Blog: Dealing with mould

The floods and increased rainfall across Queensland this year has left many households and organisations dealing with mildew and mould. QCOSS has heard from organisations who have needed to relocate offices or have team members work from home because mould has become a problem in their offices. Organisations providing residential care or housing have had to manage mould growth in homes of clients.

Recent flooding events may have prompted organisations to consider their insurance policies and what coverage they have for natural disasters. With organisations now reporting asset loss due to ongoing mould growth, it’s a good time to check what mitigations you have in place for this issue.

Excess moisture, long periods of heat and humidity, and pooling of water are all factors that can cause mould to grow.  Sometimes mould can be spotted because of its colour, but this is not always the case. If you can’t see the mould you might be able to detect a musty, unpleasant odour.

Who is affected by mould?

Breathing in or touching mould can cause health problems, especially for people with asthma, sensitivities, allergies, or for those with chronic diseases or low immunity.

It is important to address mould as early as possible to reduce the potential risk it may have on you and others.

Ways to minimise mould growth

  • Air out the rooms – if the building has been affected by rain or flooding, it is important to open doors and windows to dry out the area as quickly as possible
  • Absorbent items that can’t be cleaned easily should be thrown away if they are wet for more than 2 days
  • Repair leaky plumbing, roofs, and other fixtures as soon as possible
  • If you are repainting walls, consider adding anti-mould solutions into your paint
  • Clear plants, bushes, and soil away from walls as they help to hold in moisture and promote mould growth
  • Air conditioning and other ventilation units are a good environment for mould to grow. It is recommended to have air conditioners and ventilation units serviced by a qualified technician.

Tips for cleaning mould

  • Do not use a dry brush to clean mould as it could release spores into the air
  • Use commercial mould remover products or household cleaning agents such as a solution of 3 parts vinegar and 2 parts water
  • Bleach is not recommended because it’s not an effective mould killer
  • Items that can be washed, such as linen, should be washed as usual
  • Non-porous items such as glassware and some plastics can be washed in hot water with a bleach solution or disinfectant and air dried
  • Ensure you wear rubber gloves while sorting and cleaning mouldy items
  • Protect your eyes by using safety goggles and consider wearing a P2 disposable respirator while cleaning if you have a pre-existing respiratory condition.

To access more mould tips, see Queensland Health’s fact sheet on dealing with mould after a storm, flood or cyclone.

For further information on removing mould, particularly for Queensland public housing tenants, visit this website.

The State Library of Queensland also have information on how you can salvage water damaged paper and books, as well as how to treat mould affected collections.

The removal of mould may result in disputes arising about who cleans or who pays for cleaning. Caxton Legal Centre have written an article addressing this, and how to consider mould management with a human rights respecting lens. Read it here.