5 Ways to Avoid Mold in Your Home
For almost a year I watched my best friend struggle with mystery symptoms that paralyzed her ability to live her life. She went from doctor to doctor trying to find answers. No one was able to figure out the root of her symptoms.
After months and months of searching for answers she finally pinpointed the root of her problems located in the walls of the studio she was working out of. It was behind those walls that she found Stachybotrys and Chaetomium, two species of very toxic mold. Seeing her health decline, I recognized that our environment can play a very important role in our health. I also realized that mold is still a very unrecognized environmental threat.
Many people don’t believe mold can make a person so sick — and before seeing this happen to my best friend, I didn’t know the extent at which mold could hurt someone either. This is why I decided to start studying Building Biology and redirect my interior design business to focus solely on creating healthy homes that prevent mold, chemical, and EMF (Electromagnetic Frequency) exposure and also why I want to share with you some ways you can avoid mold in your own home.
Mold isn’t the only toxin in our homes, but it is certainly one of the major players and unfortunately, the way we build our homes today encourages mold growth so we have to be pay special attention to how we create moisture in our home so we don’t wind up with thousands in hospital bills, remediation, and remodeling fees.
It’s a common misconception that mold only grows in humid climates. This is absolutely not true. I have seen many cases of mold in dry climates and it’s because mold only needs three things to grow and survive:
Food (as small as dust)
Water (as little as water vapor)
Warm place to hang (AKA same temperature that we like)
This means, if we’re not managing our dust and our moisture, we are providing mold with all of the things it needs to survive in our environment.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TO PREVENT MOLD FROM GROWING IN YOUR HOME.
1. UNDERSTAND THE HISTORY OF THE HOME
First of all, if you are someone who might be experiencing mystery symptoms of your own, don’t rule out mold. Consider if there has ever been a water event that might have caused previous damage to the home. This could be a flood or it could be something as simple as a slow leak from under your sink. If these water events weren’t handled properly from the get go, you may be dealing with a mold problem before even moving into the home.
You might be able to tell if there was a water event prior to you moving in by noticing any water damaged materials in the home.
Are there warped looking walls or wood?
If you notice this, you may consider testing the home for mold and working with a functional diagnostic practitioner to test your body for mycotoxins (toxins created from mold). Testing your body and your home helps you to mirror what might be going on.
2. KEEP YOUR WET ROOMS IN CHECK
A wet room is any room in the home that we have a water supply to.
It’s crucial to keep an eye on these rooms often and make sure there’s no standing water or water leaks in these areas.
Regular inspections around toilets, bathtubs, and showers are critical in preventing mold and noticing a problem before it starts. Look for failed caulking, discolored flooring and grout, check to make sure the toilet is fastened securely, and that the sink cabinets are not blistering.
Limit the amount of things you keep under your sinks and keep them in bins so you can easily pull them out and check your pipes is a helpful tool in keeping a close watch.
Cleaning out the drains once a month is also another helpful way to keep mold and other biofilms from growing in them.
DRAIN CLEANER RECIPE:
Pour ½ cup baking soda and 1 cup white vinegar down the drains.
After the mixture fizzes up, let it sit for 15 minutes.
Follow by pouring hot water down the drain. Be careful not to pour boiling water down the drains in case you have PVC pipes.
Top with a home probiotic spray like Home Biotic.
3. MANAGE INDOOR WATER VAPOR
We perform a variety of tasks indoors that create water in the form of vapor within the home. Ideally, you want to keep the humidity levels below 45% RH (relative humidity). This can be measured using a hygrometer that can be purchased online.
Some things that create excess water vapor in the home are showering and cooking.
It’s critical to run an exhaust fan when you’re doing either of these activities and making sure the fan is properly sized for the room. You also want to confirm that the fan is actually exhausting out of the home and isn’t just recirculating throughout the home creating excess humidity. Another option is to get a Restroom exhaust fan that comes preinstalled with a humidistat that will automatically sense the humidity in the room and run the fan until the humidity level has dropped.
4. MANAGE YOUR DUST
Dust is food for mold. Combined with water vapor, mold can latch on and colonize and this can create a mold problem within your home. Additionally, mold spores are among some of the toxins that actually make up the composition of dust. This makes managing dust a crucial step to creating a mold free environment.
Maintain areas in the home that are often forgetting about and don’t forget hard to reach places. Especially in locations where there might be high humidity like restrooms and kitchens. For instance, the tops of our kitchen cabinets are usually very dusty and when we cook steam is released into the air causing higher levels of humidity in the room. Make sure you’re regularly checking for dust above your cabinets so you don’t find yourself with a mold issue.
5. MAINTAIN CLEAN APPLIANCES
This seems like a no brainer, but oftentimes we forget to clean and maintain our appliances and we run the risk of growing mold inside of them.
Let these dry out after each use and clean them regularly by running an empty load and throwing 1 cup of white vinegar in the bottom. You also want to wipe down the rubber gasket seal around the perimeter, as this can be a breeding ground for mold. Another option is to ditch this appliance all together if you don’t clean it often, because it’s super prone to cause mold growth.
Refrigerators are cold and can create condensation inside on the shelves and around the rubber seal, so oftentimes we will find mold growing along the edges. Keep these areas clean and use a nontoxic spray, like Branch Basics, to regularly wipe down the gasket and keep food particles from hanging around. If you have a water filter, you will also want to pull the fridge out and empty the drop pan to make sure there’s not water overflowing underneath or behind the appliance.
Front loader washing machines sure have a nice look, but the rubber seal around the front of the washing machine can be hard to clean. Water can get trapped and mold has been known to rear its ugly head between the seal and unit itself. Keep this area dry and wipe it down with a towel after each load. Always keep the door open so it can get plenty of airflow.
Maintenance is Key.
It’s easy to underestimate the toxic power of mold. It’s hard to relate our brain fog, dizziness, weight gain, or fatigue to something that you might not even be able to see with the visible eye. Additionally, this creates a huge disconnect between our health and our home. Not to mention, most of society pushes us to believe this is just a part of getting older.
We do not believe this to be true at Awakening Spaces. The steps listed above are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to prevention. If you think you might be suffering from mold illness or any of the symptoms mentioned above, it might be worth taking a closer look to see if your environment is playing a role.
This piece was written and contributed by:
Ashley, the founder of Awakening Spaces, supports environmentally susceptible and health-conscious individuals in creating safe, healthy, and beautiful environments. As a licensed Interior Designer, she combines her expertise of the construction industry with her knowledge of health and wellbeing to support and empower you along your own journey in creating a healing environment. Ashley is currently pursuing a triple certification in Building Biology and will soon be certified to assess your home for mold, electro-magnetic radiation, and other harmful environmental toxins. Awakening Spaces offers both Full Service Interior Design as well as Environmental Health Coaching services for those looking to improve the health of their home. Ashley finds inspiration in her work through nature and is most grounded when spending time outdoors and exploring new places.