Spring is in the air! Many of you have taken advantage of the sunny days by getting outside. I’ve seen more people out on the Sand Creek Bike Trails, neighbors firing up their grills, and kids riding bikes throughout the neighborhoods. This is the time of year we can shut off the heater, open the windows and let the house breathe in some fresh air. It is also the time of year many people get down and dirty for Spring Cleaning. The spring air refreshes our mind, body, and spirit and drives us to do the same for our houses.
As you are hard at work cleaning and refreshing your house, be aware that you may be stirring up some indoor air pollution that could be affecting your health. While dusting your woodwork or vacuuming your carpets, you may be redistributing human and pet dander, dust mites, pollen, and potentially mold spores. Exposure to these pollutants could trigger asthma or signal an allergic reaction.
Check areas where mold growth is most likely, such as places you see water stains, where there is standing water, and rooms in the house that tend to hold moisture such as bathrooms and basements. Trust your senses when detecting mold. You may be able to see mold colonies growing on surfaces like your shower curtain liner or around your kitchen sink faucet. You may smell mildew in the air, especially in basements or a tool shed where you store grass seed.
Allergic reactions are the most common health concerns related to mold. Exposure can lead to symptoms including runny/stuffy nose, wheezing, and red or itchy eyes or skin. Some people may have more intense reactions, including fever and shortness of breath. Severe reactions may also occur when one is exposed to large amounts of molds, such as when farmers work around moldy hay.
Mold and mildew on surfaces can be cleaned with a mixture of ¼ cup bleach to one gallon of hot water. Be sure to wear rubber gloves to protect your skin against the bleach. Reduce mold growth by keeping your basement, bathrooms and other rooms clean and at low humidity. Change humidifier and dehumidifier holding containers and filters regularly. This is a common thing many overlook and those are perfect environments for mold growth. If carpeting or upholstery become wet, be sure to thoroughly and quickly dry them. Make sure water vapor from baths and cooking is released to the outside through proper ventilation.
Mold may also grow in clothing and other apparel such as bath and hand towels. Be sure to hang bath and hand towels to dry rather than allowing them to pile on the floor. Do the same with your fitness attire. Be sure sweaty attire dries thoroughly before placing it in the laundry basket. If possible, keep furniture away from outside walls. Keeping furniture, like your bed or your couch, against an outside wall may promote moisture collection in the fabric and lead to mold growth.
There are no practical tests for mold for use by anyone other than a trained professional. It is not necessary to identify the specific species of mold growing in your home and the CDC doesn’t suggest routine sampling for mold. However, if you suspect mold growth in your home but can’t see it, it may be best to contact a proper inspector to help figure out a remedy.
I have taken a few phone calls regarding mold growth in homes around the county. If you see evidence of mold growth on permanent surfaces like walls or woodworking, there is no simple solution to get rid of it. If mold is growing in drywall, around woodworking, or skeletal frame work the best way to get rid of it is to rip those surfaces out and build anew. Due to the porous nature of drywall and wood framework, mold can take root within the structure, making it next to impossible to fully rid your house of the growth. If you rent, be sure to contact your landlord to report the problem. If you own your home, make an appointment with an inspector for the best solution possible. If you have any questions about mold growth or spring cleaning, don’t hesitate to contact me at the office (316)284-6930. Thanks for reading!
— Aaron Swank is a Kansas State Research and Extension Agent for Harvey County. Nutrition and Family Finance are his specialties. The Harvey County Extension Office can be contacted at 284-6930.