Today’s guest writer is Tijana Milanovic.
7 ways to protect your home from mold
Although mold may sound like a good thing, if we think of penicillin and the lives it saved, the mold you come across inside your home is actually not that healthy. In fact, it is the opposite of that, as house mold can have some nasty impacts on your health.
Mold is a type of fungus that grows on any type of organic material including plants, wood, paint, food, etc. Because they feed on ingredients that are available anywhere, you can find mold in many places, including our homes. While individual colonies are tiny and impossible to see without a microscope, formed mold colonies are easily spotted.
The great thing about mold is that they serve as a catalyst – speeding up decomposition, but that’s only good if we’re talking about the outdoors. Inside your home mold can cause you not only health problems (itchy eyes, allergies, etc), but also financial problems, as it can cause damage to the paint and the walls, or it can occupy appliances that’ll be no longer usable.
Of course, your best option is prevention. It is time to ensure you’re not providing mold with any reasons (or conditions) to settle in your home. Let’s explore 7 simple steps you can add to your daily routine to prevent mold from invading your home.
#1 – Reduce humidity in your home
Out of the three main factors behind mold growth (mold spores, organic food source and all forms of moisture), humidity is a key one. Keeping the level of humidity under control is the first step towards a mold free home. Ideal levels of humidity are between 30 to 50% and keeping it low depends on many factors, like air vents in your house and the climate of the area you are living in.
The best way to maintain an optimal level of humidity is to keep your windows open as often as possible to let fresh air inside your home. It will dry out the moisture and lower the humidity levels, especially in rooms such as the kitchen, bathroom, and basement.
If due to cold weather or lack of windows you cannot keep them open that often (or at all), you can always rely on air vents. Ensure they are properly set and keep them on each time you take a shower or cook your favorite pasta.
And finally, if these two steps don’t help you or you live in a highly humid climate – it is time to invest some money in a dehumidifier. It will monitor and maintain the level of humidity which in the long run can turn out to be a great investment.
#2 – Prevent leaks
If we understand that humidity is basically vaporized water, it only makes sense that any type of excess moisture can trigger mold growth. From a small mishap, such as a leak, to an actual flooding – if excess water is not properly taken care of you can expect new roommates in a few days.
A quick pipe check is a habit you should adopt for each time you clean your home. It will prolong the whole ordeal by a few minutes, but your home will definitely benefit from it. Not only will you be keeping mold at bay, but you’ll also be preventing a possible indoor flood from a bad, cracked pipe.
In case you already had leaks happen, know that you don’t have much time. Mold needs as little as 24h to settle in, so you have to act fast. Immediately fix the pipe issue and make sure there are no more leaks. Take out any carpets that are wet and wipe the area dry to be sure it is nowhere left for mold to nest.
#3 Direct water away from your home
While you are trying to keep your home “water-free” from the inside, it is very important to prevent any water from coming in from the outside.
Keep an eye on the flow of rainwater from your roof. If the ground around your house is the same level or higher than your home’s floor, rainwater can easily end up inside. This usually happens with basements. Sadly, dealing with this may involve contacting your contractor and investing in leveling. But again, in the long run, it will prove to be a smart investment.
One thing you can do without any additional cost is to make sure your gutters are clean so that the rainwater doesn’t accumulate and cause even more problems. And finally, check your downspouts – they should always point away from the house.
#4 Dry your laundry outside
We already mentioned how high humidity levels are one of the causes of mold and drying your laundry inside will definitely keep them high. Solution to this is very simple – dry your laundry outside as often as possible. In case you cannot always do that, keep an eye on humidity levels in the rooms you use for laundry drying.
While we are on the topic of laundry, washing machines are something you should also pay attention to. Mold can often be found behind washing machines, as heat from hot washing causes condensation if the wall behind the washing machine is otherwise cold. Simply move your machine a bit away from the walls and wipe down your wall once the washing is done.
The problem with washing machines is that mold can be found both inside and outside of it. Mold inside your machine can be successfully removed with vinegar, baking soda, and a hot cycle run. Each time after a washing cycle, keep the washing machine door open to ensure it properly dries out before you close it.
