Why A Mold Expert Wants You To *Stop* Using Bleach Immediately
For a long time, bleach was a go-to product for many household chores, from sanitizing surfaces and removing stains to brightening clothes and cleaning kids' toys. These days, we're waking up to the risks of this harsh cleansing tool.
Bleach harms indoor air quality1, and it's probably not even as effective at cleaning as you think. Contrary to popular belief, bleach does not properly handle microbial growth in a home. Instead, it can allow contamination to continue to exist, leading to unwanted exposures.
I'm a mold remediation expert, and here are four good reasons to opt for a bleach alternative:
"Killing" mold is not enough.
One reason bleach is not effective is that simply killing the organism is not enough to deal with contamination.
As the Environmental Protection Agency2 notes, "The use of a chemical or biocide that kills organisms such as mold (chlorine bleach, for example) is not recommended as a routine practice during mold cleanup. In most cases, it is not possible or desirable to sterilize an area; a background level of mold spores will remain… Dead mold may still cause allergic reactions in some people, so it is not enough to simply kill the mold; it must also be removed."
While bleach may kill the colonized mold (and that's not even a guarantee), it won't eliminate all of the particles present. Dead mold particles have to go so that exposure does not continue.
Bleach leaves spores and mycotoxins behind.
In an effort to reproduce, mold colonies will create and release microscopic particles called spores into the surrounding environment. If these spores land on a surface with moisture and organic material, they'll transition into a living colony. Some species of mold also create microscopic toxins called mycotoxins. These particles are toxic to the human body3 and can cause a long list of adverse health reactions, which is why they are tightly regulated in our food products.
These mold byproducts are particularly resilient, and in my experience, bleach does not remove them. In order to properly remediate mold in a home, all particles must be eliminated, including dead mold, fragments, mycotoxins, and spores.
Bleach is ineffective on semi-porous and porous surfaces.
Semi-porous and porous surfaces have small pockets that allow particles to burrow deep within the surface. To effectively deal with any contamination present, these particles have to be dealt with. Bleach cannot effectively handle this situation.
Mold is a great example of why bleach fails to accomplish its task. This fungus grows roots, similar to a weed. Like a weed, in order to remove it from a surface, you've got to pull it up, roots and all. Otherwise, it will just grow right back.
While bleach will kill the surface level of mold, it will not penetrate porous and semi-porous surfaces far enough to deal with the roots. In fact, bleach can actually help the mold continue to grow since it's made from over 90% water and a splash of chlorine. When you toss bleach on a surface, the chlorine burns out quickly, leaving only water behind. The roots of mold left behind can use this source of moisture to grow, allowing the colony to come right back.
Harsh chemicals are bad for our air—and the environment.
Sodium hypochlorite is the main component that gives bleach its cleaning oomph. Many bleach-containing products have chlorine-containing compounds, such as hypochlorous acid (HOCl) and chlorine gas (Cl2). The fumes have been shown4 to negatively affect indoor air quality, irritate the eyes, skin, and respiratory system, and cause symptoms such as coughing, headaches, and watery eyes. Additionally, when bleach is mixed with certain other household cleaning products, it can create chlorine gas, which is toxic if inhaled.
The environment is another consideration. When chlorine is released into the outdoor environment, it can form dioxins5, known carcinogens that harm both aquatic life and wildlife. The major culprits for this form of contamination are the manufacturing of bleach itself and the large-scale use of the product.
What to use instead.
If not bleach, what should you use at home? When looking for a cleaning product to get rid of and prevent mold, homeowners need something that will eliminate mold spores, kill mold, and remove it from the roots. All of the contamination should be eliminated so that there's no exposure to harmful particles. That's where natural cleaning products shine. Instead of harmful components, botanical products use ingredients like essential oils to effectively clean and remove toxic particles that can cause adverse health reactions.
These nontoxic ingredients also do not decrease indoor air quality with harmful chemicals and reduce the risk of exposure-related reactions.
A few great options to add to your cleaning arsenal include:
- Benefect Decon 30: This product uses a botanical active ingredient called Thymol, a component of thyme oil, to neutralize contaminants on a surface. It also has a unique Optimized Dynamic Chemistry (ODC) surfactant system. These surfactants help remove particles from the surface while the other active ingredients kill the living mold. As mentioned above, pulling particles to the surface is key because if any are left behind, exposure to these contaminants will continue, allowing for adverse health reactions to persist.
- EC3 Laundry Additive: This cleaner uses citrus seed extracts to treat mold and its byproducts. It also features tea tree oil and natural surfactants, which help to pull particles from the fibers of porous items and clean them away. Not only can it help decontaminate porous, machine-washable items, but it can also help keep the laundry machine itself in good condition.
In an effort to create a healthy home that supports our wellness, it's time to swap bleach for better, safer alternatives. Little steps such as this will help improve our indoor air quality and our overall well-being at home.
Michael Rubino, "The Mold Medic," is an international authority on mold remediation and the author of The Mold Medic: An Expert’s Guide on Mold Removal.
As President of HomeCleanse, Rubino specializes in working with people who are immunocompromised or have acute and sustained reactions to mold exposure. He works closely with the company's advisory team, which includes global well-being trailblazers Deepak Chopra’s The Chopra Foundation and Gwyneth Paltrow, to achieve the company's mission to improve the quality of life for 100 million people each year by 2030. Rubino is also the founder of Change the Air Foundation, a nonprofit committed to empowering the world to achieve better health by establishing safer and healthier indoor environments.
Through collaboration with over 100 doctors globally, Rubino strives to not only raise awareness globally but also provide solutions to correctly identify and remove the pollutants causing this worldwide health crisis. Rubino specializes in working with people who are immunocompromised or have acute and sustained reactions to mold exposure and has helped heal over 1,000 families so far—including celebrities and athletes. He is a council-certified Mold Remediation Supervisor by ACACa nd IICRC and is a contributing member, sponsor, and speaker for the Indoor Air Quality Association.
Connect with Michael Rubino on Facebook @HomeCleanseCo, Instagram @TheMichaelRubino and TikTok @HomeCleanse, and visit www.homecleanse.com.