Remember, back in the day, when the scariest thing about mold that we had to worry about was accidentally biting into a piece of bread that had “gone green?” It was something you grew in your refrigerator for the science fair. Heck, we even learned that scientists made life-saving penicillin from mold! How bad could it be, right? Well, in more recent years, we have LEARNED how bad it can be. The EPA has estimated that over 100 million Americans live in toxic indoor air environments, and that more than 100,000 types of mold exist. Varieties of mold can cause illness, depression, irritate asthma, and, in extreme cases, be related to death. (And they let us grow this stuff for the middle school science fair?!) No matter who you are, or where you live, everyone needs to reduce the amount of mold and mildew in the air they are breathing in. If you smell a musty odor in your home or workplace, there is a good chance that it’s probably mold or mildew. Of course, once you actually see mold in your home or office, then you know you have a problem. The bad news is, most of the toxic mold floating around in our air is actually invisible to the naked eye, but it still may be seriously affecting your health. Basements are often a culprit. They act as a catch basin for rain and melting snow, and are often damp, in general. Wet or damp basements can cause mold to grow and, subsequently, affect your family’s health, without your even knowing about it. Bathrooms, which, by their very definition and use are creators of warm moisture, are another culprit. Ironically, efforts by well-meaning homeowners can often exacerbate mold growth instead of fixing it. Most of us learned over the years that bleach is the enemy of mold. Bleach does remove TOPICAL mold, but it does not address the underlying moisture problem. Not only that, but since most of us would be using a mixture of bleach and WATER . . . . well, therein lies the problem. Likewise, using UV lights or high-heat drying only provides temporary benefits. Oh, and, by the way . . . . “mold-resistant” does NOT mean “mold-proof.” So do not be lulled into a false sense of security about the products used in your basement!
If you suspect that your home might be damp, mildewed, or moldy, here are a few things you can do:
• First of all, investigate your home for moisture leakage. If you find any moisture leaks, clean them up with a dry towel immediately and find the source of the leak. If it is a plumbing issue, get it taken care of. Moisture breeds mold, so controlling moisture leaks in your home or place of work will reduce the mold’s ability to thrive. Be sure to check window and skylights for leaks.
• Mold LOVES warm and wet places! Invest in a high-quality dehumidifier and test your home for mold over-growth. If you can, invest in a good quality air purification system that employs both a HEPA filter and UV & negative ion technologies.
• VENTILATE!!! Temperatures above 75° F, as well as poorly lit rooms and unmoving air, can actually create more mold. Keep fresh air moving in your home, as well as bright sunlight coming in through your windows. This will help reduce toxic mold. Open a window while you take a shower, if possible.
• Change air filters regularly in heating and air-conditioning vents. This is something we often forget to do, but it can be so important! Make sure your clothes dryer has an anti-humidity vent, as well.
• Keep your home at a moderate temperature, at around 68 – 72 degrees during the day, and keep the humidity level low.
• Check closets for mold growth. This is especially important if you have ever placed wet or damp clothing in your closets. If you find mold in your closet, wash ALL of your clothes immediately to help clean any possible mold spores, and do not return those clothes to the closet until after it is cleaned.
• If you will be cleaning up or removing active or dead mold, be absolutely sure to protect yourself! Wear a mask, eye protection, and protective gloves that filter mold. When cleaning, slightly wet the mold to lessen the amount of airborne spores in the breathing atmosphere while you are cleaning. This can be done with a wet cloth. Scrub hard surfaces infested in mold with a non-ammonia soap. Non-toxic, organic soap is best for the environment. Porous surface cannot be cleaned of mold. Things like moldy carpeting, drywall, wallpaper, fabric, or other porous surfaces, must be completely removed and replaced. If you have mold on the structural support of your home or office building, it may not be cleaned out by scrubbing alone. It may have to be sanded. Don’t forget to wear the appropriate protective coverings.
• Remember, the best prevention for mold is to KEEP THINGS DRY and always use a good air purification system!
And, if you have a serious mold problem, don’t fool around with it! Call a professional! Mold can be tough. But you’re tougher! Just a few preventive measures, and small clean-ups, can keep you and your family safe, and protect the investment that is your home. And, hey, if the kids want to grow some mold for the science fair, let ‘em. Just keep it contained and controlled. The world doesn’t really need one more erupting tabletop volcano, anyway. And let’s make the world a better place by banishing Mold – The