Upon reflecting on my epic toxic mold adventure, it occurred to me that I was not always putting mold prevention best practices in place. While ultimately, I didn’t do any one thing “wrong” that caused the Armageddon of mold to occur, but I probably could have cut it off at the pass had I known what to look for.
In our case, a building defect that allowed water intrusion to occur was the culprit of our toxic mold issues. While construction defects or homeowner negligence is one of the main reasons for toxic mold, it certainly isn’t the only reason.
Today I am sharing a very brief “how-to” guide on how to prevent mold. This is by no means an exhaustive list of ways to prevent mold but at the very least, it will give you a little checklist to consider.
If you are a homeowner, everything on this list is within your control. If you rent, you will need to work with your landlord on some of the issues you might find. (Although I hope you do not find any!)
12 Ways To Prevent Mold
1. Clean Up Standing Water/Moisture
This should be obvious but you would be surprised at how many people do not do this. Most, but not all molds need 24-48 hours of moisture to begin to grow. Therefore if a suitable material in your home is wet for more than 24 hours then you run the risk of mold starting to grow. As soon as you see any standing water, clean it up and dry the area out. This includes “minor” amounts of water like a wet shower. Dry the shower after each use. This also includes major amounts of water from a broken pipe or a flood. Of course, standing water includes everything in between.
2. Be Diligent About Proper Ventilation
Mold loves condensation. Loves it! Condensation forms where there is improper ventilation. You know when your bathroom mirror fogs up? That means that there is improper ventilation. Always, always, ALWAYS use an exhaust fan or open a window when showering, cooking, and washing the dishes. If your dryer doesn’t vent to the outside of your house, make sure you ventilate that area as well. Basically, vent anything that uses moisture to work.
If you do have condensation forming, dry the surface immediately. I would take it a step further and diffuse some mold-fighting essential oils in the room daily as well. You should also consider my monthly mold prevention system. It works wonders!
3. Keep Humidity Levels In Check
The EPA recommends keeping indoor humidity between 30 and 60 percent. The toxicologist I worked with suggested that lower is even better. You can measure humidity with a moisture meter like this or a humidity monitor like this. You'll also be able to detect high humidity by simply paying attention to condensation formation.
If you have high humidity, you will want to keep a dehumidifier running. This is the one I use. This is especially useful in poorly ventilated areas like a bathroom or laundry room. If you have a basement you can almost guarantee that you will need a dehumidifier running 24/7. Also, make sure to install a sump-pump if your basement is prone to flooding.
4. Improve air flow in your home.
According to the EPA, as temperatures drop, the air is able to hold less moisture. Without good air flow in your home, that excess moisture may appear on your walls, windows and floors. To increase circulation and prevent mold, open doors between rooms, move furniture away from walls, and open doors to closets that may be colder than the rooms they’re in. Let fresh air in to reduce moisture and keep mold at bay.
5. Invest In Proper Air Filtration/Purification Units
Mold spores fly around. The move from room to room. They get into your air ducts. The hide and come out to play whenever the air gets stirred up. To prevent those spores from taking over, proper air filtration is necessary. If you own your home, you may look at investing in a whole-house air filtration system. Otherwise, using a mix of special air filters throughout the house ought to do a pretty good job of removing most of the mold spores.
I am using two different air purification units to help prevent mold spores from settling.
Filter #1 – Austin Air Healthmate Plus
If you are looking for a high-quality unit that is reasonably priced, then I suggest the Austin Air HealthMate Plus Air Purifier. It effectively removes small particles down to 0.3 microns in size as well as VOCs. It has manual controls and does not indicate when to change the filter, but the filter has a 5-year life expectancy so filter changes are rarely needed. It is a high-quality unit made in the USA and is backed by a 5-year warranty. The important thing about this filter is that it is a 4-stage filter.
Austin Air’s 360-degree intake system draws air into all sides of the HealthMate Plus™, passing it through a 4-stage filter. The result, more clean air delivered faster and more efficiently than any other air cleaner on the market.
- STAGE 1 – Large Particle Pre-filter Removes particles easily seen by the naked eye (e.g.dust, hair and pet dander)
- STAGE 2 – Medium Particle Pre-filter Removes small to medium size particles (e.g.molds, spores and pollen)
- STAGE 3 – About 15 lbs. of Impregnated Activated Carbon and Zeolite Removes chemicals, gases and odors.
