Molds growing on crates and pallets are a big problem, especially for the food, beverage, and pharmaceutical industries. Aside from the fact that molds reduce the lifespan of these packaging tools, they can also contaminate products produced by these companies, leading to health hazards and losses. Therefore, pallets or crates with molds are mostly considered useless and could cost some dollars to remediate.

However, the appearance of a wood defect can be deceiving. What you think was a mold could be a discoloration. Therefore, before you condemn one of the valuable assets in your arsenal worthless or to wood treatment, wouldn’t it be nice to be sure of the exact problem? Identifying mold and wood staining are essential for people in the packaging industry.

What is mold?

Molds are fungus that grows on the surface of the wood. They feed on the proteins, sugars, and structural polymers in the woods and cause pigmented spores to show on wood surfaces. The spores could take any color, mostly black, green, orange, white, and even purple. And sometimes, they can be invisible to the eyes.

Molds spread quickly to the damp parts of the wood. A pallet could be covered by molds in a matter of a few days and could take weeks or months, depending on the sugar content of the wood used. Untreated woods are at the most risk of getting attacked by molds.

What is wood staining?

Wood stains look like molds, but microbial reactions in wood do not cause them. Discoloration on wood could be caused by sun exposure, fasteners effects, and natural enzymes effect. This condition does not affect the strength or internal structure of wood; it only changes its appearance. The following are the main causes of wood discoloration:

  • Iron stains

Iron stain is a type of wood discoloration due to the presence of iron fasteners like nails, screws, or staples. It could also occur when iron materials or tools such as cutting saws are placed for an extended period. The water in the wood reacts with the iron to produce discoloration.

  • Sun exposure

Wood discoloration due to sun exposure is what you see on unpainted facial boards. The long exposure to the ultraviolet ray of the sun would have caused the raw wood to darken up and become gray. A similar event can happen to crates and pallets when exposed to the sun.

  • Discoloration by enzymes

Discoloration happens when enzymes in the wood react. The rate of enzymatic reaction in woods differs, and they are common in woods extracted from hardwood species like beech, maple, and oak.

How to tell wood staining and molds apart?

Molds and wood discoloration surely look similar in appearance. However, some differences exist between the two that can be used to identify what is on your crate. The following are pointers diagnosing the condition of your wood packaging tools.

  • It’s mold if the pallet or crate appears wet or has moisture quantity
  • It’s also mold when the packaging tool appears damaged and shows signs of discoloration. Remember that molds eat up the internal structure of wood.
  • You have mold when you see traces of spores on the surfaces of your crate or pallet.
  • It might be staining when the wood looks good and damaged free, but have discoloration.
  • You should also be at rest if the discoloration begins from a nail or fastener. It’s a sign of iron stains.
  • And you can tell if it’s wood staining due to sun exposure. The wood will be grayed out after long exposure to the ultraviolet rays of light.

Wrapping up

Without thorough investigations, you can’t just conclude that you have molds on your packaging tool. Use the tips to identify the problem with your wood packaging tools, and there’s nothing wrong with inviting a specialist over for an inspection. Prevention is better than cure. You would rather spend some dime on treating your crates or pallets than shipping contaminated food to the market.