Mold and mildew: unsightly, malodorous, and potentially dangerous. Jan/san distributors are an important partner in offering suggestions on how to prevent mold and mildew from appearing in restrooms. They are also knowledgeable on ways to eradicate it if it does appear.

For the jan/san end user, the appearance of mold and mildew in a restroom can be devastating. From a business perspective, the presence of mold or mildew is likely to cause a facility manager to question the effectiveness of his or her cleaner.

If the facility manager perceives the presence of mold or mildew is more than a one time aberration, it could very well lead to the cancellation or non-renewal of a building service contractor’s (BSC) contract, or the firing of in-house staff.

Legal Issues
From a legal perspective, if mold or mildew is not kept in check, it can cause significant health problems to building users and significant structural damage to the building itself, not to mention the resulting high remediation costs.

Jan/san end users could bear liability: a competent lawyer may sue a contract cleaner in a mold case if there was any plausible link between the mold contamination and the contractor’s actions, or lack thereof.

Health problems can be significant and include headaches, skin irritation, allergic reactions, breathing difficulties and aggravation of asthma symptoms.

“Buildings can be forced to close if the problem is bad enough, which happened to a place recently in the Chicago area,” notes Marty Munvez, owner and president, Chemcraft Industries Inc., Chicago.

In addition, Lawrence G. Cetrulo’s “Toxic Torts Litigation Guide,” states, “The discovery of the potential health risks of mold … has pushed toxic mold to the forefront of toxic tort litigation” and, “mold claims have increased significantly and no longer exclusively arise within a construction claim, but also in personal injury claims.”

Damages can be significant. In one instance, a Texas jury awarded $32.1 million against an insurance company that refused to pay damages arising from mold caused by a bathroom plumbing leak.

Keeping mold and mildew in check in restrooms can be a challenge because mold and mildew spores are always present in the atmosphere and “cannot be totally eliminated from any building,” Munvez says.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2005 Indoor Air Quality Guide, in order for mold and mildew spores to germinate, they need moisture, food and warmth.

Since temperature control would require keeping restrooms at less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit and molds and mildews can use nearly anything as a food source, the key to preventing growth is moisture control.

“To keep mold and mildew from growing, low moisture levels need to be maintained, humidity needs to be kept low, and water leaks need to be prevented,” explains Rob Prosser, project manager, Lab Safety Supply, Janesville, Wis. “Spills should be cleaned up within 24 to 48 hours.”

Tim Feeheley, JanPak Inc., Davidson, N.C. agrees. “Keep surfaces clean, dry and appropriately ventilated because molds and fungi grow in warm, damp places.”

Location & Seasonal Effect
Because moisture is a necessary element in the formation of mold and mildew, they tend to appear in predictable geographic locales.

“Here in the high desert, we don’t have much of a mold or mildew problem because it is so dry,” notes Dan Ellis, owner and president, Juniper Paper Supply Co., Bend, Ore.

Prosser agrees that some areas are inherently more prone to growth. “It isn’t too complicated: areas of the country with higher humidity have a better chance of developing a mold problem,” says Prosser.

The geographic distribution of mold and mildew problems is reflected in the distribution of lawsuits filed throughout the country. States with the highest number of reported mold-related verdicts are southern states, according to the article, “Out of the Dark: The Emergence of Toxic Mold Litigation,” which was published in Wisconsin Lawyer Magazine.

Since the buildings most jan/san end users clean cannot be relocated to arid climates, controlling the development of mold and mildew is a significant component of restroom care.

Mold and mildew distribution is often seasonal as well. “In Chicago, winter is not as big a concern for mold because the air is so dry, but summer can be a problem,” Munvez says.

Environmental Control
“Unfortunately, cleaning with the proper disinfectants alone may not prevent mold and mildew from developing if there is a moisture problem,” Munvez comments.

An effective strategy to combat mold and mildew growth begins with a strategy for moisture control. To whatever extent is possible, jan/san end users should work with facility managers to address moisture control problems.

“This will typically involve heating ventilation, air-conditioning and cooling (HVAC) issues of temperature, humidity, ventilation control and plumbing issues related to leaks,” Prosser says.

He suggests that jan/san end users may want to purchase humidity meters to measure relative humidity in bathrooms and use a dehumidifier or a fan to keep moisture levels lower if the issue cannot be resolved through the HVAC system. In addition, “Plumbing fixtures should be monitored regularly to make sure they are not leaking,” Munvez points out.

Unfortunately, jan/san end users do not always have the luxury of environmental moisture control. When this is the case, distributors agree that the key to keeping mold and mildew from appearing is the use of proper products.

“It is important to use an appropriate cleaner or disinfectant for the contaminated surface, ensuring it has the proper fungicidal claims on the label,” Feeheley advises. “Additionally, select products for cleaning ability. [The jan/san end user should] consider selecting an acid-based product that can also neutralize water deposits and soap scum residue.”

Prosser says that the attention that media outlets have given to mold in the last few years has helped spur product development. These new offerings will benefit jan/san end users in their efforts to control mold and mildew growth.

“It used to be that everyone encouraged the use of diluted bleach to control mold and mildew,” Prosser recalls. “Obviously, that doesn’t work in many settings and can be dangerous because bleach can react with so many other chemicals cleaners use. Now we have other antimicrobials available that are easier to use and are as effective as bleach.”

Training Tips
Munvez stresses the importance of how products are used, noting that proper training is vital to ensure products are being used correctly.

Using a quaternary disinfectant can be an effective tool in fighting mold growth, but only if it is used correctly.

“If the manufacturer’s instructions for dilution or surface contact time are not followed, the product will not work right,” says Munvez.

He also stresses that distributors can help the jan/san end users by offering regular training on appropriate product use and cleaning techniques.

One challenge for the jan/san end user is to ensure that their employees pay attention to the areas of restrooms where mold and mildew are most likely to develop. Typically these are the hardest areas to clean.

“Underneath and behind faucets and sinks, areas around pipes that collect condensation, around and beneath toilets and urinals, around and behind mirrors, showerheads, shower corners, and curtains, any area where moisture can collect without being able to be thoroughly dried are notorious for harboring mold and mildew,” Feeheley notes.

Munvez echoes this sentiment, stating, “You have to think about the places out of sight and where cleaning might be more haphazard, like under toilets, in corners, even on ceilings.”

Munvez recommends that jan/san end users have a system in place to ensure that its employees are adequately cleaning these areas and checking for moisture.

Distributor Role
Mold growth is a serious concern for the jan/san end user, whether the issue is an aesthetic one that could cost a cleaner a contract, or if it is posing a hazard to human health or causing property damage. Appropriate steps must be taken to control mold and mildew growth.

Most jan/san distributors say controlling mold growth boils down to using common sense.

“Be proactive and keep surfaces clean, dry and appropriately ventilated,” Feheeley notes.

Prosser believes a hands-on approach utilizing a facility’s whole “team” will ultimately work best.

“Work with facility managers and other professionals to keep moisture in the environment at a minimum,” he explains.

Distributors have an excellent opportunity to prove their worth to end users.

“They absolutely should take advantage of the training distributors offer, use the right products, and follow the right techniques,” Munvez stresses.

Helping jan/san end users follow these simple steps will help ensure that they will be able keep restrooms clean, dry and mold-free.

Patrick Callahan is a freelance writer from Milwaukee.