Mold & Mildew on Wood Vehicles – Part 2

Published by: David Sneed, Wheels That Won The West® Archives, LLC
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Last week, we started a discussionrelated to the challenges of mold and mildew growing on antique woodenvehicles.  This week, we’ll take a closerlook at what is not only an important vehicle preservation issue but also a caution for potential health concerns. 

With that brief introduction, how do weboth avoid and correct issues related to mildew and mold.  First, keep an eye on the humidity where your vehicle is stored.  Experts oftensay that a 35-50% level is a good target. However, those lower volumes can sometimes be difficult to achieve.  The reality is that any storage atmospherewith humidity amounts consistently over 65-70% is an invitation for trouble.  So, at a minimum, it’s important to work at keeping the indoor humidity below that range. Using dehumidifiers can be very helpful in these efforts.  You can typically find them in a number ofstores like Wal-Mart, Lowes,Orscheln, Murdoch’s,, andothers.  Some dehumidifiers are alsopaired with portable AC units.  It’s agood combination for the battle since warmer temperatures can also ratchet upthe reproductive tendencies of mold and mildew. While cooler temperatures don’t necessarily stop mold growth, cool air tends to hold less moisture than warm air.  As aresult, cooler temps can help minimize the moisture content necessary for moldto grow.  Keeping indoor temps stable, without broad fluctuations, is also important. 

When it comes to the overall airquality, a general lack of airflow can actually encourage the growth offungi.  By using indoor fans (not fanspulling in outdoor air) to help keep good air circulation in a building, theenvironment can be kept drier while mold spores have less of a chance to settleand form colonies.  It’s also advisablefor air conditioning units to be of the proper size as oversized systems mayhelp deliver excess moisture.  Likewise,it’s important to be mindful of surplus water from other sources.  In other words, if a building has a leak, abucket may provide an immediate answer but, for many reasons, it’s a situationthat needs to be promptly corrected.

Should you find mold and/or mildew on avehicle, there are several points to consider. First, let’s talk about a few of the ‘do–nots.’ Do not take a rag and merely wipe the spores from the affectedareas.  It may look like the problem isgone but, essentially, all you’re doing is loosening and spreading the spores.  Not only will this help transfer the problemto even more areas on the vehicle but it’s going to send countless microscopic crittersinto the air and, possibly, directly into the respiratory system of you andothers.  Similarly, do not attempt toclean any vehicle without the proper protective clothing, eye wear, gloves, andrespiratory gear.  Do not engage in anycleaning process without ensuring that you’re containing and not spreading thespores.  Do not clean mold from a pieceonly to continually subject it to the same environment – or nutrients likelinseed oil within that environment. Those elements are only perpetuating the mold growth you’re fighting.  If you're intent on managing thecircumstances yourself, make sure you do sufficient research and preparation onproper procedures prior to taking on the task.   

When it comes to removing mold andmildew as seen in the photos from last week’s blog, I’ve had good success usingcommon household cleaners like a mixture of dish washing soap and water orvinegar and water – or both.  Allowingthe piece to dry in the sun afterward can also help neutralize any possibleleftover spores.  If you’re doing thisoutside in a yard, it’s worth mentioning that the vinegar will likely kill any grass itcomes in contact with.  Consider yourselfduly warned in case your spouse asks what caused that big dead spot!
Ultimately, this is a subject with moredepth than can be focused on in a brief blog and, it’s worth your time tobecome more aware of the issue.  Fromexcess humidity levels and insufficient air flow to warmer temps and availablenutrient sources, there are a number of things that can quietly promote harmfulmold growth.  So, before you take off insearch of the next vehicle to join all of your other treasures, take acloser look inside your warehouse, shed, shop, barn, or garage.  Mold spores can be hiding where you leastexpect them and they’re definitely not on the list of what you want to be collecting.

Please Note:  As with each of our blog writings, all imagery and text is copyrighted with All Rights Reserved.  The material may not be broadcast, published, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written permission from David E. Sneed, Wheels That Won The West® Archives, LLC
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