The yuck factor isn’t the only reason to prevent mold growth inside your home – although you would think that would be enough. Mold run amok indoors can cause health problems.
People sensitive to mold, particularly those with suppressed immunity, may suffer nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, wheezing, or skin irritation when exposed to mold. Severe reactions may include fever and shortness of breath. Some people with chronic lung illnesses may develop mold infections in their lungs.
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Molds, a type of fungi, are everywhere. Some estimates put the number of molds species at 300,000. Mold spread by disbursing spores that lie dormant until conditions are right for growth. So, mold prevention means controlling the conditions that promote growth. And that means keeping things dry.
Mold thrives where conditions are wet or damp. The key to mold prevention is controlling the moisture in your home.
- Make sure the ground slopes away from the building foundation, so that water doesn’t seep into the basement or crawlspace. If water puddles around the foundation after a heavy rain, you may have a problem.
- Clean and repair roof gutters regularly. Make sure the gutter downspouts direct water away from the house.
- Keep air conditioning drain lines flowing properly and away from the house.
- Control indoor humidity – ideally at 30 to 50 relative humidity. A portable dehumidifier can remove up to nine gallons of water a day from the air of a basement or house. But a dehumidifier can also suck up $150 in electricity over the course of a year so look for models with an Energy Star seal. About 70 percent of dehumidifiers qualify for Energy Star. The water wrung from the damp air is great for watering the garden.
- Ventilate appliances such as your clothes dryer and stoves to the outside. The need to vent the clothes dryer is easy to see, but stoves also produce water vapor and will increase the humidity unless vented to the outside.
- At the risk of sounding obvious: run the bathroom fan or open the window when taking that long, hot, steamy shower. Use exhaust fans or open windows when cooking or washing dishes.
- Insulate cold water pipes to prevent condensation that will add moisture to the environment.
- Again, at the risk of sounding obvious: fix plumbing leaks as soon as possible and dry things thoroughly.
- If you spot mold, clean it from hard surfaces with commercial products or a bleach solution of 1 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of water. Never ever mix bleach with ammonia or other household cleaners because the toxic fumes will create a health hazard more immediate and severe than exposure to mold.
Keep mold prevention in mind when remodeling or decorating. Add mold inhibitors to paints before painting. Avoid using carpet in bathrooms and basements where they are likely to absorb moisture.
Text by Clint Williams
(Photo by indy & joybeth/Flickr)