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Musty Smells While Quarantining? Might Be Mold

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 not an uncommon instance of musty smells while quarantining, but why are you experiencing the odors? Might be mold.

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.

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 Click To Tweet

Tips For Removing & Coping With Mold

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.

 

  1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

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… Click To Tweet

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.

4. 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.

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.

bad-odor

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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How To Avoid Over-Cleaning During The Pandemic

Did you know you can over-clean during the pandemic? 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.

Avoid Over-Cleaning During the Pandemic Quarantine

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.

Over-Cleaning Causes Increased Fungal Growth in Urban HomesWhat 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.

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… Click To Tweet

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.

Why Are These Factors Important?

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.

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… Click To Tweet

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?

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.

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… Click To Tweet

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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4 Tips To Prevent Mold At Home

Mold is often an issue for many home-owners and home-buyers. No one likes that musty smell, which is a tell-tale sign of mold growth in your home. And once mold has taken up residence, it’s hard to get rid of it. In this article, we’ll look at what causes mold, which homes are more affected, and what types of mold are dangerous to our health. Then, we’ll look at some simple tips to prevent mold in your house.

The trickiness of mold makes prevention a critical issue when considering the health and safety of your home. Prevention is much easier than having to clean and eradicate mold that has already spread to several areas of the house.

The trickiness of mold makes prevention a critical issue when considering the health and safety of your home. Prevention is much easier than having to clean and eradicate mold that has already spread to several areas of the house Click To Tweet

CAUSE OF MOLD GROWTH IN HOMES

Mold needs three important things to grow: consistent moisture, limited airflow, and food. Any areas that remain moist without airflow have the potential for mold growth. Mold likes to feast on materials such as drywall, carpet padding, dust, mites, and some plant and bacterial cellulose1,2.

WHICH HOMES ARE MORE LIKELY TO HAVE MOLD ISSUES?

A common myth is that older homes are more likely to be full of mold, but this may not be true. In fact, older homes tend to have more airflow, and the positioning of water faucets and bathrooms help prevent widespread water issues. Also, older homes tend to have a more diverse and rich microbiome that helps naturally balance out mold2,3.

Newer homes, on the other hand, are more tightly built, which reduces air circulation. They also contain more building materials that mold likes to eat2,3. Lastly, newer homes have a less diverse microbiome because they are cut off from outside soil-based microbes that would otherwise balance out mold3,4.

Mold is also likely to be an issue in homes situated in humid climates or where there has been a catastrophic flood. Also, over-crowded homes tend to have more problems with dampness and poor ventilation. Lastly, low-income rental units have higher mold issues due to less money spent on renovating and cleaning moldy areas in-between renters3.

However, the reality is that any home can be prone to mold if the conditions are right for their growth.

WHICH SPECIES OF MOLD IS DANGEROUS TO OUR HEALTH?

Common household mold includes species such as Cladosporium, Penicillium, Aspergillus, and Alternaria. The commonly feared toxic mold, otherwise known as black mold, is called Stachybotrys Chartarum5.

Common mold can cause allergic and asthmatic illness. In some cases, the illness can be severe if the person has immune issues or severe asthma and allergies. However, toxic black mold can be life-threatening, especially in people who have weakened immune systems. Thankfully, toxic mold is less abundant than common molds5.

Common mold can cause allergic and asthmatic illness. In some cases, the illness can be severe if the person has immune issues or severe asthma and allergies. However, toxic black mold can be life-threatening, especially in people who… Click To Tweet

No matter which mold you have in your home, they can all cause health issues depending on your medical history and immune system. Mold spores themselves can cause immune system issues, but more likely, illness occurs from the exposure to the mycotoxins produced by certain mold species2,6,7.

There’s no doubt that mold can be a real nuisance, and the best way to deal with it is to prevent it from growing in the first place.

4 TIPS TO PREVENT MOLD IN YOUR HOME

There are several ways to prevent mold from growing in your home. Some suggestions are more straightforward than others, but it’s worth looking into all of them to ensure that your family is safe and healthy.

1. Keep moisture as low as possible

Moisture collects in several ways: leaky faucets, condensation, accidental spills, flooding, a build-up of humidity in kitchens and bathrooms, and leaks around the shower and bathtub, to name a few.

