Look for Leaks
Periodically check your roof and the household plumbing. Look under sinks, inside showers, around windows and doors, and inside closets. If you have a basement, check the floor and walls for signs of water infiltration. If you find a leak, repair it right away. Sometimes pipes spring a leak within the walls or floors, so you may have to do a bit of searching to find them.
Just because you don’t see mold “doesn’t necessarily mean you are in the clear,” says Nathanael S. Horne, MD, clinical assistant professor of medicine at New York Medical College in Valhalla and an allergy specialist in private practice in New York City. “Even if you don’t see any mold, if you are experiencing unexplained symptoms and have eliminated other culprits, it could be mold.”
Break Out the Bleach when Containing Mold
Most indoor mold can be eliminated simply by getting rid of the mold item or by wiping the affected surface with diluted bleach (one cup of bleach per gallon of water). Be sure to wear goggles and rubber gloves when containing mold. If that doesn’t work, you may want to call in a professional company that rids houses of mold.
Ditch the Humidifier
If you or someone you live with is allergic to mold, your goal should be to lower humidity in your home, not raise it. So forget about using a humidifier or vaporizer.
“Adding moisture is the last thing you want to do,” says Sublett. “There’s no evidence that humidifiers have health benefits, and lots of evidence that they promote the growth of mold.”
Pick up an inexpensive moisture meter (hygrometer), and take readings throughout your home. Pay special attention to bathrooms, the basement, and kitchen.
If the humidity exceeds 50% in any room, find ways to bring it down. One possibility is to boost ventilation by installing (and using) exhaust fans. If this doesn’t do the job, get a dehumidifier.
“Look for one that attaches to a central drain or to your heating and air conditioning system,” says Sublett. “Otherwise, you may find yourself spending all your time emptying buckets of water.”
Wear a Mask
Mold spores get stirred up every time you sweep, vacuum, or do yard work. To protect yourself at these times, use a vacuum cleaner with a built-in HEPA air filter, and wear a filtration mask that is rated “N95” by the National Institute of Safety and Health (NIOSH).
If possible, the mask should stay on for a couple of hours after you stop. It can take that long for spores to settle out of the air.
Rip Up the Carpet
As long as there is sufficient warmth and water, mold can grow on all sorts of common household items, including wood, paper products, foam rubber, wallboard, and carpet. Indoor plants can harbor mold as well.
If mold is a problem in your home, de-cluttering can help. Also, get rid of wall-to-wall carpeting in dank basements, steamy bathrooms, and in your bedroom, where you spend so much time.
Fix Up Your Furnace
Equip your furnace with a high-efficiency filter that has a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating of at least 11. Replace the filter every three months, and have your furnace serviced every six months. It’s also a good idea to put a HEPA air filter in your bedroom and in any other rooms where you spend significant amounts of time.
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