Thanks to our trusty air conditioner for the joys of a cool room on a hot day. But what if that same lifesaver is quietly compromising our health? Many of us are unaware of a lurking issue: mould in air conditioner. This seemingly minor problem can escalate into significant health risks, including chronic illnesses.
In this guide, we’ll delve into the challenges a mouldy air conditioner poses and, more importantly, share safe and effective ways to address them. Because while we all love comfort, our health should never be the price we pay.
Mould in Air Conditioner: Why Is It The Culprit Of Our Respiratory and Other Health Issues?
So, What Exactly is Mould?
Have we ever noticed a greenish-black patch on a damp wall or a peculiar smell in a closed room? That’s a mould for you. It’s a tiny life form, part of the vast world of fungi. These little beings love moisture and spread by sending out tiny spores, which, unfortunately, aren’t great for our health when we breathe them in.
The Real Issue with Mould
Mould might seem like a pesky intruder, but its effects can be more profound than a simple sneeze. Some of us might react to mould with allergies, showing symptoms as mild as a runny nose or as severe as breathing difficulties. But there’s more — certain mould varieties release toxins called mycotoxins. These aren’t everyday toxins; prolonged exposure can lead to long-term health problems and worsen conditions.
Mould in the Unlikeliest of Places
While mould can bother, it’s not always the bad guy. Have you ever enjoyed the rich taste of a Camembert or brie cheese? That unique flavour and texture come from a specific mould. And let’s not forget the serendipitous discovery by Alexander Fleming, where mould led to the birth of the life-saving antibiotic penicillin. It’s a reminder that mould, in the proper context, can be quite the hero. (but not a hero for us if it infests our aircon units..)
Why is There Mould in Air Conditioners
Moist and Humid Environments
Air conditioners, by design, regulate temperature and often humidity, creating a cool oasis in our homes. However, this process inherently produces a moist and humid environment, especially when the outside air is warm and wet. This damp setting inside the aircon units is a paradise for mould spores, allowing them to thrive and multiply.
Residual Moisture and Condensation
It doesn’t dry up instantly, even when an air conditioner is switched off. Residual moisture and condensation from the cooling process remain within the unit. These pockets of stagnant water provide mould with the nourishment it needs to grow. Over time, if unchecked, these tiny patches can become breeding grounds for significant mould colonies, releasing mould spores and bacteria into the air we breathe.
Airborne Bacteria’s Entry
Whenever an air conditioner pulls outside air to cool and circulate, it’s not just bringing in air. Along with it come microscopic organisms, including airborne bacteria and mould spores. While filters trap many of these invaders, they must be foolproof. Some bacteria and spores find their way into the moist interiors of the air conditioning ducts. Here, in the presence of residual moisture and condensation, they find a conducive environment, further exacerbating the mould problem in the unit.
Signs of Mould in Air Conditioning System
Musty or Funky Smells in Your Aircon Unit
The scent is one of the earliest and most noticeable indicators of a mould problem in your aircon unit. If you’re greeted with a musty or funky smell every time you switch on your air conditioner, it’s a red flag. This isn’t just the smell of stale air; it’s an indication of mould spores and bacteria actively proliferating within your system.
Black or Grey Circular Marks
While mould often thrives in hidden nooks and crannies, it sometimes leaves visible traces. If you spot black or grey circular marks inside your unit or on the filters, it’s a clear sign of a mould infestation. These aren’t mere dirt spots; they’re colonies of mould that have taken root, potentially releasing harmful spores into the air.
Blockages in Air Conditioning Drains
A well-functioning air conditioner should have clear drains, allowing condensation and moisture to exit the system. However, mould growth can lead to blockages in these air conditioning drains. If you notice water pooling or your aircon not draining as it should, it might be more than just a mechanical issue; mould could be the culprit.
Conducting a Spore Count
While smells, marks, and blockages are surface indicators, to truly gauge the extent of a mould issue, one needs to delve deeper. Conducting a spore count quantitatively measures the number of mould spores in your air conditioner. A high spore count confirms the presence of mould and underscores the urgency to address it, especially given the potential health risks like a chronic illness.
Safe and Effective Solutions To Clean Mould Out of an Air Conditioner
Use a Face Shield or Filter Mask For Personal Safety
Before diving into the cleaning process, it’s paramount to prioritise personal safety. Mould spores, when disturbed, can become airborne and pose inhalation risks. Using a face shield or a filter mask is not just a recommendation but a necessity. These protective measures ensure you don’t directly inhale mould spores and bacteria while tackling the problem.
Commercial vs. Natural Solutions
When it comes to cleaning agents, there’s a spectrum of choices. We have commercial air conditioner cleaners designed to combat mould on one end. On the other, nature offers solutions like tea tree oil, oil of cloves, vinegar and water, and methylated spirits and water. While commercial solutions are potent and fast-acting, natural alternatives are gentle and free from harsh chemicals. Depending on the severity of the mould infestation and personal preferences, one can choose the most suitable cleaning agent.
