Home Cleaning & Maintenance How to Safely Maintain a ‘Mold Free’ Tile and Grout Environment

How to Safely Maintain a ‘Mold Free’ Tile and Grout Environment


NATIONAL REPORT—Over the past few years we have heard a lot about the dangers of mold and mildew and especially what has been termed “toxic mold.” The danger is real. In fact, there are an estimated 64,000 types of mold and fungi, and 90 percent of them have airborne spores. They are present in every breath we take. Fortunately, there is lot you can do to control this problem.

Fungi can cause health problems to both humans and animals by several different biological mechanisms: infections, allergenic or hypersensitivity reactions, irritant reactions, toxic reactions, and in certain cases they can even cause death. According to a 2004 University of Connecticut Health Center report, a long list of health problems have been directly linked to mold infestations in their immediate environment.

Why has there been an increase in mold problems? Changes in building practices, such as closed air-handling systems, flat roofs, tighter buildings, and the use of sheet rock and cellulose insulation have all contributed to making our hotels more susceptible to toxic mold infestations.

So, if they are everywhere, what can you do? Do toxic problems really require harsh solutions? Not necessarily. Many “solutions” to controlling mold are actually toxic as well. You may be making the problem worse by aggressive cleaning. Consider what happens when you use bleaching chemicals and acids to clean floor and tile grout. High pH and low pH are caustic to the grouting, making it more porous. The more porous the substrate, the more surface area there is to accept dirt and fungal spores. A vicious cleaning cycle is created until either the grout or grout and tile needs serious attention. The same caustic approach to mold removal could make a bad problem worse.

Significant Health Impact

In addition to encouraging a more active growth environment for mold and fungi, what are these cleaning products doing to your health and well being? Household cleaning products are among the most toxic substances we encounter daily. In one study conducted over a 15-year period, women who cleaned their own homes had a 54 percent higher death rate from cancer than women who did not.

The study concluded that the increased death rate was due to daily exposure to hazardous chemicals found in ordinary household products. In addition to their inherent toxicity, these products also create tons of toxic waste that is disposed of in the environment in the form of air and water pollution and solid toxic waste.

A report published by the Government Accounting Office found that the EPA only collected data about potential long-term effects of new chemicals on human health for 15 percent of the chemicals it approved in a 30-year period, and that the studies were done only after the chemicals were in use. It is no wonder we are seeing a trend toward earth-friendly based cleaning chemistry, building materials, fabrics and foods.

A Natural Solution to Toxic Mold

While researching black toxic mold, Edward R Close, Ph.D, a mold remediation expert, discovered that certain therapeutic-grade essential plant oils and blends are more effective and far less dangerous than conventional toxic mold remedies. Close found that by using a cleaner that contains a small amount of the same oil blend he was able to obtain results that far surpassed the more aggressive types of traditional mold cleaning agents.

Another factor to consider when “cleaning” away mold or mildew is “surface stability.” Remember that spores are in the air at all times, ready to land and grow again. Hypochlorite solutions quickly vaporize and leave nothing on the surface to prevent re-growth. Natural cleaning products with certain therapeutic-grade essential plant oils and blends can, however, prevent re-growth.

Stan Zimmer is owner of Water & Salt Consulting, Sac City, Iowa. He can be reached at wellnesssalt@yahoo.com.