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Bleach Mold Myth Exposé: Bleach is Ineffective to Kill Mold on Porous Surfaces [Most Building Materials]

Below are actual reports from bleach users worldwide about the failure of bleach to kill mold growth. [as emailed to our mold advice service moldconsultant@yahoo.com on the dates indicated below]

---"I live in a half double and I recently discovered mold in my home. In my downstairs living room and in my upstairs bedroom. I cleaned the area with bleach and within a few days the white hairs were growing back."---D.W. on Nov. 17, 2004.

---"I can forward you pics of the walls, which by the way I scrubbed with a bleach mixture, then sealed & repainted, the black & fuzzy grey mold is growing back. I know it is the mold making me sick, I never suffered from any of this before in my life."---R.K. on Nov. 21, 2004.

---"Mold grows all over the baseboards of the downstairs. In the closets and on all the contents in the closets. It grows on the sofas and the pillows on the sofas. It actually grows on any and everything down stairs. I have cleaned everything with lysol and bleach and yet it returns."---K. in Tennessee on Nov. 22, 2004.

---"My air conditioner was leaking this summer and caused water to run down my apt. wall, I now have mold on the wall, carpet, and surrounding woodwork despite trying to treat it with bleach."---D.M. on Nov. 23, 2004.

---"My mother called the landlord and told him that there was brown stuff growing on the walls, and he said clean it with bleach and water. My mother is constantly cleaning the walls with bleach because it keeps coming back."---J.O. on Nov. 24, 2004.

---"The apartment manager sent a maintenance man up and he wiped off it off with bleach. Well, it keeps coming back, just noticed that in our bedroom where we all sleep mold started develop on the walls near the floor."---L.D. on Nov. 29, 2004

---"We tried bleach on the mold in our bathroom, but other than emit a nasty smell throughout the condo, it did nothing."---E.T, Florida on Dec. 1, 2004.

---"On every single window seal in my house, we have mold that appears every week. I have been cleaning it off with bleach, but I want to know how to make it stop. All the windows are only 2-3 years old."---A.M., on Dec. 5, 2004.

---"Bleach works for a while but the mold keeps coming back." D.W. on Dec. 8, 2004, from eastern North Carolina.

---"There was also mold growing on the walls behind my mirrors. This has been noted to my land lord. The landlord's maintenance employees sprayed it with bleach, and now the mold is back . My family's health has not been the best from living with mold."--G.S., on Dec. 10, 2004.

---"We have used clorox and Kilz on the growing mold on wall and baseboards and windows, but it keeps coming back! Bleach and Kilz don't help stop mold."---H.M., on December 10, 2004

---"There is mold growing on my basement walls a little at a time. I always wipe it off with bleach but it eventually grows back (the walls are dry wall)."---D.M., on December 11, 2004.

---"I had a lot of mold on my walls. It probably was about 20 inches high from base board. I always cleaned it with bleach and it took it off for a while but always came back."---B.N., on Dec. 27, 2004.

---"A month ago the apartment maintenance men cleaned the mold on the wall by our daughters crib with bleach. Since then, we have found, 4 more spots of mold, on the same wall."---K.O., on Dec. 29, 2004.

---"I have a really gross looking mold (I think it's a mold) growing in the corner of my shower, I believe originating from the tile grout. It looks like two pale yellow macaroni noodles stuck together. They are hollow and about 1 inch each. They appeared literally overnight, for the second time, despite heavy cleaning and bleaching."---M.S., Los Angeles, California, on Dec. 29, 2004.

---"I am 7 months pregnant and also have a 2 year old son and all of us have seemed to be sick since we moved here. The manager has only wiped the mold away with bleach and told us to do so also if it comes back..... which I have been doing every 3-5 days, that's how long it usually takes to reappear."---R.C., on Jan. 3, 2005

---"I have scrubbed several times with straight bleach and the mold just keeps returning."---D.D., on Jan. 4, 2005.

---"We have a severe mold problem growing in the basement. We have washed the walls time and time again with bleach and water, but it never seems to do any good."---S.P., on Jan. 5, 2005.

---"I have tons of mold in my classroom. During the summer, I scraped it off, bleached it, and painted it. It grew back within 3 days."---C.B. on January 5, 2005.

---"We soon noticed one of the climbing vine houseplants had a fluffy white mold growing atop it's "climbing pole." We've noticed that the surface of some of the bricks were covered with a white powder, and unfortunately doused the bricks with bleach after removing the plants. This caused a fluffy white overgrowth that was much worse than the first."---R.L. on January 5, 2005.

---"We have a window mold problem. We have cleaned the tracks with bleach and it comes back."---K.S. on Jan. 6, 2005.

---"Bleach seems to help control the mold only for a month or so."---P.R., on Jan. 7, 2005.

---"The landlord recommended bleach which didn't get rid of the mold---it's growing back."---A.M. on Jan. 11, 2005.

