Certain textile materials, leather, and finished goods are at high risk of developing mold – especially in the current market. The COVID-19 pandemic and a six-day blockage of the Suez Canal in March have led to a global shortage of shipping containers, severely inflating shipping and container prices and increasing delay times. With container-loads of raw materials and finished goods now stuck at sea or held up at suppliers, mold is ready to form, which can cause stains, discoloration, and unpleasant odors, incur additional costs when items cannot be sold, and damage brand reputation.
From manufacturing to storage and transportation, let’s explore why mold appears and how to prevent this nuisance before it’s too late.
What Causes Mold?
Mold is a type of fungus that reproduces through tiny spores that travel through the air. Small amounts of mold spores are usually harmless, but mold can begin to grow and become a problem due to environmental factors:
- humidity levels at 55% or higher
- temperatures typically between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit (16 and 27 degrees Celsius)
- oxygen, which is crucial for mold to survive
- organic materials, such as cotton, leather, linen, and wool, which feed the mold.
Humid conditions in poorly ventilated factories, mills, warehouses, and transport can sharply increase mold risk – particularly if the product comes from Asia or regions with high humidity. Harmful mold can grow before the raw materials are delivered to the factory, at any stage of the manufacturing process, or close to when a finished product reaches the shelves.
High temperatures and humidity can cause mold to grow at any stage of the manufacturing process, from dyeing and finishing due to cooling unit issues, through to wet air becoming trapped within the packaging, goods being packed that are not completely dry, and more.
Storage facilities with warm temperatures, high humidity, and insufficient ventilation are the perfect breeding ground for mold. Your products are also at risk if they are within cartons placed directly on the floor or close to a wall, and even the cartons themselves and wooden pallets can grow mold.
If products are poorly stacked in transport, mishandled, or placed within moist containers, they are at risk of developing mold. If a package is crushed or punctured during transportation – often due to cheap packaging materials – mold growth can also occur.
How to Prevent Mold
The best way to avoid costly damage due to a mold outbreak is to prevent it from growing in the first place, so every textile brand should assess its supply chain for the risk of mold growth. Some of the actions to take that SgT can support you with are:
On-site process assessment
Evaluate the manufacturing, packing, and storage conditions that could lead to mold formation on raw materials and finished products. We assess everything from housekeeping and mold management to environmental criteria such as ventilation, temperature, and humidity.
Operator awareness training
The people who work at your suppliers’ premises also play a role: Are they aware of why mold is a concern and respecting the necessary hygiene-related practices? Training can also help build an internal assessment for mold prevention by dedicated factory or warehouse workers.
Mold testing & risk evaluation
Various tests exist to assess the mold growth resistance of textiles, leather, and coating.
It is also possible to replicate the atmospheric conditions of a container environment to see how a product would react during transportation.
SgT has extensive experience helping brands, retailers, and manufacturers prevent mold growth on textile raw materials, finished garments, and footwear. Our range of risk prevention actions can be tailored to your challenges. Contact our experts today.