Clove oil for killing mould

So it may have a history of being an old wives tale, but oil of cloves (as found in the first aid section of your local chemist), or clove essential oil (these are both the same thing) can be used to help remove or even kill mould in humid environments, such as what we’re experiencing right now. I have personally had great success in using 5 drops of clove oil in a 125ml spray bottle of water, sprayed on and then left for 20 minutes before wiping off with a clean damp cloth. I have used this on walls, doors and the outside of a fridge door. My mother found great success with it on her high ceilings when she lived on an island, where of course mould was a constant problem. I thought I would look further into it

First of all, mould is everywhere. It’s in every breath you take, everything you touch, everything you wear and it is an important part of our environment. The problem is of course that it can cause health problems and property damage in excess so is of course best got rid of when seen and in general we should take steps to minimise the growth of mould around our homes.

To make an ideal environment for mould to grow it must have still air, warmth, moisture and darkness. Obviously good ventilation in our bathrooms really helps reduce mould production, as does getting on top of any leaks in the home as soon as possible. Mould also needs a food source, such as building materials. Spores can lay dormant for many years, so in general it is best to not panic about trying to eradicate mould entirely.

Right now, after a flood and a lot of rain we may be waiting a while to get someone to make repairs to our homes. Clove oil can come in handy when complete removal of the source is not yet an option

Most commercial cleaners rely on chlorine bleach, which doesn’t kill mould spores effectively (1, 2) it will just bleach the visible mould white while the spores will continue to grow under the surface. Clove oil has been found to kill the mould spore, meaning that it will clean the surface and drastically reduce recurrence in the future.

Clove oil is an essential oil extracted from the spice we are all familiar with, cloves. The active ingredient in clove oil is eugenol, at around 83.5%, which is a potent anti-bacterial, anti-fungal agent that has been found to be useful in breaking up biofilms. There has been a study done that have shown that clove oil can prevent growth of fungi (of which black mould is one) 100% over 24 hours – see table 7 and discussion.

I could not find studies for the effectiveness of clove oil against Stachybotrys chartarum, the specific species of fungi that the black mould in our houses is, as most of the research seems to be focused on medical and food applications, from fighting candida to preventing our fruit from spoiling before it gets to us. I did find one review article that examined the anti-fungal qualities of essential oils for improving air quality around us in our homes that is quite interesting. It found within the more robust studies that clove oil had anti-fungal activity comparable to commercial disinfectants, and was the most potent anti-fungal when compared to an extensive list of other essential oils. This review article does not discuss using clove oil on a specific area to treat mould in the way that I have personally used it myself. I found another study that examined the anti-fungal activity of lavender, eucalyptus and clove essential oils that found that clove oil had the broadest spectrum of activity and lasted the longest time. All of these essential oils were found to be more effective than commercially available anti-fungal agents.

So with all of that said, and the research I am presenting just being the fruits of an afternoon’s reading and by no means exhaustive, if you do decide to use clove oil to kill mould in your homes, here are the instructions from cleaning expert Shannon Lush:

  • For HARD SURFACES (excluding marble or limestone) use 1 quarter teaspoon of clove oil per 1 litre of water in a spray bottle shaken well before each use and lightly mist over the surface. Leave for 20 minutes to 24 hours and then wipe over with white vinegar
  • For LEATHER or TIMBER put 1 quarter teaspoon of clove oil in 250ml of baby oil, shake well, put a couple of drops on a clean cloth and then wipe over the mould affected surface
  • To remove mould from SOFT SURFACES like FABRICS, you need to use salty water. 1kg of uniodised salt per bucket of water, stirred with your hand until it dissolves. Soak the fabric over night, hang on the line in the sun while dripping wet and allow it to slowly dry. The slower the better because as the salt crystals regrow it will push apart the fabric fibres, pulling the mould out with it, making it easier for the mould to be brushed off once the fabric is dried
  • If removing mould from CANVAS and AWNINGS, dip a broom in the same salt and water solutions, brush it onto the surface and allow to dry in the sun before brushing off.

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