Q. We have some moldy furniture and cabinets. How can we treat and clean the wood to kill the mold? Is bleach okay?

A. First, clean the wood with a strong soap such as TSP to remove the surface mold as well as dirt.

Then, you can sanitize using bleach. Bleach is convenient, inexpensive and appropriate as a sanitizer for hard, non-porous, non-metallic and color-fast items after they have been cleaned, but it has two important limitations.

1) Bleach can eradicate mold, but if the surface is dirty, the bleach can get "spent" oxidizing the organics and not get a chance to penetrate the mold structure enough to kill it. As soon as dirt and moisture return, the mold can return. That is, bleach has no residual effect. In essence, it's gone in minutes.

2) Bleach will not remain to inhibit the growth of new mold colonies on damp materials.

So, if the moisture is likely to return, apply a mold-resistant coating (broad-spectrum fungicide) to prevent the growth of mold on the surface. This coating minimizes dirt buildup that provides nutrients for mold growth in the future. Read label directions and be sure it can be safely applied to furniture and cabinets that will have human contact.

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