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What Causes Mold: Winter Edition

What Causes Mold: Winter Edition | Woman holding a mug inside of foggy window

Mold can appear in any season, but in seasons where the moisture levels rise there is a higher chance of mold thriving within your home. Whenever mold is a possibility you can always ask yourself one question: What causes mold? It doesn’t take much to grow a large colony of mold microbes, often undetectable until it’s a much bigger issue. There are a few things mold requires to thrive: space to spread, food to eat, and warm moisture.

Whenever mold is a possibility you can always ask yourself one question: What causes mold? It doesn't take much to grow a large colony of mold microbes, often undetectable until it's a much bigger issue. Click To Tweet

In the winter moisture levels are high inside homes. A combination of people spending more time inside, tracking in moisture on boots, and other factors such as excessive condensation on windows all contribute to the perfect mold environment! Here are some great things to look out for in the wintertime that may be contributing to mold growth in your home:

condensation on a window - homebioticCONDENSATION CAUSES MOLD
Mold On Windowsills & In Bathrooms

For many people, their daily routine involved wiping the excess moisture off their windows in the morning. Why do windows collect so much moisture? This excess moisture occurs when the warm air inside the house meets against the window with the cold air outside of the house creating condensation that then drips down onto your window sill. Left unchecked this water sits in the sills, fostering serious mold growth and that black grime many of us dread cleaning.

Aluminum windows are commonly found in homes and tend to be more prone to condensation than their more modern vinyl counterparts. If upgrading the windows in your home is not a realistic solution keeping any mold growth in check is very easy! Just remember to:

  • Wipe up excess moisture regularly
  • Clean sills with hydrogen peroxide or vinegar often, especially in high moisture months
  • If not too cold allow some airflow through the window to help dry out the area & rebalance the area’s microbiome

Don’t forget about your bathroom! If your bathroom doesn’t have an extractor fan chances are those lovely, hot showers are creating serious condensation on bathroom windows, mirrors, and even in your cabinets. Be sure to always have at least one window open during your shower or bath, wipe up any excess moisture on surfaces afterward, and leave windows/doors open to encourage airflow through the room. Drying out as much moisture as possible, combined with regular cleaning measures, will keep your bathroom mold-free!

frozen pipes - homebioticFLOODING CAUSES MOLD
Snow Melting Or Burst Pipes

It is not uncommon for the effects of a serious snowstorm to be felt weeks after the initial fall. The surplus of water combined with cold temperatures can create chaos for homeowners. Many people with below-ground basement suites experience flooding as the snow melts and abnormally large volumes of water look for places to go.

Going toe-to-toe with mother nature rarely ends up as a win; however, there are some things you can do to help divert water away from your home:

  1. Remove any snow around it directly against the foundation of your home.
  2. Remove excess snow from your roof and gutters (also ensure your gutters are free of debris).
  3. Evaluate the drainage around your home in the drier months to ensure it is functional and moving excess water away from your home, ready for the winter.
  4. Closely inspect the foundation of your home for fractures or flaws that might make it susceptible to flooding.

Depending on where you live your plumbing may or may not be rated to withstand freezing temperatures. The snowstorm experienced only a few weeks ago throughout Texas was an unprecedented cold front that had catastrophic effects on citizens’ plumbing. When your plumbing is being serviced by an above-ground pipe, exposed to harsh cold this can cause parts of your plumbing lines to contract and potentially fracture, resulting in a burst pipe and flooding.

To prevent plumbing-related issues associated with extreme cold snaps it is recommended to leave the faucet dripping. This constant flow of water can prevent freezing in the line. If you notice a leak or any suspicious water coming from any area of your plumbing, use the water shut-off valve to terminate the water supply to your home and contact a professional to assess any potential issues. Smaller leaks on a frozen line are often a precursor for larger issues.