---"I have been bleaching the mold and scrubbing the effected areas (the entire attic!) on a daily basis. But it keeps coming back."---R.B. on Jan. 12, 2005

---"The mold spread over time and my wife tried to clean it with bleach having no success."---J.A., on Jan. 12, 2005.

---"There is black mold in the shower at all times. I bleach it and it goes away for a day or so and then reappears."---C.H. on Jan. 12, 2005.

---"I occasionally spray the moldy basement cement walls with clorox bleach. The clorox only seems to work for a month or two."--- A.B. on Jan. 13, 2005

---"I have mold in my bathroom (ceiling and upper wall) and have tried bleach water and repainted with Kilz. The mold is returning."--- T.L. on Jan. 13, 2005.

---"All four walls are covered pretty much floor to ceiling along with the ceiling. Like many others, I have cleaned with bleach only to have the mold return." ---D.C. on Jan. 14, 2005.

---"We've cleaned with bleach but there is still mold in the house. I have been very nauseus and throwing up every morning."---L.O. on Jan. 14, 2005

---"Bleach spray will take it away but the mold comes back."---T.T. on Jan. 14, 2005.

---"A black powdery mold, growing in circle clusters keeps growing and growing. bleach doesn't work. I want to be able to kill it for good."---K.M. on Jan. 15, 2005.

---"My mother, who is a nurse and here on vacation, came over to our apartment and freaked out, saying that she smelled and detected mold in our window ledges, after I had just bleached it less than a month ago. So the mold has grown back since then."--M.P. on Jan. 16, 2005.

---"On the front porch of my daughter's home, there was mold all over. She cleaned with bleach and it came back."---A.C. in North Carolina on Jan. 16, 2005.

---"Along the building there are now several areas as large as 2 to 3 feet in diameter of what appears to be a white mold substance coming up through the concrete. This substance cakes up 2 to 3 inches high. My rental manager has tried treating this with bleach and it has not stopped it from re-occurring."---J.C. on Jan. 17, 2005.

---"My cement garage floor (1st time ever) has white fuzzy mold all over it. First I washed it with diluted bleach, the next day it came back. I just poured straight bleach on it but it still is coming back."---S.H. in California on Jan. 18, 2005.

---"I have plaster walls throughout the home, and have been cleaning the mold with vinegar, bleach and water -- the mold seems to disappear, but within weeks it is back again." T.L. in Canada on Jan. 18, 2005.

Chlorine Bleach is ineffective in killing mold for at least four reasons:

  1. It is too diluted and thus too weak to permanently kill mold unless the mold is simply sitting on top of a hard surface like a counter top or sink.
  2. What little killing power chlorine bleach does have is diminished significantly as the bleach sits in warehouses and on grocery store shelves or inside your home or business [50% loss in killing power in just the first 90 days inside a never opened jug or container] Chlorine ions constantly escapes through the plastic walls of its containers.
  3. Chlorine bleach's ion structure also prevents chlorine from penetrating into porous materials such as dry wall and wood--- It just stays on the outside surface, whereas mold has protected enzyme roots growing inside the porous construction materials. When you spray porous surface molds with bleach, the water in the water solution soaks into the wood while the bleach chemical sits atop the surface, gasses off, and thus only partially kills the surface layer of mold while the water penetration of the building materials fosters further mold growth.
  4. Chlorine Bleach is NOT registered with the EPA as a disinfectant to kill mold. You can verify that important fact yourself when you are unable to find an EPA registration number for killing mold on the label of any brand of chlorine bleach.

New University Study Discovers That Bleach
is Ineffective In Killing Mold on Wood

"While bleach is often recommended for remediation of surface mold on wood, our [university research study] results illustrate that the treatment does not eliminate the surface microflora," is the conclusion of the Oregon State University study of the effects of chlorine bleach on mold growth on Douglas fir wood [an important timber crop in the state of Oregon]. The research study was conducted by Professor Jeffrey Morrell, Dept. of Wood Science, Oregon State University, as assisted by Adam Taylor [graduate research assistant] and Camille Freitag [Senior Research Associate], as published in Forest Products Journal, 54:4, 2004.

To kill mold effectively on porous surfaces [like building materials, carpeting, upholstery, etc.], use EPA-registered fungicide Shockwave which is manufacturer-rated to kill mold on both porous and nonporous surfaces. Bleach as a mold disinfectant is best used in the kitchen and bathroom for countertops, tubs and shower glass, and other hard surfaces.

Comparison of Commercial Products [such as EPA-registered fungicide Shockwave] versus Home-Made Alternatives such as using Bleach

Often people choose to use home-made alternatives to commercial cleaning products because they believe that naturally occurring or naturally derived substances are less toxic and better for the environment than commercial products. However, scientists have not found a correlation between naturalness, toxicity, or environmental compatibility. In fact, some of the most toxic substances in existence are naturally occurring substances. Furthermore, commercial products are tested in terms of effectiveness, safety, and environmental compatibility. Nonetheless, if you choose to use a homemade cleaning solution, you MUST use precautions.

