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If you’re like me you occasionally drop the ball on cleaning out the refrigerator despite your reputation for being a clean freak. Yuck! That moldy piece of cheese or the liquefied bag of salad is just disgusting. But I never stopped to think about mold in other places of my home or the health risks of mold.
Did you know mold could grow on your skin?
Apparently it can. Yikes! And if you have a compromised immune system like me you can be particularly susceptible to the effects of mold. And the more I dug the more disturbed I got. Some types of mold can even cause cancer.
Mold isn’t just unsightly and damaging to your home. Touching mold or breathing in mold-contaminated air can cause serious allergic reactions. Symptoms can include severe skin conditions, runny nose, redness and itching of the eyes and headaches. Mold can also cause asthma attacks in people who are allergic to mold. In extreme cases, mold can cause a pneumonia-like condition that can result in permanent scarring to the lungs.
It can affect your skin and cause issues like nummular eczema, dyshidrotic eczema, sporotrichosis, to name a few. And of course, athlete’s foot.
So what is mold?
Mold is a microbe and not all molds are harmful. Your penicillin and many medications are a result of mold. But molds can cause allergies, neurological issues and more. They love dark, moist spaces and hard to miss because they come in a variety of colors: black, green, red and more. Most of the time, molds are invisible till they become a colony and that can happen in as little as 48 hours. This is a great video from Melissa Maker and her YouTube channel aptly named “Clean Your Space.”
Can you prevent mold in your home?
You can take steps to prevent mold, but it’s going to take some vigilance and unfortunately you can’t see what may be in your walls although water stains can be a good indication.
To protect your families’ health, it’s important to try to eliminate mold and prevent it from returning.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency advise that the key to controlling mold, is by first controlling moisture. Damp environments in the home are ideal for mold spores to settle and grow. So, you need to first look for sources of water entry into your home like windows, roofs, doors, basements, water pipes and leaking fixtures.
If you find sources of moisture, clean and dry them so that mold doesn’t have a chance to grow. You can cleanup moldy areas on hard surfaces yourself if the area is less than 3 square feet and easily accessible. In case you are allergic to mold, it’s best to wear a respirator mask, safety goggles and waterproof gloves before you begin cleaning. Then scrub surfaces with a mixture of 10% bleach and water and then make sure you completely dry the area afterwards. If you’d rather not use a bleach solution, then vinegar works well too. You will need to replace any damaged or rotted material.
If you have a large area affected by mold or you’re concerned about treating it, you can hire a contractor to do a professional cleanup for you.
If it smells then it’s time to clean it or toss it.
Have you ever smelled an awful odor coming from a kitchen sponge or a bath towel that has been tossed in a pile on the floor? The shower curtain liner was looking a little nasty on the bottom where it sticks to the bathtub so I tossed it in the washer with some bleach. Even still it’s probably time to replace it.
Dry your bathroom after a shower.
I have a squeegee I use on the bathroom walls.
Spray tub or other hard to reach corners with some Tilex.
Just make sure when you use Tilex to avoid breathing it, but it works to eat at the mold. I like to spray it and come back a half hour later and see the magic. Tilex has Clorox Bleach in it so you don’t have to add that as an extra measure of safety. And best of all no scrubbing! (By the way, I was not compensated in any way for mentioning Tilex in this post.)
According to Tilex, “A University of Arizona study looked at 160 homes in all regions of the United States and found the presence of mold in literally 100 percent of all those sampled. 1 The highest levels were found in places that people normally overlook: window sills, refrigerator seals, under the kitchen sink, air registers and entryways.”
Add Taheebo tea to your houseplants.
Here’s a great tip from Mother Nature Network: even houseplants can grow mold so they recommend adding Taheebo tea to your houseplant’s water. The oil of Taheebo tea resists funghi even in super wet rain forests.
Vacuum your carpets regularly.
My daughter makes fun of my cleaning, but she doesn’t realize I’m helping to cut down on dust and mold. We often spill drinks on our carpet and lifting up the area rug to make sure it’s dry underneath is important for preventing mold.
Use the fans in your kitchen and bathroom.
Ventilation and circulating air is important for keeping things dry. I never use the fan on my stove, but I do run a fan in my bathroom after I get out of the shower. And I need to get some more grout sealer to close off some areas of the tile in my bathroom.
Other sources for information on household mold:
The United States Environmental Protection Agency has a helpful and printable guide to mold and moisture in your home.
The CDC provides a ton of educational materials on types of fungus exposures and infections including how to handle mold after a disaster such as a major flooding.
HUD.gov and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provide many links to information including tips for clean up.