Here are some tips to help keep moisture levels low2,8,9:

  • Make sure that all leaks or water accidents cleaned and thoroughly dried. Be extra vigilant to look for places that water may have escaped, such as under carpets or floor tiles.
  • Kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms are prone to mold because of their high-incidence of water leaks and condensation. Be sure to check hidden areas for moisture build-up. Check faucets and water tubes for leaks or condensation. Make sure the exhaust pipe from dryers is intact.
  • It might be worth it to buy indoor humidity monitors to put in a few locations around your home. They are relatively inexpensive and can help you understand moisture changes throughout the seasons.
  • For high-moisture areas, consider dehumidifiers or renovations that keep moisture in check.

Next, we’ll talk about ventilation because you can’t keep moisture low without proper airflow.

2. Proper Ventilation

Good ventilation is vital in helping to keep moisture levels down, and it requires both air flow and circulation. Proper overall ventilation will help prevent moisture build-up in areas that are hidden from view such as tight corners, under carpets, or behind furnaces.

Here are some tips to improve ventilation in your home2,8,9:

  • If the outside air is dry and warm (not humid), open the windows to let air come through.
  • In cold weather, when there’s more condensation, keep the windows shut but use fans to circulate the air. Check for condensation around windows and doors in the colder months.
  • Be sure that your air ducts and filters are obstruction-free and operating correctly. Also, be sure to check for mold in these ducts, furnaces, and air-conditioning units as they can continue to spread mold throughout the house.
  • In areas like the bathroom or kitchen, make sure the ceiling and stove fan is working well.
  • In areas prone to moisture that are also low-traffic (such as basements, laundry room, and crawl spaces), consider a dehumidifier that also has a fan to circulate air.

3. Make Small Structural or Cosmetic Changes

Making a few changes around your home will help prevent conditions with which mold will take up residence and grow.

Here are some ideas for structural or cosmetic changes that can help prevent mold in your home2,8,9:

  • If possible, remove carpets in favor of hardwood, tile, or laminate flooring. Be sure that the floor underneath is dry and mold-free before putting down new hardwood, tile, or laminate.
  • Don’t store items on the floor or in paper boxes. Mold loves to eat paper and dust that accumulates in these items. Mold growth in stored items is especially problematic if they’re kept in damp areas like basements. Consider purchasing shelves or storage bins to keep things off the floor and protected from moisture.
  • Consider upgrading or repairing your heating, air-conditioning, or ventilation system in your home if required. Many issues of mold, due to problems with these systems, can be prevented by ensuring they’re operating well and up to code.
  • Ensure that outside water drainage moves water away from the foundation, rather than towards it.
  • Make sure that materials used in renovation and construction (i.e., drywall and wood) are adequately sealed if they’re near a water source. Mold loves to feast on these materials, so don’t give them any moisture to help them grow.

Avoid Over-Cleaning During the Pandemic Quarantine4. Choose Your Cleaning Products Wisely

Many of us think that applying bleach and corrosive cleaning products will eradicate mold, but this is not the case. These products can often disturb the environmental microbiome as well as adding vapors that contribute to chemical sensitivity in humans. We are learning that a healthy microbiome in the home provides a balance against these microbes naturally10,11.

Here are some tips around choosing cleaning products to help prevent mold growth:

  • Consider using water and vinegar as a cleaning solution. Mix one part vinegar to three parts water in a spray bottle and use on all surfaces, including floors. This solution is extremely effective at cleaning without disrupting the microbiome.
  • Consider using baking soda for stuck-on stains and grease. However, avoid using on surfaces that may get scratched by the baking soda.
  • Consider getting a probiotic solution, such as Homebiotic spray, to prevent the causes of musty odors in your home naturally

CONCLUSION

Hopefully, you know more about how mold grows, which homes are more affected, and how mold can be dangerous for our health. The prevention tips discussed above may help you in making decisions about reducing moisture, ensuring proper ventilation, making structural or cosmetic changes, and choosing cleaning products.

Mold will likely always be a part of our lives, but we can learn to live with it in better harmony while improving our mold prevention strategies.


REFERENCES

1.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indoor_mold
2.http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/43325/E92645.pdf
3.https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0013935115000304
4.https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1471490615000022
5.https://www.cdc.gov/mold/stachy.htm#Q3
6.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3492391/
7.https://www.who.int/bulletin/archives/77(9)754.pdf
8.https://www.nedcc.org/free-resources/preservation-leaflets/3.-emergency-management/3.8-emergency-salvage-of-moldy-books-and-paper
9.https://iseai.org/your-definitive-mold-clean-up-guide/
10.https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0064133
11.https://err.ersjournals.com/content/27/148/170137