In addition to the factors listed in the following table, there are safety factors that should be considered before making or using a homemade cleaning product. For instance, you should NEVER mix cleaning solutions. This is especially important because products that are safe when used separately can become hazardous if mixed with another product. An example of this type of product is chlorine bleach. NEVER mix chlorine bleach or a product containing chlorine bleach with ammonia or any product containing ammonia or with any acidic products such as toilet bowl cleaners. If these products are mixed, toxic gases can be released. Furthermore, mixing household chemicals can also result in heat or explosion or household chemicals can become less effective if mixed with another chemical. Still yet, some household solutions simply do not work well or at all. This is of particular concern when individuals are trying to disinfect a surface, or kill disease causing microorganisms.

The following table outlines some of the advantages and disadvantages of commercial products and homemade alternatives.

Commercial ProductsHome-Made Alternatives
Meet Federal Safety RegulationsNot Subject to Federal Regulations
Proper Precautionary LabelingNo Precautionary Labeling
Ingredients Known to Poison Control CentersIngredients May Not be Known to Poison Control Centers
Child-Resistant Closures Where NeededUsually No Child-Resistant Closures
Packaging Compatible with FormulationPackaging May Not Be Compatible
Formulation StableProduct May Degrade in Package
Won't Grow Harmful BacteriaMay Grow Harmful Bacteria
Won't Harm Goods When Used as DirectedMay Harm Valuable Possessions
Careful Quality ControlVaries By Consumer Skill
Evaluated for Safety and Environmental CompatibilityNot Evaluated for Safety or Environmental Compatibility

Source: The Consumer Products Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to Today's Household Chemical Products. (1992) Chemical Specialties Manufacturers Association, Inc

Disadvantages of Using Chlorine Bleach

The following disadvantages of using chlorine bleach were published "Bleach Usage" on Facility-maintenance.com---

  1. Chlorine bleach lacks the ability to cut through dirt. A surface or object being cleaned and disinfected must first be cleaned if bleach is going to be used as disinfectant, adding time and labor costs to any project. "Organic material readily inactivates these disinfectants, so the surface must be cleaned first," said one industry consultant. "You have to essentially double the time that it should take to clean and disinfect a soiled surface." [In a 2004 study of five different household products to try to clean a moldy shower curtain, The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the least effective product was chlorine bleach.]</li>
  2. More disadvantages of chlorine bleach are as follow---
    • Bleach loses strength rapidly: Carol Bush, area manager for contract cleaner Central Property Services, Pittsburgh, said a bleach/water solution left on a shelf for any period of time will lose its effectiveness. At the same time, said cleaning industry educator William Griffin, Cleaning Consultant Services Inc, Seattle, bleach loses its effectiveness quickly when being used, "gassing off" before most disinfecting can be accomplished.
    • Bleach can hide dirt: The bleach can make some soil transparent, leading a cleaner to think he/she has actually cleaned a surface when in fact the soil remains there, said Michael Smith, academic custodial supervisor, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA.
    • Bleach damages floor finishes: Bleach attacks floor coatings, eating away at their effectiveness.
    • Bleach damages fibers, carpets etc.
    • Bleach corrodes hard surfaces: Metals and other surfaces can not only be corroded, but discolored.
    • Bleach causes health concerns: Improper use of bleach -- either using too much or mixing it with certain products -- such as those that contain ammonia hydrochloric acid, acetic acid and phosphoric acid -- can create hazardous health conditions. [Another bleach health hazard: bleach can contaminate groundwater.]

What should you use to kill mold effectively?

Spray the moldy area with one or two wet coatings of the EPA-registered fungicide ShockWave, which is manufacturer-rated to kill mold on both porous and nonporous surfaces, followed [as step two] with one or two wet sprayings of EPA-registered fungicidal coating After-Shock. Both are available at Mold Mart. Learn the 27 steps recommended for safe and effective mold remediation.

I would like to thanks Phillip Fry of DangerBusters for his material posted above on bleach. He has an international web site with articles on every major aspect of mold.

He recommends the following sites for additional information: Mold products/services at www.shoppalstores.com/moldmart/ Mold training/certification at www.moldschool.net Find a Mold Inspector at www.certifiedmoldinspectors.com. Mold info at www.mold.ph

If you use any substance to remove and kill mold reduce your exposure as much as possible. My opinion is that all major substances used to kill mold are not to find their way into your body.

I also suggest reading my two liver articles if you are going to be exposed to mold killing substances of any type, so you can take supplements which may reduce the stress of exposure upon the body. All products and treatments could always use more research. One of my relatives is an expert toxicology engineer and he feels the quality of chemical testing is still very primitive and less exposure to mold killing chemicals is always better.

Also, in addition to checking you liver health, check your Epstein Barr Panel and Natural [Cancer] Killer Cell number during check ups to see if your immune system is working reasonably. If these are abnormal, your body may not be able to handle the chemicals you have been exposed to and you may need some medical help.

Best,

Dr. J



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