- STAGE 4 – 60 sq.ft.of Certified HEPA Removes 99.97% of all particles larger than 0.3 microns
I only need one of these in our house but I went ahead and purchased the HealthMate Jr. Plus unit to use in the master bedroom as an added precaution.
Filter #2 – Airocide Air Purifier
Everyone talks about HEPA this and HEPA that but after doing hours and hours of research and making tons of calls, I was confident in my conclusion that HEPA filters can only do so much. Although I am also using that fancy HEPA filter I mentioned above, the Airocide technology is something I knew I needed to add to the mix.
Airocide technology uses a titanium coated catalyst developed by NASA to destroy – not trap – even the smallest of pathogens. So anything that escapes the HEPA filter essentially gets annihilated by the Airocide.
Here's what happens: A quiet fan draws in airborne allergy, mold and chemical sensitive triggers and slows them down, dispersing them across a densely packed matrix of their coated catalyst. As they contact the surface of these catalysts they are broken down at the molecular level in a process known as oxidation. The entire process is safe, produces no ozone, and is encapsulated within their Reaction Chambers. Simply replace the Reaction Chambers (sold as a pair), once a year – there's no mess like filters – just clean air year round.
To me, this was worth every penny. I feel confident that our environment, wherever we are, will be completely free of mold spores plus all kinds of other yucky stuff that our bodies can’t handle right now. I have put one in every bedroom as well as the main living areas.
6. Insulate Ducts
Duct systems that carry heated or cooled air throughout your house must be insulated whenever they pass through unheated or uncooled spaces like attics or basements. If not, condensation can form inside the ducts and, when combined with dust in the air, can allow mold to grow in the ducts, and then spores can easily circulate throughout your entire house.
7. Check For Signs Of Water Intrusion
Staying vigilant of any leaks around the house, especially in bathroom faucets, showers and toilets is key. Also, check your baseboards several times per year. If you see any discoloration, you know you have a water intrusion occurring. Other signs of a water intrusion include general dampness (like on floors or around windows and doors), odd odors, discoloration, peeling paint, sudden onset of condensation, compacted insulation, and visible mold outbreaks of course. If you do find signs of water intrusion you want to address this immediately.
8. Avoid Carpet
Mold spores love carpet. They are almost impossible to completely get out of carpet. If you have the option of choosing your flooring, tile is best followed by wood. Cork is also a flooring option as it actually prevents mold growth however, it is very pricey.
9. Perform Routine Maintenance On Your Fridge and Freezer
Clean refrigerator drip pans regularly. Mold loves to grow there! If your refrigerator and freezer doors do not seal properly, moisture can build up and mold can grow there. Remove any mold on the door gaskets and replace faulty gaskets.
10. Reconsider Indoor Plants
Yes, I know that plants help to “clean” the air as they provide oxygen BUT the soil is a breeding ground for mold. If you do have indoor plants, it is a good idea to check the soil often and change it regularly. Also, do not over water plants.
11. Eliminate Clutter
Cast a critical eye on household clutter, and pare down your stuff. Clutter blocks airflow and prevents your HVAC system from circulating air. Furniture and draperies that block supply grilles cause condensation. All this moisture creates microclimates in your home that welcome and feed mold growth. Mold spores hide in dust. The less “dust collecting” items you have, the better. For any display items, put them in a glass enclosed case. Also, keep as much as possible in cabinets and behind closed doors. It has less of a chance of collecting dust that way.
12. Other Not So Random Things To Keep In Mind
- Be Aware Of Your Surroundings! Is your home at the bottom of a hill where water flows towards it? Do you get a lot of water building up in your yard.
- Make sure your pipes are in good working condition.
- Keep your roof and gutters well-maintained and clear.
- Don’t aim sprinklers at your house.
- Improve outside grading and drainage by keeping soil always sloping away from your home.
- Cover dirt crawlspace floors with plastic to reduce moisture.
- Keep all storage at least several inches up off concrete floors and away from foundations where dampness can easily seep in. This is especially important with organic material like cardboard boxes. Avoid using wooden shelves.
- When choosing building materials, use materials that don’t feed the mold.
- Do not let wet towels pile up. Dry them outside in between washings.
- The same can be said for clothing. Don’t let damp clothing sit around.
- Dry items immediately after washing. Do not line dry inside your home. Line dry outside or in the garage.
Speaking of washing – dry the inside of your washing machine after use so mold growth is not encouraged. Spray vinegar inside once a week.
Don't forget to check out all of my other mold related posts and mold resources I have put together for you. You can find those on my Mold Resources page.