Managing Mold & Mildew

Tips for Dealing with this Household Menace

Even the cleanest home is susceptible to mold and mildew. All it takes is a small pocket of moisture and a microscopic mold spore creeping in through an open window or door, and bam! You’ve got a mold problem. The stuff can grow anywhere— the basement, the bathroom, the kitchen, a leaky ceiling, a damp fabric…and if left unchecked, it can continue to grow, bringing with it an unpleasant odor and irritation to the eyes, nose, throat, skin and lungs.

No need to fret. As with any household danger, the key to protecting your home from mold is two-fold: awareness and prevention. Read on for tips to manage this household menace.

The "Wad" Factor

Mold thrives in conditions that are 1) warm, 2) airless, and 3) damp. Mindy Starns Clark, author of The House that Cleans Itself, calls the presence of these three components the “WAD Factor.” A simple humidity check of your home’s air quality can help you determine your WAD Factor and reveal your risk for mold and mildew.

The Center for Disease Control recommends that indoor humidity levels reach no higher than 50% humidity all day long. Levels can be measured with a hygrometer, an inexpensive instrument found at most hardware stores. If humidity levels rise above 50% during any given day, take steps to bring it down. One of the easiest solutions is a dehumidifier. Costing between $200 to $300, dehumidifiers work day-in and day-out to remove moisture from the air, turning your warm, damp, mold-friendly room into a cool dry place where mold spores in the air can land, but not grow.

Keep On the Lookout!

Maintaining a home—even a new one—can be a daunting task, but upkeep and regular maintenance are critical to mold detection and prevention. Mold and moisture go hand-in-hand, so your first step to mold prevention is keeping your space dry. If there is a musty smell, make sure to take immediate action to find the culprit, or if you see a black substance or a fuzzy growth, clean it up as soon as you see it. If you live in a humid climate, make sure to check behind furniture regularly for mold growth. And be sure to watch out for grouted areas, garbage cans, humidifiers, air conditioners and refrigerator doors, as these tend to attract mold.

Mold in the Bathroom

Moisture is everywhere in bathrooms—in the shower, the toilet, the sink, the floor…In a room like this, the question is not whether mold will appear, it is when. Keep your eyes peeled for black buildup and fuzz and take steps to kick it to the curb when it appears (see “Cleaning Solutions”). In the meantime, here are some tips for preventing mold growth in the bathroom:

  • Wipe down the tub and shower with a towel or squeegee after each use
  • Turn on the fan immediately after showering
  • Crack open a window and/or keep the bathroom door slightly open when using the bath or shower
  • Use synthetic material such as polyester or vinyl for shower curtains and bath mats
  • Regularly wash the shower curtain and liner

Cleaning Solutions

A clean home and a little vigilance will go a long way towards keeping mildew and mold at bay. Depending on where you find mold, try one of these cleaning solutions.

  • Vinegar: Distilled white vinegar is great for getting mold off of a hard surface. A little vinegar added to the rinse cycle can also help remove mold from clothes, towels and linens.
  • Tea tree oil: Another great product for removing mold and mildew, tea tree oil is available online and at most natural food stores.
  • Borax or baking soda: An abrasive paste made from water mixed with Borax or baking soda is extremely effective for removing mold.
  • Bleach: Bleach and other commercial household cleaners are great for mold removal, but should only be used in well-ventilated areas. Dilute bleach as much as possible with water, and be sure to protect your skin with gloves.

When all else fails, call a professional. Standing water in the basement or another room or a patch of mold larger than 10 square feet warrants professional attention. Make sure to hire a reputable company that uses safe cleaning methods.

Mildew and mold are never welcome houseguests, but by following these simple tips, you can swiftly detect these fungal freeloaders and promptly evict them.

Julianne Hale and her family reside in Cleveland. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Illinois State University and then an MBA from the University of Phoenix. Julianne is a member of the Chattanooga Writers Guild, is married, and has three children.
Julianne Hale

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