Let’s talk about mould
With an estimated 1 in 10 homes affected by mould infestations, this creeping health risk is a serious concern for many. Mould grows in areas with excess levels of moisture with poor ventilation, poor insulation, and high condensation. It reproduces itself via tiny spores which can grow on paper, carpets, and soft furnishings around the home.
There are three main types of mould. Aspergillus is the most common, often found on walls, ceilings, floors, and areas with high humidity. Cladosporium – found on windowsills and places with high humidity such as bathrooms. Satchybotrys chartarum – known as ‘toxic mould’ is found in damp buildings. It can cause serious health effects; in one tragic case exposure to this type of mould led to a child’s death.
Health effects of mould
Mould produces allergens which can trigger allergic reactions such as sneezing, coughing, and skin rash. They can also trigger asthma attacks in some people. In extreme cases mould can cause aspergillosis, an infection arising from breathing in a type of mould called Aspergillus. Mould can also trigger rhinitis symptoms such as swelling of the lining of the nose, causing sneezing and a runny or blocked nose
How to look for signs of damp and mould
Look carefully for signs inside and outside your home. Examine the damp proof course and roof to make sure they’re intact and that moisture isn’t seeping inside, causing mould and mildew in the walls. Stained wallpaper or paint on walls or ceilings are visible signs of mould. If your windows and sills regularly show signs of condensation, this is a sign that mould could develop. Wipe them down regularly and open the windows to ventilate your room.
What can we do to prevent mould?
Air moisture levels above 60% can encourage mould growth, so here are some simple steps to follow to bring higher levels down.
- Open windows to allow good ventilation and air circulation, and cross ventilate if you can so air moves across and between rooms.
- Maintain an indoor temperature between 18-21 degrees.
- The ideal moisture level indoors is between 30-60%, so if it’s any higher a dehumidifier could help bring it down. Most models show the moisture level of the air in your room to help you maintain a healthy level.
- Some dehumidifiers also include air filters to reduce airborne spore moulds and other pollutants.
- Bathrooms – steam needs to escape so open a window and fit a ventilation fan. Wipe damp surfaces such as shower enclosures and windows down regularly.
- Where possible, choose hard surfaces made from natural materials in your home that are easier to wipe clean than soft furnishings, and give mould less chance to thrive.
- Avoid doing clothes on radiators.
- Check ventilation in cupboards and wardrobes which are often overlooked and cluttered; a tightly packed wardrobe where air can’t circulate could cause mould.
- Fix any water leaks or damage as soon as possible. Check that all your outdoor gutters, downpipes, and roof are clear of debris as this may cause a wall or ceiling to become damp over time.
How to clean away mould
At the first signs of mould, it’s tempting to reach for the bleach, but this only stains the mould and doesn’t kill it. Wiping mould with bleach aggravates it and forces the mould to release more spores to defend itself, perpetuating the problem. Bleach also releases harmful VOCs into the air.
Borax substitute contains Sodium Sesquicarbonate derived from baking soda or bicarbonate of soda. It is a mould inhibitor meaning that it can stop its growth. The original Borax formula was banned in 2010.
Mix 100g of Borax Substitute to 1L of water. It can be applied by spraying or wiping with a clean cloth. Wear a face mask to reduce the chances of inhaling mould spores, especially if you suffer from a respiratory condition such as asthma. Wear protective gloves to reduce skin irritations.
Pay particular attention to tile joints, window frames and bath and shower enclosures – these are areas where mould is most likely to grow. Vinegar, borax solutions, hydrogen peroxide or oxygen cleaning agents will remove and retard fungus growth.
White vinegar is also an effective treatment for mould due to its acidity and it can penetrate and kill up to 80% of mould.
If you have a mould problem always seek professional advice and contact your landlord to report any mould or damp problems.