Aerosol Sprays and Foams
The market is flooded with aerosol sprays and foam cleaners that promise quick fixes for mould issues. While they can be effective, there’s an ongoing debate about their long-term impact. Some argue these products only mask the problem, while others vouch for their efficacy. Anti-mould sprays, in particular, have been hailed as saviours and criticised for merely suppressing visible mould without addressing the root cause.
While many cleaning agents promise a mould-free air conditioner, it’s essential to be wary of the chemical composition. A toxic cocktail of chemicals might eliminate mould but can introduce a new set of health risks. Breathing in harsh chemicals can be as detrimental, if not more so, than mould spores. It’s crucial to read labels, understand the ingredients, and ensure that the chosen cleaner doesn’t compromise air quality or personal health.
How To Prevent Mould in Air Conditioners
Routine Checks and Upkeep
To keep mould at bay, it’s essential to make air conditioner maintenance a regular habit. By periodically inspecting and cleaning your unit, you ensure its longevity and create a healthier space by reducing the chances of mould growth.
Tending to Evaporation Trays
Often missed in routine cleanings, evaporation trays can become a mould’s favourite hideout. These trays, designed to collect condensation, can become mould hotspots if neglected. Regularly disinfecting and cleaning these areas can nip the problem in the bud, ensuring mould doesn’t get a foothold.
Eliminating Persistent Moisture
A damp environment is a mould’s playground. Ensuring that your air conditioner has no lingering water or moisture after its cycles is vital. Regularly checking for and addressing any moisture build-up can thwart mould growth. If you find consistent dampness, seek expert advice.
The Value of Preventative Care
While it’s crucial to tackle mould issues head-on when they appear, there’s unmatched value in prevention. Anticipatory maintenance is more than just cleaning; it’s about being familiar with your unit, pinpointing potential issues, and proactively addressing them. This approach keeps mould away and ensures your air conditioner operates at its best.
The Key Takeaway:
By ensuring our air conditioning units are routinely checked and cleaned, we extend their lifespan and safeguard our homes from potential mould infestations. And while DIY measures can go a long way, there are moments when professional intervention becomes invaluable. Experts can pinpoint issues, offer solutions, and ensure our units run efficiently and safely.
As we prioritise our health and indoor environment quality, it’s also time to consider other home improvement essentials.
Visit Megafurniture for all your aircon and home improvement needs!
Suppose You are Thinking of Elevating Your Living Spaces. Dive Into These Essential Reads:
Interior Design Singapore: Best Firms for Your Next Home Renovation
Your Ultimate Cheat Sheet to Renovation in Singapore: HDB Guidelines, Procedures & Tips
Bonus Treat: DIY Cleaning Solutions That Are Safe and Effective To Remove Mould in Air Conditioner
Distilled White Vinegar:Application: Fill a spritzer with undiluted white vinegar. Directly spritz onto affected spots and let it act for around 60 minutes. After, gently wipe off using a soft cloth. Known for its disinfecting properties, white vinegar can neutralise about 82% of mould types.
Sodium Bicarbonate (Baking Soda):Application: Combine baking soda with a bit of water to form a dense mixture. Smear this onto the affected regions and leave it for roughly 10 minutes. Use a scrubbing brush to clean, then rinse. Apart from mould removal, baking soda also neutralises odours and deters mould recurrence.
Melaleuca Oil (Tea Tree Oil): Combine 1 teaspoon of melaleuca oil with a cup of water in a spritzer. Shake and spritz onto mould spots. Let it be for several hours, then wipe it off. Recognised for its fungicidal properties, tea tree oil can annihilate mould upon contact.
Oxygenated Water (Hydrogen Peroxide): Use a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution in a spritzer. Spritz on mould spots, wait 10 minutes, then scrub to remove mould and any stains. This solution is both antifungal and antibacterial.
Citrus Seed Extract (Grapefruit Seed Extract): Mix 10 drops of citrus seed extract with a cup of water in a spritzer. Spritz on affected areas and let it air dry. This extract is a potent disinfectant and also deters mould from returning.
Citrus Essence (Lemon Juice): Extract juice from 3-4 lemons and apply directly to mould spots. Allow it to act for 5 minutes, then wipe it away—the natural antiseptic properties of lemon and its acidity help combat mould.
- Always wear gloves and a face mask when handling mould to avoid direct contact and inhalation.
- Before using any mixture, do a patch test to ensure it doesn’t cause discolouration or damage.
- Ensure proper ventilation during the cleaning process to disperse any mould particles.
- Post-cleaning, it’s crucial to pinpoint and address the root cause of the moisture-promoting mould growth to avert future issues.