Wood pallets are a cost-efficient and sustainable form of packaging for transporting goods. But it has one great enemy: mold. Mold can grow and contaminate the wood pallets’ surface under the right (or should we say, wrong) conditions.
While mold doesn’t necessarily affect the integrity of the wood, it can cause problems for the shipper. It can damage or contaminate the products inside the affected containers and possibly trigger asthma attacks and other respiratory conditions in people exposed to it. It not only feeds on wood, but it will also feed on a lot of different things—an especially dangerous situation if you happen to transport food or pharmaceutical products.
So what causes mold to grow?
Mold spores can be found in the air around us, looking for a place to call home. It needs four factors to be able to take root and spread: oxygen, moisture, adequate temperature (60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit), and a food source (In this case, the wood pallets and the goods inside of them).
Mold Prevention Tips
Mold can be very destructive, but there are a few ways you can prevent it from settling in. Given the importance of food safety, it is so much better to practice prevention rather than have your goods contaminated or destroyed. Below are some ways you can stop mold in its tracks.
- Lessen the use of wet or green (newly-cut) wood for your packaging. Freshly-cut wood contains lots of water, and since mold loves moisture, green wood only encourages them to grow. Wood will usually dry out in time during processing, and lose much of its moisture content, so make sure that it is dry enough before use.
- Store your wood pallets out of the weather. Since we want to lessen moisture, these should be kept indoors where it is dry and cool. Keep them off the ground as well.
- Do not store wood inside trailers. There is little ventilation inside these closed containers, and mold loves humidity. If you really must, keep the back door open for airflow. This won’t guarantee that you won’t have mold, but it’s much better than keeping the wood inside enclosed spaces.
- Your storage area must be ventilated. It does not take much to keep mold away, which prefers “still” air. A little bit of airflow—two to three feet/second—is usually enough for surface moisture evaporation. You can install industrial-grade fans in your storage place for this.
- Load and unload your shipments quickly. Reduce the exposure of your wood pallets to a moist environment.
- When transporting goods, keep the packaging under cover. If you have to transport your products inside a closed trailer, make sure to provide additional ventilation.
- Ensure that the wood pallets you use come from a reputable supplier or manufacturer that knows how to care for and store them properly. Research if the supplier can also provide treated pallets that are resistant to mold.
Treatments Against Mold
Aside from putting up preventive measures in place to protect your pallets, you can also have your pallets treated to lessen the risk of mold further. There are a few treatments that you can utilize to prevent mold growth. Two of these are kiln-drying and chemical treating.
Kiln-drying works by drawing out the moisture from the wood and drying it out through the use of large heated rooms. This process kills any existing mold and removes all moisture from the wood. It’s not to be confused with heat treating, which is only designed to kill pests and organisms present in the wood. Heat treatments only draw out the moisture and sugar from inside but leave them on the surface of the wood, making it a perfect breeding ground for mold.
Chemical treatments, on the other hand, can take different approaches. Some provide a barrier against oxygen, so mold can’t grow while others are designed to kill fungal spores that land on your pallets. These treatments often last for weeks up to several months.
The best way to keep your wood pallets safe is to use these treatments combined with preventive measures. Properly cared for, your wooden packaging will last you a long time.
In the case that you have already discovered mold on your wood pallets, there are steps you can take to save them. Since mold cannot damage the structure of the wood in such a short time, these steps might help you save some money, although it can be a time-consuming process to undertake.
- Pressure wash. Mold leaves discolorations on wood that show up as black, green, or greyish-black stains. Pressure washing will make the stains go. Use a bleach solution to kill the mold and neutralize the allergens and spores. However, bleaching will only kill the mold at the surface of the wood since wood is non-porous. The next step is to dry the wood thoroughly.
- Dry thoroughly. Mold can’t survive without moisture, so after cleaning the pallet, make sure to dry it completely. Bring the moisture level down to just 18% to kill off the mold.
Here at Anderson Pallet and Crate, we understand that each shipment and product is valuable. We seek to provide you only the highest-quality wooden pallets that have gone through our strict screening processes. Let us help you find the best solution for all of your packaging needs. Get in touch with our knowledgeable team today!