Mold: Getting Rid of it in Your Home
Molds are a diverse group of fungi. Under optimal conditions, with organic matter and water, a single mold spore can germinate and produce a fungal colony with hundreds of thousands of spores in 4 to 9 days. Fungi thrive in the 65% to 85% humidity ranges, though most allergenic molds release their spores during dry conditions of humidity below 70%. People who are allergic to molds may have symptoms that persist for long periods of time, recur several times throughout the year, or are associated with specific environments where molds flourish. Molds are so widespread in nature that total avoidance is quite difficult. There are, however, a number of precautions that can help limit your exposure.
Mildew, for example, is the common name for some of the more common molds that grow rapidly inside the home. Areas where mold flourishes include shower stalls, spoiling food, draperies, wallpaper and its canvas backing, luggage, shoes, gloves, leather goods, damp linens or clothing, and locations where flooding has occurred, especially around leaky toilets, sinks, ceilings, refrigerators or dishwashers. Wood floors, baseboards, closed-up cabins or boats, poorly circulated storage areas, refrigerator drip pans, air conditioners or dehumidifier reservoirs are other common mold sites. Anywhere dust or soil accumulates in the home is likely to provide a suitable area for mold growth. Stuffed furniture, pillows, mattresses, old stuffed toys, wool carpets, stored paper products, stored clothing and bedding are likely to grow mold. Aquariums and indoor plants can also attract mold growth in the home.
Efforts should be made to create at least one allergen-free room in the home. Generally, it should be a bedroom where the mold-sensitive person can spend as much time each day as possible. It is particularly important that furniture covers be made of vinyl or synthetic material. Upholstered furniture, down comforters, stuffed toys, carpeting, and wall hangings should be removed. Hardwood, vinyl, or tile floors are suggested. Dust and soil should be frequently removed with a HEPA vacuum or a wet mop. Air filtration devices and dehumidifiers can help. Central air conditioning and heating generally generate less dampness in the home, as long as filters are cleaned regularly. Mold resistant paints should be used in this room and throughout the home. A small electric light in poorly ventilated areas will help reduce humidity.
There are no safe, long-lasting fungicides for use within the home. Common germicides (Lysol, Tylex) can help kill many indoor molds. Ordinary bleach at 50% to full strength can kill molds (in areas where it won’t destroy furnishings or paint). In severe cases, ozone generators can be used to kill indoor mold during periods while the home is vacant.
Molds play an important role in the decomposition of organic matter, helping to return vital nutrients to the soil. Because of this factor, mold sensitive individuals should avoid contact with decomposing leaves, grasses and grains. This includes activities such as raking or mowing lawns, handling or harvesting grain, and working around haystacks and feed barns. Travel in rural areas, especially on dry, windy days during or after a harvest should be avoided. Dense vegetation around living and working quarters should be cleared. If exposure to molds cannot be avoided, a facemask should be worn to filter the airborne allergens. Fungicides can be used sparingly outside the home with the expertise of an organic landscaper.