A heater is a useful tool in eliminating mold from inside the home. While it has specific advantages, it also has certain limitations, and therefore should not be your only means of defense. At best, a heater can contribute to a mold-killing effort that requires the use of other important tools as well.
Heaters aid in the removal of mold by drying out humid and otherwise moist surfaces. Since mold spores cannot germinate without moisture, heat can return the spores to a neutral and non-harmful state. Before applying fungicides to a moldy surface, dry the area to stop the growth of the active mold and inhibit the release of volatile organic compounds.
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Types of Heaters
A central heating system can reduce the amount of relative humidity in a home, but a portable heater is more useful for isolated mold colonies, as you can direct the heat specifically toward the colony. Gas heaters and electric heaters can both dry moldy surfaces, but gas heaters emit carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide, which leads to an even greater accumulation of volatile compounds in the air.
Other Heating Sources
For small areas of mold, like a shower tile riddled with mildew, you can achieve the same effect using a device as simple as a hair dryer. For movable objects like furniture, use sunlight outdoors as a natural dryer. A portable dehumidifier, though not specifically a heating device, offers the same mold-killing benefits, as it pulls moisture away from household surfaces and reduces the relative humidity of the immediate environment.
Disinfecting and Removing
It is crucial that you disinfect any moldy surface. The use of heat will dry and neutralize the spores, but if you do not take the next step and defeat the spores, they can germinate again at the first sign of moisture. You can disinfect mold by spraying it with a household acid like white vinegar or lemon juice, or a chemical compound like bleach (use no more than 1 cup of bleach mixed with 1 quart of water) or peroxide. After disinfecting, dry the spores again and remove them from your home using a vacuum cleaner.
- Texas A&M University; Applications of Commercial Heat Pump Water Heaters in Hot, Humid Climates; Karl F. Johnson and Alan C. Shedd, P.E
- Consumer Reports: Space Heaters
- Washington State Department of Health: Got Mold?
- University of Missouri Extension; How to Prevent and Remove Mildew -- Home Methods; Wanda Eubank and Betty Feather; April 1998