Mold and mildew are found both outdoors and indoors. Spores can easily enter your home through doors, vents, windows, and air conditioning systems. They will attach to your shoes and clothing as well. With the right humidity and temperature, patches of mold and mildew will start to spread inside your house. Organic building materials made from paper and wood provide ample nutrients for mold and mildew to multiply quickly. Therefore, the question is; How to deal with mold and mildew?
Some people are sensitive to mold and mildew, leading to symptoms like itchy skin, wheezing, coughs, and a stuffy nose. In more severe cases, allergic reactions may cause breathing problems and high fever.
Toxic mold and mildew
Certain species of mold and mildew are toxic, which pose even more danger to your family members. They produce mycotoxins that can cause reactions and health problems even to people who are not allergic. Also known as black mold, Stachybotrys chartarum (S. chartarum) is particularly troublesome, because you will suffer from respiratory problems just by inhaling a small number of spores. Symptoms of mycotoxin poisoning are nosebleeds, memory loss, severe headaches, changes in mood, pains and joint aches.
Mold and mildew can cause structural damage to your home in a short period of time. Damage may go unnoticed until it is too late. By inspecting your home frequently, you can prevent mold and mildew problems before they get out of control. Once a large amount of mold or mildew is growing inside your home, it will be difficult to remove completely.
Pathogenic mold and mildew are also potentially harmful because they can still cause infection in people with good health. Aspergillus flavus may trigger chronic pulmonary infections, while spores of Cryptococcus neoformans may stay in your body for a long time and start causing infections when your immune system is weak. For example, histoplasmosis is a pneumonia-like infection that could affect people who inhale the spores of Histoplasma capsulatum.
If you spot dark patches of mold and mildew in your attic, basement, shed or bathroom, it should be your top priority to get rid of them. If the weather and your indoor area are always damp, here are things to do:
Make your own anti-mold and mildew cleaning sprays
You can make non-toxic homemade cleaning sprays that help to eradicate mold and mildew, without harming family members. If they are just spreading recently, it is easy to eradicate small patches of mold and mildew with white vinegar and essential oils. Mix one cup of white vinegar, 20 drops of tea tree essential oils, and 5 drops of your other preferred essential oils, such as oregano, orange, lemon, clove, or cinnamon. Spray the cleaning solution on the affected area and wait for an hour or until it’s fully dry. Spray the area again and wipe with paper towels. Keep your home clean the whole time.
Wear protective gear
Although you already use non-toxic cleaning spray, spores may still cause allergic reactions and other health problems. Minimum protective gear should include an N-95 respirator, eye protection, and gloves. With an N-95 respirator, your mouth and nose will be completely covered and about 95 percent of the airborne particulates will be filtered out. If you are dealing with the serious spread of toxigenic or pathogenic mold and mildew, it is highly recommended to wear full-face or half-face APR (air-purifying respirator) with P100 filter cartridges. While P100 filters don’t remove gases and vapors, they will completely block particulates, dust, and spores.
Check for an air purifier if you don’t use it already.
Perpetual dampness may make it very difficult to prevent the growth of mold and mildew. Regularly check your walls for any cracks and seal if you find them. Use crack-fill putty to repair fine or large cracks. Also, waterproof the outer side of your roof and walls to further prevent moisture from seeping into the interior side of the wall. A waterproof coat is a good barrier to block moisture and rainwater. If it snows heavily during winter, waterproofing is a requirement, especially for the lower part of the wall. If your home is located in an area with a high water table, be sure to install the damp-proof course, which is made of impervious material.
Bring in natural light
Mold and mildew thrive in dark, moist and warm areas. Natural light can slow down the growth of unwanted vegetation. Consider adding a solar tube to direct natural light into the basement. It’s made of a collection of mirrors that illuminate your basement during the day. Also, install small mirrors next to the basement windows that get the most sunlight throughout the day.
If mold and mildew growth is uncontrollable in your attic, you can solve the problem by installing roof windows to let the sunlight and fresh air in. Install windows on both sides of the roof to illuminate your attic for a whole day.
