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Help! I’m Quarantining and Now My Home Smells Musty!

bad-odor

Most of us are doing our best to decrease the spread of the coronavirus. This means we’re staying home, avoiding group gatherings, and only going out for necessary groceries and medications.

If everyone is home all the time, this means there’ll be more moisture from showering, cleaning, cooking, and just living our lives in the small space of our house. And as we know, mold loves lots of moisture 1. So it’s no wonder that some of us will smell that tell-tale sign of mold: a musty odor.

You should know though that musty odor doesn’t always mean there’s dangerous mold growing 2. It’s likely just surface level mold, which can be fixed. But it could also be a deeper issue, depending on the moisture build-up or potential water leaks before the quarantine.

In any case, here’s some education and tips if you’re at home more and smell a potential mold problem in the making.

Understand how and why mold grows

As mentioned above, mold thrives on moisture, whether it comes from a water leak or condensation. But it also needs food to grow. Often, mold can be found wherever there are moisture and fibrous material like paper, drywall, and cardboard. But it also eats other organic material like bread, skin cells, bacteria, and other small carbon-containing matter 1.

Mold also needs space to grow without too many other microbes to compete with. You’d be interested to know that mold can disable some other microbes to enable their own growth 3. In this way, they can take over an area and thrive. But, if mold already has open space without other competitors, as is the case in spaces that are too clean, they may grow unchecked 4,5.

Once you know how and why mold grows, you can be better prepared for how to prevent mold in the first place. However, this knowledge can also help in knowing how to fix a mold problem once it begins.

Tips for removing and coping with mold

Be sure to have a well-ventilated home.

Since mold needs moisture to grow, then having a well-ventilated home can often help fix a minor mold problem. Be sure to make use of kitchen and bathroom fans. If you don’t have them, then investing in portable fans can really help 1.

Also, try keeping some windows open. This can be challenging when everyone is home, and the weather outside may be cold. However, having some windows open can really ventilate and bring in some helpful natural air 1,5,6.

Bring down moisture levels.

As stated above, proper ventilation can significantly reduce your moisture levels, which will help prevent and treat a mold problem. Another way to reduce moisture is to use a dehumidifier. You can place it in critical areas that tend to build moisture the most 1,5.

Also, try to avoid moisture from condensing on windows, especially if the air is cooler outside than it is inside. With more people in the home, this will be a more significant challenge than usual. Try to keep the temperature of your home a bit cooler than usual. Also, when possible, open windows to decrease the build-up of condensation 1,5.

Remove surface-level mold

Surface-level mold can be removed in a fairly simple way. Many people opt for bleach, and while this is a popular remedy, it is only effective on non-porous (tile etc) surfaces, and is also toxic for the lungs and skin. Instead, try using undiluted 3% hydrogen peroxide OR white vinegar 7,8, but do not mix them. Tea tree oil can be just as effective as hydrogen peroxide or vinegar 8.

Wipe the surface-level mold with a disposable cloth and one of the solutions as mentioned above, and repeat as necessary. Regardless of which solution you choose, use only a small amount and don’t mix with any other cleaning agents as this could potentially produce toxic gases.

Also, mold doesn’t grow as much when other microbes are competing for space and food. Homebiotic’s probiotic spray was created to help bring in natural soil-based microbes that will compete with mold and inhibit their growth. Homebiotic won’t kill mold on contact, instead it works over time to inhibit and prevent their growth.

Prevent illnesses associated with mold

If that musty odor persists and you’ve taken steps to clean all surface-level mold, then you likely have mold growth in inaccessible areas of the home. This may require a mold test and more stringent removal measures.

The Homebiotic home biome test kit can accurately test many species of mold growth in your home. Once you know what you have, then you can treat it appropriately.

In the meantime, you can use air filtration systems to help reduce the number of mold allergens in the air. HEPA filters with UV or ionization have proven to be effective at lowering mycotoxin allergens in the air. Just be sure to clean your HEPA filter properly as it can also be vulnerable to mold growth. However, UV and ionization may prevent mold growth in HEPA filter units 9,10.

Conclusion

During quarantine for the coronavirus, we are spending a lot more time at home. This increases the moisture levels in our home, which might aid in the growth of mold. If you start smelling that tell-tale musty odor, chances are mold has begun to spring up in your home.

The good news is that it’s likely surface-level mold. The above tips will help you make decisions about how to prevent and fix this problem. Once mold growth has begun, there are a few non-toxic ways to get rid of it quickly.

Lastly, proper ventilation and decreasing moisture levels are essential to prevent and treat mold issues. You can also use Homebiotic spray to bring in natural microbe competitors that will stop mold from growing in the first place.

