Montreal Gazette

Make mould disappear

Keeping an eye on moisture, looking around home help keep issues in check

- JERICA PENDER For The Washington Post

Mould spores float through the air and settle on surfaces, even in the cleanest homes. They get tracked inside on our shoes, pets and bodies, as well as through gusts of air. Once spores meet moisture and find a food source — whether it's dirt, dust, wallpaper glue or the paper on drywall — they can grow in as few as 24 hours, causing health issues and damaging structures.

Nancy Bernard, a public health adviser and program manager for Washington State Department of Health's Indoor Air Quality program, says mould's job is to decompose whatever it's growing on. That's fine, she says, as long as it's “decomposin­g outdoors where it belongs.”

Indoor mould growth typically indicates a water problem. All it takes is one persistent drip over time for mould to take root and destroy a large part of a home, says Brian Fish, a U.S. navy veteran who operates North Sound Mold Solutions in Mount Vernon, Wash.

The best ways to prevent mould growth in your home include keeping humidity levels in check (the Environmen­tal Protection Agency recommends a level of 30 to 50 per cent) and dusting regularly with a damp cloth. Performing regular visual inspection­s of each room can also help you spot and squash issues before they require costly profession­al remediatio­n. Here's how to check each room in your home for mould and what to do if you spot signs of moisture.

1. Living room and bedrooms

Growth happens when mould spores land on wet surfaces, so it's important to check window frames frequently for condensati­on. “The mould isn't growing on the vinyl, it's growing on the dirt and oils” that settle on it, says Bernard. If you can't reduce condensati­on, wipe the window daily with a dry cloth.

Thick window treatments, especially if they're little-used, can be another prime hiding spot for mould and moisture. Fish recommends hanging them an inch or two above the top of the window to better allow air to circulate.

Mould also likes to hide behind furniture. Bernard says to put big, bulky pieces on interior walls, which tend to have less condensati­on than exterior ones. If that's not possible, leave at least a few inches between the furniture and the walls to allow air to circulate. Or, Fish says, regularly pull furniture away from the wall and look behind it.

If you find mould on your mattress or furniture, you can try to clean and dry it, but if it still has a musty smell when you're done, Bernard says the mould is still there. Putting it outside in the hot sun might help.

For porous materials such as carpet, take a preventive approach. Clean up pet accidents and spills quickly and completely, and vacuum frequently with a HEPA filter.



Most closets are closed off, unheated and full of clutter — creating the perfect conditions for mould. Cracking and/or opening doors occasional­ly will help increase airflow, or you could replace the closet doors with curtains, as Bernard did in her home. Scan closet walls and corners from top to bottom, and remove ground-level items to inspect the floor. In closets, attics and any other area used for storage, Fish suggests replacing cardboard boxes (a favourite of mould) with plastic storage bins that seal.

3. Laundry room

Check for leaks around the standpipe — the throughway where water discharges from the washing machine — and make sure the drain hose hasn't come loose. Drain hoses wear out and leak so be sure to replace them every five to 10 years. The same goes for washer door seals; if they've become brittle or are covered in mould or mildew that won't wipe off, it's best to replace them. Depending on the model, this can usually be done without hiring an appliance repair profession­al.

Dryers should vent to the home's exterior, not up into the attic. Fish recently inspected a home where “there was probably 15 years of wet dryer lint blown into the attic and it rotted the sheeting and damaged the framing.” Also check the dryer vent duct for cracks and kinks so wet lint isn't blowing (and growing mould) on the wall behind the unit.

Homes are built more airtight than in the past, and some type of ventilatio­n in the laundry room is important to reduce humidity, says Fish. If your laundry room has a fan, run it frequently and ensure that it vents to the exterior of the home.

4. Kitchen

Fish says to slide out your appliances, particular­ly the refrigerat­or, periodical­ly to inspect and clean around and under them. If your fridge has a built-in icemaker or water dispenser, make sure the water line is kink-free to prevent leaks that can lead to mould. Check every appliance that has a drip pan regularly, including water heaters, furnaces and HVAC systems, even if they are hard to access.

Look under the sink (yes, all the way in the back) often. Fish recommends using rubber mats in the cabinet under the sink to catch potential drips. “Most folks don't have custom wood cabinets so it's all particle board or Mdf-type cabinetry,” he says. “Once that stuff absorbs water, it just puffs up,” moulds and spreads to the wall. Monitor all caulking, especially around the backsplash, for cracks or shrinkage that can allow water to seep through.

Do a tissue test to ensure that fans, including the one in your range hood, are working properly: Does a piece of facial or toilet tissue stick to the cover when it's running? If yes, then you're good. Running fans throughout the home can help maintain recommende­d humidity levels.

Fish says to remove fan covers to clean them fully. “It's the most common place we never see people clean,” he says. Check inside the fan for mould, too.

5. Bathrooms

Of course bathrooms are prime spots for mould, but the potential breeding grounds go beyond walls and under-sink cabinets. People often store slow-drying items such as paper products and towels in bathroom cupboards. Inspect them for signs of moisture. Also look at all bathroom caulking and wipe surface mould off, but note that if the caulk is impregnate­d with spores, it needs to be replaced. Never caulk over caulk; it won't adhere properly and you'll just be giving the mould more food.

Sit backward on your toilet for what Fish calls “the straddle test.” If it wiggles from side to side, the floor seal could be leaking. Check behind the pedestal on the floor as well, where condensati­on from the tank often drips unseen.

Bubbling paint, peeling wallpaper and swollen floorboard­s could indicate a problem below the surface. If you find mould, the EPA says you can usually clean a 10-square-foot (one-square-metre) area independen­tly. For anything larger, call an expert.

 ?? ?? Bathrooms are prime spots for mould and part of your inspection should include the caulking in the shower or tub and around the sink.
Bathrooms are prime spots for mould and part of your inspection should include the caulking in the shower or tub and around the sink.

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