Keep humidity to a minimum
If possible, install an exhaust fan in your basement, bathroom, or attic to remove excess humidity quickly from the interior. Take a cool shower, because hot showers will make your bathroom extra humid. Regularly check your plumbing system for leaky pipes and faucets. Prevent condensation from forming by wrapping pipes with insulating materials. Keep gutters clean to prevent water leaks in your attic and make sure that downspouts are directed away from the walls and basement. Install dehumidifiers at the dampest corners of your basement, attic, and bathroom.
Use dehumidifiers to prevent wall mold and mildew from appearing.
Clean the walls
Although your interior areas are relatively dry, regular cleaning can further prevent the growth of mold and mildew. Dormant spores may remain on the wall and they will be activated when there’s enough moisture. Use a broom to dust the wall and use a vacuum. If you use latex paint, mix a solution of distilled white vinegar, dish soap and water, then apply to the wall with a sponge. Dip the sponge into the cleaning solution and wring it dry. Gently clean the wall with the damp sponge. If you use oil-based paint, use the same solution, but skip the white vinegar, because it may dull most oil-based finishes.
Clean wooden furniture
Although you have kept the walls dry and clean, mold and mildew may thrive on other organic surfaces, including your wooden furniture. Constant, daily uses may diminish the finish and expose the bare wood surface, which is a perfect habitat for the growth of mold and mildew. Dust your furniture to remove dirt and spores. A weak solution of diluted dishwashing liquid is gentle enough to clean up the furniture. Dip the soft cloth in the dishwashing solution and wring it dry. Wipe your furniture with the damp cloth and be sure to rinse the soft cloth frequently. If your furniture is badly worn out, you need to refinish it to coat the exposed wood surface.
Throw away old items
It takes a massive amount of time and mental energy to organize a cluttered home. Too much stuff at home only adds to your discomfort and well-being should be your top priority. Regularly look around and consider whether there are things to throw away. Despite your best efforts to clean them up, some of the items are not salvageable. Consider disposing of drywall, carpet, furniture, and other items made of organic materials. Old clothing could also be a perfect habitat for the growth of mold and mildew. Donate old items, if you think they are still useful for other people.
Prevent water damage
Seepage may initially be undetected, but once your walls, floors, and foundations are saturated with excess moisture, the damage can be extensive. It’s not only expensive to repair the damage but mold and mildew may already grow in affected indoor areas. Clean the downspouts and gutters regularly to prevent blockage and spillage. Turn off the water main when you are on a vacation or leave your home for a few days. Avoid setting the water pressure to maximum, because it may cause old hoses and pipes to fail. Maintain washing machine and dishwasher regularly, because broken seals may cause water to drip on the wall or floor.
Insulate your home
Winterproofing your home isn’t only useful to prevent warm air from escaping, but it also stops cold drafts from entering the interior. During a wet spring or fall, very moist air can’t enter your home easily, if you have proper insulation. The insulation for your attic should be about 30cm thick to minimize heat loss. Insert foam strips in gaps of your letterboxes, doors & windows, and choose those with self-adhesive strips for easy installations.
Call in the professionals
If your mold and mildew problems are very serious or you are concerned about dealing with toxic or pathogenic mold, it is recommended to hire a professional removal service. An experienced professional will perform an initial inspection and propose a removal plan. Because mold and mildew are already potentially toxic, it’s recommended to use non-toxic cleaning supplies. These professionals should have a proper containment procedure to prevent spores from spreading to other areas of your home during clean-ups. Make sure these professionals have the necessary certifications, training, and experience to conduct safe and effective mold removal procedures.
Use anti-mold paint
After keeping your walls dry and clean, you may apply special paint to further limit the growth of mold. Avoid anti-mold paint with solvent, because it will gradually release VOCs or volatile organic compounds. If inhaled daily, it may cause health problems like respiratory irritation and nausea. Long-term exposure to VOCs may impair your nervous, renal, and liver functions. If the paint contains benzene-based VOC, it may increase the risk of cancer. Also be sure to avoid paint with anti-fungal components like iodopropynyl butyl carbamate, octylisothiazolinone, and zinc pyrithione.