Although mold growth may become an issue during quarantine, it doesn’t have to become another stressor. Once you understand how mold grows, then you’ll know more about how to prevent and remove it.

 

REFERENCES:

1. http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/43325/E92645.pdf
2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28299723
3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mold
4. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41564-019-0593-4.epdf?referrer_access_token=dbirv_c_z112blDos3pXLNRgN0jAjWel9jnR3ZoTv0NvGy2dylkGSz3KfaHrHWvz91WrdbO-hC1L5cRkm8uaNT_206dn91YHLRkkEthiaLvebtJej4odp6x8_o6PN9C4sBMg3aSzRXRoO2YCabzZXpWFXr0v027tEfwr0cTKZlPatZKGOACqFfaEnoF1P92hlljaBbcfjElLCR0Tzp6xVovmC84tkYdJawRACVDgwlT2BCyitwETaNo8a3b7DX_pnzgOL61ZX3_w1lLh07CGR3vnLkR14D6RSH0WRjo9A3WMhTeh8H34VG37MCopLsbAuS5lM85zEgO8dIVUIeQlbA%3D%3D&tracking_referrer=www.npr.org
5. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0064133
6. https://letthemeatdirt.com
7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16400985
8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4483703/
9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4587002/
10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4206797/

 

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Avoid Over-Cleaning During the Pandemic Quarantine

Avoid Over-Cleaning During the Pandemic Quarantine

We’re living at a time when antibacterial soaps, wipes, and cleaning products are rapidly being emptied off the shelves. With the coronavirus pandemic, people are frantically purchasing cleaning supplies to keep their homes safe.

Indeed, if you have someone sick at home or you’re immunocompromised and can’t participate in self-quarantine, then keeping things extra clean will be a priority.

However, it’s not necessary to be over-cleaning your home if no one is sick, and everyone has healthy immune systems. This is especially true if everyone is observing proper social distance or quarantine measures.

So let’s talk about how to clean properly during this pandemic quarantine. You might be surprised to learn that over-cleaning may do more harm than good.

What is over-cleaning?

If no one is sick or immunocompromised in your home, then there’s no need to clean more often than you usually do. You likely don’t need to be wiping and scrubbing surfaces several times a day. You also don’t need to douse your hands or bodies in antibacterial soap or be doing outrageous amounts of laundry either.

There may be an urge to use lots of bleach and water to clean the bathrooms and kitchens every day, but this is not necessary. Cleaning once a week with non-toxic cleaners and keeping a regular laundry schedule should be fine. This is especially true if everyone is staying in, observing social distancing, and not exposed to anyone else.

Of course, if someone is ill in your house or you’ve been exposed then your cleaning regimen likely needs to increase. You’ll also need to use sanitizing agents to kill and remove the virus. If these situations apply to you, then you can follow the CDC’s cleaning advice to prevent other family members from getting ill 1.

Why might over-cleaning be harmful?

By now, most people know that a sterile gut causes many health issues 2. Well, the same can be said about our home environment. If you strip away all the healthy microbes in our homes, you’re setting up your environment for an onslaught of unhealthy microbes, like mold 3,4.

The more we clean away all the microbes, the more mold sees those empty spaces as free real-estate to grow and reproduce. This is because many microbial species compete with mold, which keeps their numbers low. But if there are no bacteria at all, then mold has a much better chance of taking up space 3,4,5.

This is especially problematic when there are more people at home using water to clean, shower, or cook. And in colder months, when we usually keep windows closed, moisture from breathing and living can really build-up.

Nowadays, everyone is home more due to quarantine and shelter-in-place laws in many countries. As a result we have more people inside, which means an increase in moisture in many areas of the house.

So between freeing up real estate to over-cleaning mixed with more moisture and less ventilation, this sets up the perfect storm for mold to grow. And since many people are now developing allergies and asthma from mold exposure, this can cause more health problems as we’re all quarantined at home 5,6.

The other problem with over-cleaning is that we may be contributing to the creation of bacteria that are resistant to these cleaners. Bacteria that survive after they’ve been bleached or doused in antibacterial solutions are on their way to becoming resistant, and therefore more dangerous to our health 7,8.

Lastly, over-using toxic cleaners can be dangerous to your health in general. They can cause respiratory or skin irritations when used in high quantities. This may not help when you’re already concerned about staying healthy under the threat of coronavirus 7,8.

So how should I clean properly?

As mentioned above, if no one is sick or immunocompromised, then regular cleaning once a week with non-toxic solutions like vinegar or essential oils will suffice. You also don’t need to use a ton of water either, just enough to wipe away the dirt and soap suds.