If you notice a leak or any suspicious water coming from any area of your plumbing, use the water shut-off valve to terminate the water supply to your home and contact a professional to assess any potential issues. Smaller leaks on a… Click To Tweet

These are two very serious sources of water damage, which is how a large number of mold issues begin. It takes as little as 24-48 of unattended water damage to allow mold spores to germinate and spread. Combine this with the fact that one of their main food sources is wood, water damage in your gold can escalate into a serious mold exposure situation almost instantly!

standing in flood waters in jeans - homebioticWET CLOTHING CAUSES MOLD
Water Seeping Into Carpets

Whether it’s snow or mud, kids or dogs, the wintertime is the season of wet outerwear. Once you come in from the cold it’s extremely easy to kick off those wet boots and leave them to drip into the floor. Whether you have hardwood, laminate, or carpet, water can easily work its way into all the nooks of your flooring without being noticed. This unnoticed moisture can result in undetected mold growth in your subfloor and undersides of carpets, all while exposing your entire household to toxic mold spores.

We are happy to report that this is an easy fix! For wet boots and shoes, we recommend utilizing a washable, absorbent rubber-bottom mat in doorways. This mat will easily catch the outdoor moisture, wick it away keeping your floors safe. Once it has become saturated or soiled, throw it into the washing machine to soak and wash with some vinegar, killing any present nasty microbes.

By monitoring these factors you can potentially stop a serious mold issue from happening! As always, we recommend working natural preventative measures into your cleaning routine. After remediating any visible mold with hydrogen peroxide and vinegar, use Homebiotic spray to create a probiotic barrier over surfaces to keep your home balanced and protected

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Mold Growth Can Be Caused by Over-Cleaning: Here’s Why.

Mold Growth Can Be Caused by Over-Cleaning: Here's Why. | Cleaning off a tile countertop

Mold growth can be caused by a variety of things, including over-cleaning. A recent University of Oklahoma study reveals that instead of the intended effect, over-cleaning a home actually leads to increased mold growth due to a lack of natural competition. For many years, those who live in urban homes have believed that keeping our homes squeaky clean will protect us from harmful pathogens such as bacteria and fungus.

A recent University of Oklahoma study reveals that instead of the intended effect, over-cleaning a home actually leads to increased mold growth due to a lack of natural competition. For many years, those who live in urban homes have… Click To Tweet

Indeed, we’ve developed chemicals that kill off harmful bacteria such as salmonella, e-coli, and staphylococcus aureus. But we know now that these chemicals are causing resistant bacteria as well as killing off good bacteria too. However, in the past decade, more discussion has taken place around microbial resistance and destruction of the helpful human and environmental biomes due to our cleaning practices.

Some of us are unsure about how seriously we should take this issue. With the rise of dangerous and resistant bacteria, many of us are feeling confused. Do we want to decrease our cleaning frequency? Should we switch to other products that create microbial balance rather than killing them off?

The findings from a new study by Laura-Isobel McCall, a biochemist from the University of Oklahoma, may help us make some decisions 1. These study results not only back up existing knowledge around the role bacteria and fungus in the home biome, but they give us some new information to consider.

Study Results: Over-cleaning Causes Increased Mold Growth

The study compared fungal diversity between urban and rural settings in the Amazonia region of Peru and Brazil. Fungal diversity refers to the number of different species of fungus found in a specific area. The urban settings studied were apartments and homes in city environments, whereas the rural settings were in remote villages where people lived amongst nature. The study also looked at the fungal diversity for both the feet and guts of inhabitants in both locations.

The results showed an increase of fungus in urban settings compared to rural ones. Urban environments have much higher quantities of harmful fungal microbes, such as aspergillus and candida. Whereas, they have much lower amounts of helpful fungal microbes.

The results showed an increase of fungus in urban settings compared to rural ones. Urban environments have much higher quantities of harmful fungal microbes... Click To Tweet

Conversely, helpful bacteria are found in much lower numbers in urban homes compared to rural settings. And while there are more harmful bacteria found in rural settings, they live in better balance and harmony with other diverse bacteria and fungus. The researchers also found that the human feet and guts of those who lived in these urban settings showed the same distribution of harmful versus helpful fungal quantities.

