Moisture management remains the most important critical factor for controlling mold growth on wood and wood products during storage, construction, and in service. Potential health risks caused by mold growth in houses and non-residential wooden structures have been a major concern for homeowners, building contractors, and insurance companies.

(Left) No mold growth on the thyme and dillweed oil-treated wood; (right) untreated wood had mold growth.

Chemical fungicides commonly used to control the growth of mold on wood are not appropriate for many indoor applications. Natural alternatives that are user-friendly and demonstrate low toxicity to humans are desirable for indoor applications. Essential oils are known for their natural, non-toxic components including monoterpenes, diterpenes, and hydrocarbons with various functional groups.

One aspect of the invention is a method of treating a cellulose-containing material to inhibit growth of mold fungi comprising the steps or acts of surface-treating cellulose-containing material with a composition comprising in the range of greater than 10% volume to 100% volume thyme oil, and in the range of 0% volume to less than 90% volume organic diluent.

Another aspect of the invention is a method of treating wood or cellulose-containing material to inhibit growth of mold fungi by surface-treating the cellulose-containing material with an essential oil such as geranium Egyptian, thyme, or a combination thereof.

This technology can be used to protect stored building materials and to remediate in-service wood and wood products. Taking advantage of recent advances in green technology, the essential oils used in this invention are naturally occurring and can be used by the lumber industry, wood preservation industry, commercial and residential construction industries, home users, or other uses requiring the treatment of wood for fungal decay as well as prevention of termite damage.

For more information, contact the US Forest Service, Research & Development, at 800-832-1355; click here .

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This article first appeared in the June, 2020 issue of Tech Briefs Magazine.

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