It’s essential to make sure you have ventilation around the areas that you do clean. Also, wherever your family conducts regular hand washing should have ventilation too. So be sure to turn on bathroom and kitchen fans if you have them. You can even use portable fans to keep air circulating throughout the home as well. If you’re able to open windows, that would be helpful too 3.

You also don’t need to use toxic antibacterial soaps for hand washing and showering. Regular soap works by attaching to bacteria and viruses and pulling them off. Then when you rinse with water, everything gets washed down the drain 9.

How do I clean when we need to shop or get medicine?

When someone needs to do grocery shopping or pick up medicine and bring items back in the house, this can present some anxiety and confusion around cleaning. In this case, the person coming back from outside definitely needs to wash their hands 1.

If their clothes have been exposed, then they can either be left in a bag for several days or washed 1. But if they haven’t been in direct contact or within six feet of anyone, then there’s no need to do extra laundry.

Experts are saying that people don’t need to be as worried about grocery items as they thought 10. Using regular safety measures for food handling will suffice. The same goes for food wrap and plastic bags, just practice proper hand washing and food safety as you would typically do 1,10.

It can be dangerous to use toxic wipes or cleaners near or around open food. These solutions are not meant to be consumed and therefore, shouldn’t be used to disinfect any food. The usual food handling, storage, and cooking practices will be good enough 7.

Conclusion

As it was stated above, if no one is sick or immunocompromised and everyone is observing social distancing and quarantine practices, then there’s no need to over-clean. You can follow your regular cleaning and laundry schedule. And when you do clean, you don’t need to use toxic cleaners or use too much water.

Make sure your home is well-ventilated around hand washing and cleaning areas. And when leaving home to pick up food or medicine, the tips above will help you make the right decisions about the cleaning and storage of those items.

This is a confusing and scary time and many of us are feeling unsure about how to clean our homes and protect our families. Hopefully, these facts and tips will help you make the best decisions.

Remember, hand washing and distance is the best measure for preventing the coronavirus, so going overboard in cleaning your home is really not necessary.

 

REFERENCES:

1. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/disinfecting-your-home.html
2. https://letthemeatdirt.com
3. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0064133
4. https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rspb.2015.1139
5. http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/43325/E92645.pdf
6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28608416
7. https://journals.lww.com/pidj/fulltext/2000/10001/consumer_and_market_use_of_antibacterials_at_home.6.aspx
8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK73515/
9. https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html
10. https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/news/coronavirus-no-evidence-food-source-or-transmission-route

 

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How Social Isolation Impacts Mold Growth at Home

How Social Distancing and Isolation Impacts Mold Growth at Home

Many of us are living in a new reality with COVID-19. School is canceled, many have been laid off, and many more are working from home. For the first time, people around the globe are spending most of their time at home.

We must look at a few side-effects of our new reality so we can prepare and take action now. We know that social distancing and home isolation will ultimately help everyone as we move through this health crisis.

However, we also know that spending more time at home will affect the well-being of our families as well. It will also impact the health of our home environment.

We’re moving less, watching more TV, getting less social and outdoor time, and feeling a lot more stressed. But also, as we spend more time at home, we increase the chances of mold growth, which impacts our health as well.

Side-effects of social distancing and home isolation

If you think about it, more time at home means there will be more people showering, cleaning, eating, and cooking. Before, many of us would be spending our days at work, school, or other activities outside of the home. Now, we’re all doing these things together under one roof.

Also, many of us are trying to prevent illness, so we’re cleaning more than usual, perhaps keeping windows and doors shut, and washing our hands more.

What does all of this add up to? Less air circulation, more moisture, and spaces void of helpful bacteria. All of these elements provide the perfect conditions for mold to grow.

Why do these elements cause mold to grow?

Mold likes to eat cellulose-containing building materials such as paper, fiber, and drywall. All of these products are widely available in modern homes. However, mold needs moisture and free space to grow. So, once we begin adding more moisture to our homes and removing helpful bacteria, mold can grow unchecked. 1

To avoid getting COVID-19, we’re using more water to wash our hands and clean our homes and thus adding more moisture. We may also be using more chemicals to clean and wash our hands with. These chemicals kill the bacteria that provide a balance for your home, and prevent the causes of musty odors.

Also, in many parts of North America and Europe, cold winter temperatures prompt us to keep doors and windows closed, preventing proper airflow 1. And because most of us are staying put, there’s minimal movement in and out of our homes.

All of these conditions create a much higher risk of mold growth. And with increased mold, comes new health problems that we may not have thought about before.

How mold affects our health?

