Return of a Mold Enemy

- - posted in Ancient Archives

Just before leaving to go on holiday we discovered a problem. Moving some bags of clothes stored against a bedroom wall revealed a splatter-pattern of yellow mildew. Pulling furniture away from the walls revealed the mold had spread across one entire wall, always out of sight, and had started spreading onto the two adjacent walls. Worse, my chest of drawers that stores t shirts and camera bits had been contaminated, with bright yellow patches inside towards the bottom, and invisible growth on the back with a strange and distinctive smell.

I should have guessed something was going on months ago - I'd sometimes noticed a faint smell like chalk dust, but put it down to the air filter we'd just bought, assuming that it was something to do with the filter, or stirred-up dust.

The brown hardboard backs of furniture seems strangely effected too - some had a strong chalky smell but no visible mold until it was cleaned, then darker spots would appear. The undersides of two IKEA HOL boxes were particularly bad.

The bed, made of pine, seems fine, but we ended up washing it anyway. The slats seems to have stained the underside of the no-turn mattress with a plank version of the Turin Shroud, but other than that it's fine.

I've been washing down surfaces with some tea-tree soap, then rinsing with diluted vinegar, drying it, then soaking with rather strong tea tree oil solution, and letting that soak in and dry gradually. I've been using a lot of tea tree oil (I'm hoping to avoid a known side effect of absorbing too much tea tree oil). We've had to start washing *all* our clothing, bed linen, etc, then drying it, then repacking it in cleaned areas. Doing that while trying to keep the flat dry isn't easy - it's going to take weeks. We've been dismantling furniture and leaving parts of it in sunlight, as I've heard that helps.

I've not sure why the problem has occurred - the bedroom isn't damp and was pretty clean and tidy, but I've got some ideas:

  • We were storing a lot of items that were previously kept in the damp store room in the old flat, and were probably 'infected' there. The old cardboard box of traditional Mississippi swamp moss voodoo dolls didn't help - it was definitely moldy.
  • Some areas of the room had furniture very close to the wall, and the mildew had particularly flourished in those areas. No normally visible area of wall had any mold at all.
  • We were using an old non-HEPA Philips air purifier with a filter that had been used in the old flat. I think this may have helped distribute spores rather than absorb them (we couldn't find a new filter for it, and finally gave up and bought a new Bionaire purifier)
  • The bedroom is usually cool, and the laminate floor gets rather cold. I think warm damp air from the lounge and kitchen was cooling and condensing in the bedroom and being absorbed, and feeding the items infected in the old flat.

The good news so far is that the mold is coming off OK, leaving little trace in most cases. Most of the chalky smell has gone, and the yellow marks it left on wooden areas is fading.