These results also show that the environmental microbiome has a significant influence on the microbiome of our bodies.

While we strive to decrease harmful pathogens in our home environments, we may be doing more harm than good by wiping out the balance between the microbes. And this appears to have a direct effect on our physical health and well-being. The researchers also isolated several chemical compounds in high diversity in urban homes. So not only do our homes contain more fungal diversity and less helpful bacteria, but they also have more harmful chemicals than ever before 1.

Why Do Fungal Microbes (Mold) Thrive in Urban Environments?

The researchers noted several reasons why fungus grows more abundant in urban environments, to begin with. Our homes are more closed off, which increases internal temperature and limits natural light and air. These are all issues known to worsen fungal growth. Also, urban homes contain more CO2 and more surfaces that aid the growth of fungal microbes 1,2.

However, the study also looked at cleaning compounds which are used in higher amounts in urban settings. The study results showed that these fungal organisms are likely resistant to the cleaning products. Also, once bacteria were killed off, fungal microbes are allowed to grow in more significant numbers 1.

What we do know is that fungal microbes have stronger cell walls than bacteria, so they are more apt to become resistant. Also, bacteria and fungal microbes are known to live in balance (or competition, depending on how you look at it!) together, keeping each population in check 3.

Some bacteria have special enzymes, such as chitinase, that can break through the sturdy cell walls of fungus, lowering their numbers and creating a balance between bacteria and fungus 3. But what happens when those bacteria aren’t present in the local environment anymore?

Does Killing Bacteria Create More Opportunities for Fungal Growth?

Indeed, the study results obtained by Dr. McCall shows that once we kill off all the bacteria, it provides more opportunities for fungal microbes to grow. And since urban homes already have optimal conditions, this helps explain why fungal organisms are found in greater diversity there 1,2.

These results leave us with some challenges for sure, but they’re also promising and give us more food for thought as we work to create a more balanced microbiome in our homes. In turn, this will also help improve the microbiome in our bodies.

Interestingly, while we’ve managed to largely eliminate the threat of harmful bacteria that cause various infections and gastrointestinal illness, fungal-related diseases such as allergies, asthma, chronic fatigue, and autoimmune issues are on the rise. So, it appears we may have swapped one group of illnesses for another 4,5,6.

...once we kill off all the bacteria, it provides more opportunities for fungal microbes to grow. And since urban homes already have optimal conditions, this helps explain why fungal organisms are found in greater diversity there. Click To Tweet

Reconsidering How We Clean

For those of us in urban settings, these new facts present some challenges and opportunities. Most importantly, we need to consider our cleaning practices. Because even though there’s not much that can be easily done to change the structure of our homes, we can do something about our cleaning practices.

  1. DECREASING THE USE OF CHEMICAL CLEANERS: an important place to start. We can ease up on how often we clean and choose less chemical-based cleaners. Natural cleaners like vinegar and essential oils would make better choices. But we also need to reconsider our ideas and biases around living with microbes in our homes. We now understand that disrupting the balance of microbes has adverse effects on overall microbial diversity in our homes 1,6. The next issue is how we can create new practices that help us have more balance and harmony with microbes. By increasing beneficial bacteria in our homes, we not only decrease harmful bacteria, but we also keep fungal microbes to a minimum 2,6,7.
  2. REINTRODUCE BENEFICIAL BACTERIA BACK INTO YOUR HOME: That’s the easy part! Homebiotic naturally and efficiently re-introduces helpful bacteria back in our homes in a convenient spray. It is applied after cleaning any surface to restore a healthy bacterial layer. Just as we improve our gut health through oral probiotics, Homebiotic is a probiotic for our home.

Homebiotic spray - the probiotic for your home