Most people know that mold is highly correlated with allergies and asthma. Household mold causes an increase in asthma and allergy symptoms, which also increases the risk of secondary infections, like COVID-19. So even though we’re trying to prevent illness, we may be inadvertently increasing our susceptibility to other contagious respiratory diseases 1,2,3.

Also, now that we’re more sedentary and perhaps exposed to mold growth, we may be more susceptible to feeling depressed and out of control. One study showed that mold growth was associated with increased depression 4.

Also, the study showed that when people feel a lack of control over their health and home environment, depression increases. No doubt, people are already feeling anxious about COVID-19, so having mold in the home will surely not help matters much 4.

How to prevent mold and enhance our well-being while staying home.

The good news is that there’s a lot we can do to keep ourselves and our homes healthy during this COVID-19 crisis. Here are some essential tips to keep in mind while we maintain social distance and isolation in our homes:

Maintain airflow through the house.

Unless you live incredibly close to your neighbors, it would be good to open some windows and let fresh air come in. This not only benefits your home, but it will bring in some oxygen and help keep everyone’s spirits up. Also, it maintains a connection with the outdoors, which will bring in good bacteria from outside.

Be sure to turn on fans in the kitchen and bathroom if you have them. Also, portable fans placed at strategic points in the house will really help keep airflow through the house 1,5.

Prevent humidity or water damage.

When you’re cleaning, be careful how much water you’re using. You likely don’t need to use large amounts to get the job done. And when you’re finished cleaning, make sure you dry all the surfaces with a cloth.

Be sure that the bathroom is thoroughly dried out after showers and hygiene practices. Leave the bathroom fan on or wipe the surfaces until they’re dry (and then properly dry the towel or squeegee!) 1,5.

Check all areas of the home for potential water damage and make any necessary repairs.

Be conscious of your cleaning practices.

If you have someone who is ill with COVID-19 in your home, by all means, use disinfectant to keep everyone safe. However, if no one is ill and everyone is observing social distance and isolation, there’s no need to go overboard with bleach or other harsh chemicals.

Bleach and harsh cleaning products can kill the good bacteria that help keep mold at bay 6,7. Instead, opt for natural cleaners like vinegar or essential oils. Also, you don’t need to clean multiple times per day if no one is ill.

Taking care of your health is also good for your home.

When possible, get outside if you can. Head into the backyard or if you don’t have one, go to an open area where you can still observe social distancing. Getting outside will not only help your health, but it will also give your home a chance to dry out. And when you return, you bring in beneficial outdoor microbes that help prevent mold growth.

Conclusion

Indeed, this is a new reality we’re living. Inevitably, it can take a toll on our health as well as the health of our home. Most notably, the side-effects of social distancing and home isolation may increase the possibility of mold growth in our homes.

But if we stay conscious and proactive, we can not only improve our living conditions and prevent mold growth but maintain our well-being at the same time.

 

REFERENCES:

1. http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/43325/E92645.pdf
2. https://www.jacionline.org/article/s0091-6749(02)00092-1/fulltext
3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4444319/
4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1994167/
5. https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rspb.2015.1139
6. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41564-019-0593-4.epdf?referrer_access_token=dbirv_c_z112blDos3pXLNRgN0jAjWel9jnR3ZoTv0NvGy2dylkGSz3KfaHrHWvz91WrdbO-hC1L5cRkm8uaNT_206dn91YHLRkkEthiaLvebtJej4odp6x8_o6PN9C4sBMg3aSzRXRoO2YCabzZXpWFXr0v027tEfwr0cTKZlPatZKGOACqFfaEnoF1P92hlljaBbcfjElLCR0Tzp6xVovmC84tkYdJawRACVDgwlT2BCyitwETaNo8a3b7DX_pnzgOL61ZX3_w1lLh07CGR3vnLkR14D6RSH0WRjo9A3WMhTeh8H34VG37MCopLsbAuS5lM85zEgO8dIVUIeQlbA%3D%3D&tracking_referrer=www.npr.org
7. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0064133

 

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Can Mold Exposure Increase Your Coronavirus Risk?

The coronavirus pandemic has many of us gripped with stress and worry over the health of our families. There’s a lot of uncertainty, and people are naturally concerned about how to protect themselves and their home environments. And now that many of us are confined to our homes, we’re wondering how to make them as safe and healthy as possible.

One thing to consider is mold growth and how it may affect us in our homes. With more people spending time at home, mold may become a problem as we are eating, cooking, showering, and cleaning more. And for those who are already prone to asthma and allergies, mold can be a more serious issue. Particularly when it comes to infections like coronavirus and its complications.

