Small mould infestations are fairly easy to clean up, but sometimes mould can spread with amazing rapidity.
There are many causes of mould, such as when your hot water tap begins dripping and you ask the landlord to fix it, but then the work order gets lost or something and weeks go by, and the tap is no longer merely dripping, but is actually flowing, and there’s no way you can fix it yourself because all the pipes and shutoff valves are locked behind a little door in the wall, and you remind the landlord several times about the situation, but by now the house has the relative humidity of a Brazilian rain forest and all the corners of the living room, the dining room, and the small bedroom that you use for an office and has bookshelves all along the walls (not the really good kind, but the cheap Ikea shelves, which may not look like much, but are quite adequate for your purposes) are starting to look like they’re covered in that hanging moss you see in movies about New Orleans, except it’s black and really ugly looking.
Just as a random example.
The point, however, is that when it gets to this stage, a quick cleanup is no longer possible. It’s time to bring in the big gun: bleach — and lots of it.
Step One: Gather the cleaning materials.
You will need:
- A bleach-based product such as Scrubbing Bubbles Spray.
- A long-handled scrubbing device, such as the Mr. Clean Magic Reach Bathroom Cleaning Kit. It has an extendable handle, and comes with pads containing a cleaning ingredient that I think might be bleach.
- Cloths. Many, many cloths.
- Two buckets of water, one for rinsing, one for cleaning.
- A bottle of bleach to pour into the cleaning bucket of water.
- While you’re at it, pour a little bleach into the rinse water too — it can’t hurt.
Step Two: Protect your furniture
Pull the furniture away from the walls, and cover anything that could be damaged by bleach with a tarpaulin. If you don’t have a tarpaulin, use plastic garbage bags, newspapers, or those “guest towels” that guests never touch and are too frilly and fancy to be used for normal drying purposes.
It’s okay. Your wife won’t mind, and you probably won’t get any bleach on them anyway if you’re careful.
Step Three: Clean, clean, clean.
Now comes the hard part.
Start by spraying large areas of the walls, paying special attention to the corners where the mould has started building its own civilization, complete with trade routes to the mould cities in other corners. When you have sprayed most of one wall, begin to scrub it with the Mr. Clean cleansing pad soaked in the bucket of bleach water.
Note: The instructions on your cleaning products may say things like “only use in a well-ventilated area,” “avoid contact with your skin,” and other dire warnings, but these can be taken with a grain of salt. After all, it’s just bleach, and these days there are warnings about everything. I mean, have you seen all the labels on ladders lately? It’s gone completely nuts. If the safety freaks had their way, we’d all stay in bed, swaddled in bubble wrap in case we fell out.
Step Four: Rinse and repeat.
The instructions for shampoo are equally valid here. As you complete a section, rinse it with the cloths using the bucket of water, spray the section again, along with the next section. Scrub the next section using the bleach water, then rinse both. This will be the second rinse for the previous section, and the first rinse for the section you’ve just completed. Continue on around each room.
That’s all there is to it, but it will take several hours. After the first half hour, your eyes will be burning and you may find it hard to breath, so you’ll want to occasionally give your lungs a break by stepping out to the balcony for a cigarette.
When everything is cleaned up and all the furniture put back in place, you will likely experience trouble sleeping as every time you lay down your lungs fill with fluid which makes taking a breath an effort so that you feel like you’re drowning. This can be temporarily relieved by sitting up, leaning forward, and coughing a thick, phlegmy cough. Upon laying down again, however, your lungs will fill up within two to three minutes, so you may want to sleep out on the sofa where you can prop yourself up in a sitting position. Not only does this delay the process enough that you can sometimes get a decent ten to fifteen minute sleep before the drowning sensation wakes you up again, but you might have to sleep on the sofa anyway because it turns out that your wife did mind about the guest towels, even though they got hardly any bleach stains on them.
After the first week of this, you will probably want to make an appointment with a doctor, whom you’ll get to see about a week later. He will then send you for x-rays, which, if you’re lucky, you’ll get in three or four days.
Here are a few tips for the x-ray room.
One: Bring supplies.
Waiting rooms got their name for a reason. If your appointment is for 11:00 in the morning, you probably won’t get in before noon, so make sure you’ve got something to read. A snack isn’t a bad idea either. And definitely bring a large cup of coffee: after all, you haven’t slept in over two weeks and the last thing you want to do is nod off and miss the nurse calling your name.
Two: Observe waiting room etiquette.
It seems like there is a disproportionate number of sick people in waiting rooms, and many of them are contagious. Make sure to get a seat well away from everyone else. Once you’re sitting, it won’t be a problem keeping the seats around you clear, as nobody is going to want to sit close to someone with a cough like yours.
Three: Wear the right clothing.
Even though x-rays are supposed to be able to go through anything except lead, the technician is going to insist that you remove all your clothes above your waist, so this is not the time to wear a suit with its jacket, tie and shirt, all of which have to be taken off and hung up in one of those small rooms that may or may not have a hook to hang them on.
Four: Carefully time the x-ray shots.
It is very important to remain absolutely still when having an x-ray. This, however, is difficult when you have to bend double and cough every half minute or so. Make sure that you have just finished a hacking bout before getting into whatever unnatural position the technician requires of you.
With any luck, you should be sleeping for most of the night in as little as four to six weeks, and coughing no more than once every five minutes.
Which is fortunate, because although the tap has been fixed, you think you can see a suspicious dark smudge starting to appear in a couple of the corners.