weather.

University of Sydney Infectious Disease Specialist Dr Justin Beardsley said breathing in, eating, drinking or touching mould could cause health issues.

“Exposure to fungal spores, released by the moulds that surround us in everyday environments, is increasingly recognised as a cause of ill-health,” Dr Beardsley said.

“Diseases range from allergy-driven worsening of asthma, through long-term low-grade infections, to serious invasive infections.

“People with other health conditions, especially those with lung disease or taking immuno-suppressing medication, are particularly at risk and are advised to avoid heavy exposure to fungal spores wherever possible.”

Identifying mould

Mould often discolours wall, ceilings and other surfaces but may also be present when you can’t see it.

You may be able to detect a musty or unpleasant odour even if mould isn’t visible.

Air out the room

The first step to removing mould is drying out the area as quickly as possible.

Open windows and use fans to speed up the process.

Removing mould from hard surfaces

It’s essential to follow safety precautions, including wearing appropriate protective equipment such as safety goggles, gloves and a disposable respirator with a P1 or P2 filter.

Your home and contents insurance may cover the removal of mould if it is determined to be the result of flooding or storm damage.

The Queensland Government Department of Housing recommends the following steps to remove mould from walls, ceilings and hard surfaces:

  1. Obtain personal protective equipment, including half-face disposable respirators with P1 or P2 filters, to avoid inhaling mould spores when cleaning. You’ll find these at hardware stores.
  2. Place drop sheets on the floor and exclude people from the affected area if they’re not performing the work.
  3. Get two buckets: one for cleaning solution and one for clean water.
  4. Wipe the area clean with a microfibre cloth and cleaning solution. Don’t put dirty cloths back in the solution; rinse them in the clean water to avoid cross-contamination.
  5. After cleaning the area with the solution, wipe the surface with a damp cloth. Don’t use the same cloth you used with the solution.
  6. Wipe the surface dry with a clean cloth.

Remove mould using a suitable mould remover, such as:

  • A solution of three parts vinegar and two parts water.
  • A solution of 70% methylated spirits and 30% water.
  • A solution of tea tree oil and water.
  • Commercial products from the supermarket. Follow the safety instructions to protect your eyes and skin.

Removing mould from household items

  • Items that can be washed, such as soft toys and linen, should be machine washed as usual.
  • Non-porous items like glassware can be washed in hot water with a bleach solution and air dried. Make sure your dishwasher is cleaned and disinfected before use.
  • Air conditioning units should be cleaned and serviced by a professional before use. Using the air conditioner without cleaning it can spread mould spores through the air.
  • Items that can’t be easily cleaned should be thrown out if they have been wet for more than two days.
  • If in doubt, take your items to a professional cleaner.

Salvaging photos, books and family heirlooms

Water-damaged family heirlooms such as photos, books, paintings and letters can be prone to mould outbreaks. If you can’t bear to throw out a mouldy heirloom, the State Library of Queensland has developed a guide to assist Queenslanders to treat mould-affected material.

Source: Queensland Government Community Support, Department of Housing

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Things to note

The information in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal advice or specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in the document is general advice, not intended as legal advice or professional advice and does not take into account any person’s particular circumstances. Before acting on anything based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives and needs.