The effects of mold on the immune system

Most people know that anyone with a compromised immune system can become very ill when exposed to mold. This is because they don’t have the right amount of immune cells in their blood to fight off a systemic fungal infection 1,2,3.

However, people with otherwise healthy immune systems can also be affected by the toxins that mold secretes. To be clear, mold on its own does not cause illness. Instead, it’s the mycotoxins that mold emits that can impair the immune system and cause illness. In other words, people who are sensitive to mold may also be slightly immunocompromised 3.

Research has shown that these mycotoxins can confuse and impair the white blood cells in our immune system, making them less able to protect the individual. Furthermore, confused white blood cells have a tendency to overreact, which accounts for many allergic reactions 1,2.

Mold and its role in asthma and allergies

Unfortunately, asthma and allergies have increased exponentially over the past many decades 4. Also, mold growth has increased, particularly within modern homes 5.

Experts have shown clear connections between household mold and increased allergic illness and asthma attacks 3,4,5. The mycotoxins in mold have been shown to both cause and exacerbate allergies and asthma.

The concerning part is that conditions like asthma and allergies reveal an already impaired immune system. This means that people with allergies and asthma are also more susceptible to secondary infections from bacteria and viruses 6.

Does mold make us more susceptible to viruses?

It’s possible that mold exposure can make us more susceptible to pathogens like the coronavirus. This is especially problematic for people who have asthma and allergies related to mold sensitivity.

Since many of us will be home more, household exposure to mold can become a problem. And if a family member has increased asthma or allergies related to mold, they are likely to have their immune system compromised 1,2,3,4. And of course, this makes them prone to develop other infections like the coronavirus.

Also, people with asthma and allergies tend to touch their faces more through sneezing and wiping their nose or eyes. They’re also likely to cough more, which means they can also be exposing other family members to illness as well 6.

This means that while we’re at home in isolation, we need to be more thoughtful about household mold and what it may be doing to the health of our family members.

What can we do to control mold growth?

What can we do to prevent mold at home to keep us better protected against illnesses like coronavirus?

The following are some practical steps you can take now:

Decrease moisture build-up in your home.

Mold growth depends on moisture, so be sure to turn on fans, open windows, and fix any water leaks in your home. Decreasing moisture build-up through air ventilation and reducing water issues will go a long way to keeping your home mold-free 3,7.

Be careful with your cleaning practices.

Cleaning requires water, but be sure not to dump large amounts of water while you clean the kitchen, bathroom, and other household surfaces. When you’re finished cleaning, make sure all surfaces have been wiped dry 3,7,8.

Also, be careful not to use large amounts of bleach or other bactericidal cleaning agents. While we may need to disinfect certain areas during the current coronavirus pandemic, we need to be careful not to overdo it. This is especially important if no one in the home is currently sick. Too much of these harsh chemicals can clear out helpful bacteria while providing free real estate for mold to grow 3,7,8.

Take preventative measures.

Besides moisture, mold loves to eat cellulose-containing products such as paper, drywall, and wood fiber. Make sure you clean up any clutter that may contain these products around water faucets or potentially damp areas of your home 3.

When in doubt, do a mold test to find out if your home contains mold. If you know for sure if your home has a mold problem, then you can take appropriate actions to remove it.

Soil-based microbes are known to balance out the flora in a home environment and help keep fungi from growing unchecked. These microbes usually come in through dirt on our shoes and from being outside. So don’t be afraid to get outdoors and allow some dirt to come into your home 7.

Lastly, you can add good microbes to your home to balance out the biome of your home. Homebiotic’s home probiotic spray adds beneficial soil-based microbes to your home. These microbes naturally eliminate the cause of musty odors.

Conclusion

There are simple and clear actions we can take to prevent mold growth while isolated at home during this coronavirus pandemic. People should understand how mold can impact our immune system, especially those with asthma and allergies. And unfortunately, mold illness can increase susceptibility to other pathogens like the coronavirus.

Mold decreases and confuses the immune response of specific white blood cells, which causes illnesses like asthma and allergies. And for immunocompromised people, mold can be more hazardous.

As we spend more time at home and in the company of our immediate family, you may want to consider some practices to help decrease mold. This includes minimizing moisture build-up, monitoring cleaning practices, and implementing mold prevention strategies. In this way, we can protect our vulnerable family members and keep our immune systems healthy.

 

REFERENCES:

1. https://www.cell.com/cell-chemical-biology/fulltext/S2451-9456(19)30001-7?_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS2451945619300017%3Fshowall%3Dtrue
2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4444319/
3. http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/43325/E92645.pdf
4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28608416
5. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0013935115000304
6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4122981/
7. https://err.ersjournals.com/content/27/148/170137
8. https://letthemeatdirt.com