#5 Keep your kitchen clean
Of course, you should keep your whole house clean, mainly because even dust is great food for mold, but you should pay special attention to keeping the kitchen tidy.
Kitchens are often very humid because of all the cooking and this, in turn, means that they are a great place for mold to grow. Of course, you cannot stop cooking in order to keep the humidity levels low, but what you can do is turn the stove fan on and/or open your windows. It will keep humidity under control so you can go on cooking without worrying about mold growing close to your food.
Mold can easily spread, thus throwing away moldy food is an important step in preventing it from invading your kitchen and your whole home. If you often end up with moldy food, it may be time to reconsider your shopping habits. It will not only save you from issues of mold but can also save you money on food you are throwing away.
Moldy food can be found in food storages and, sometimes, simply throwing it away will not solve your problems, as mold spores can remain behind. You can use vinegar to clean the area and, only after drying it well, you can use the space again. This includes fridges, too!
#6 – Pay attention to excess water in bathroom
There is a reason why mold adores bathrooms – water is everywhere. And that is exactly why you should pay special attention to your bathing and showering habits.
Each time you take a shower or a bath, turn on the air vents. After you are done you can open the window for humidity to drop back to optimal levels. But the mission isn’t over once the room is aired and you close the window.
Very often mold can be found on caulk, grout and even on tiles. Simply wiping the tiles after you are done with the shower can be a huge advantage in your battle with mold. Ensure there is no water left anywhere and, if you are using floor mats, either replace them regularly or buy cloth ones that you can throw in the washing machine periodically. While you are sticking to the same mats, get them off the ground after a shower or a bath, so that moisture isn’t trapped for long periods of time.
Because water gets everywhere – around the shower, the sink, the toilet – a proper mold prevention routine should include wiping your whole bathroom dry.
#7 – Get some sunshine in your basement
So far we have come to a few conclusions – mold loves moisture and organic materials. But there is one more thing it loves, and the reason why your basement may be your biggest nightmare – the dark.
Mold doesn’t love bright and dry places, thus making basement its promise land. Although you cannot actually bring the sun into your basement, what you can do is at least ensure there is fresh air flow all the time. Keeping the windows open as often as possible can be a lifesaver. Of course, if your basement doesn’t have windows you can rely on air vents, dehumidifiers, and even fans to help you keep the air flowing and humidity not growing.
However, darkness is not the only reason why so many basements are moldy. They adore, among other things, when we pile up unused things in basements and provide them with enough organic materials to survive and feast on for centuries. With that in mind, it should be clear that it is time to stop the hoarding habits. Throw away or donate clothes and things you are not using or do not plan to use anymore. Everything else you have to store there, check periodically if it’s dry and keep things at least a couple of inches away from the walls. Any storage boxes with wet or moldy spots should be removed to reduce chances of an outbreak.
One last thing, if your basement gets flooded, you should know that every hour counts. Take every single thing you had stored and leave it outside to dry. Get all the water out of your basement, open all windows and if it was an actual heavy flooding – get pumps to remove water as soon as possible, so that the humidity doesn’t settle deep within the walls.
BONUS – What to do when mold strikes
Cleaning sessions are a great opportunity to notice mold issues. If a mold colony is still small, you can treat it on your own, but the moment it expands it is time to get professionals to test it and solve the issue the proper way.
It is very important to understand two things:
1/ the difference between mold and mildew
2/ only a test can confirm mold
Mildew is an accumulation of dirt and grime. Since it is not a living organism it will not reproduce and grow, thus making the cleaning process very easy – you can simply wipe it down with a scrubbing brush and store bought cleaners. On the other hand, the mold is a colony of living organisms that requires a professional to not only remove it but also make sure it will reform.
The other thing is that only a test can confirm mold, because of how easily it can be mistaken for mildew. Although mildew is often lighter than mold, there are more than 10.000 different species of mold out there and only a proper test can say for sure if you can get rid of it on your own or if you will need professional assistance.
If you want to read more about mold prevention, we strongly recommend our latest masterpiece – The Ultimate Guide to Mold Prevention.
Good luck cleaning and preventing mold!