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Mold and Mildew

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Advice about Health > Mold and Mildew


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Mold assessment - who does this?

April 2008

Does anyone know of a company that can check our crawl space for mold? And, ideally, someone who can assess it for as low a fee as possible! -Wanting to make sure my baby stays healthy!


I highly recommend Indoor Environmental Engineering to test your attic for mold. Their website is http://www.iee-sf.com/. If you have reason to believe you have mold, spend the money to have the testing done thorouhgly and competently. IEE will write a set of detailed protocols, recommend various remediation companies, and then come back to do a clearance test. Save your money by hiring the cheapest remediation company as long as they give you a fixed bid and guarantee they'll pass the final inspection. Mold free

Damp moldy/mildewy smell in our home

April 2008

Hi- I'm looking for information on how to deal with a damp, moldy/mildewy smell in the lower level of our home (including in our daughter's bedroom) that comes and goes, appearing particularly after periods of damp weather. I seem to be the only one who smells it so it is pretty much on me to resolve it, but then I have a very sensitive nose. it seems to be worst in the areas around the windows that are single-paned; rooms with double-paned windows seem unaffected. I've looked in the area around the window sills and I can see some dusty-looking areas around the glass edges but they appear to be OUTside, so a swipe with bleach and water may not be the answer there; there is more subtle discoloration around the ledges of windows we often open (we have not been doing so lately because of all the pollen in the air but this isn't good either!) we are on a very tight budget at the moment; does anyone know of a reasonable way to get this problem looked at by some kind of expert, or handle it myself? I am not at all handy. many thanks! --Yuck Smeller


I can't rec'md anything about the discoloration around the window ledge- sounds like some kind of water leakage/rot. But I know how to help with the mildewy smell. My bottom floor is cold and smelly too, so I put a small vase in each room, fill it about 2 inches with undiluted white vinegar, and that absorbs odors. Work for kitchens too- love that vinegar! Cold 1st Floor
Have you tried a dehumidifier? They are inexpensive and migh be all you need. It would be a good idea to replace your single-pane windows with double-paned windows when you can afford it. It will reduce condensate on the windows in winter. Like dry air
You can buy a do-it-yourself mold kit to find out whether the smell is being caused by a dangerous variety of mold. The kits are sold at the Home Depot, and probably other local hardware stores. If the test comes back positive, you can hire a mold specialist to locate the source and get rid of it. I wouldn't waste any time b/c black mold can cause some very severe health problems. Be Safe!
Mold and mildew starts to form when you have 2 main things: a substance that can be consumed (wood) and on-going moisture (either from water or vapor load). If you want to remedy mold you have to get rid of the moisture. Vapor loads come from typical household use (shower, cooking, plants breathing, etc.) as well as unsealed crawlspaces and water issues under/around the house. You can measure the humidity level around the house and do an investigation to figure out where there is high humidity (anything above 60% humidity for a sustained period of time can lead to mold issues). My company, Advanced Home Energy, can do this kind of testing and remediation work. Please email me if you are interested in more info. Ori
Try a de-humidifier. It worked for my basement. anon
We have also been plagued by mold and have found great success in diffusing an essential oil blend called ''Thieves'' which is made by Young Living. This seems to kill the mold and mildew without causing the mold spores to release frantically in a last-ditch effort to survive/propogate. Mold can be a serious problem for your health and your family's. You can write me for more info on get it online. Best of luck! Lisa
One of the first things you should try is to place plastic sheeting on the ground underneath the room. You can buy this very inexpesively from home depot or whereever. You just spread it out on the ground, no need to afix it to the ground. This keeps the moisture in the ground from rising up into the room. Worked great for me and it's a very simple solution and a good first step. Then you can try more expensive measures. You can also put a dehumidifier in the room. I have one for sale that I no longer use because the plastic sheeting worked so well. Even though you may think the prolem is in small specific areas like near the window, it is usually a problem of the whole area being high in relative humidity from the moisture rising up from below. sean

Non-toxic way to remove mold from ceiling

Feb 2008

With the cold weather and the rain, we have developed some mold on our bedroom ceiling (the only room in the house that has this problem) above the head of the bed. We had the attic checked out and it doesn't seem to be a roof leak. Now the mold is starting to get on the furniture. Does anyone know of non-toxic (i.e. not dousing everything with bleach) way to both get rid of the mold and keep it from coming back? We are on a tight budget and can't afford to hire professionals to come in and do it and I don't want anything toxic around my toddler. anon


Google ''tea tree oil mold.'' Tea tree oil is a fungicide. It completely took care of mold on our walls. Bleach is a waste of time anyways -- just doesn't do the job. Cathy
We had a similar mold problem in our 1924 house. After wiping down the walls with diluted bleach solution and airing the house, we invested in a $350 dehumidifier from allergybuyer.com (I think that's the name) It's a ''comfortaire'' which works amazingly well. We run it in the morning for a couple of hours and again in the evening; it sucks gallons of moisture from the rooms. We are not left to feel dessicated or parched, but the mold issue is GONE. It seems well worth it. Good luck. Hilary

Mold investigator needed

Dec 2007

I have been suffering with terrible allergies in my home; and am clearly worse in one particular room. There is no mold or water damage present in any obvious places, but a recent air quality report has found high levels of mold spores in the air of this room. I'm afraid there might be mold in the walls. All other avenues have been exhausted. How do I begin to investigate this? Any advice on who to call or steps to take? Thanks! Fed up with horrible allergies Rachael


I highly recommend Indoor Environmental Engineering (www.iee-sf.com), 415.567.7700, for mold testing. They thoroughly test your home for mold, develop a detailed, written protocol for removal, and retest to be sure everything's clear. I hired them when I became ill after a gun-for-hire mold inspector sent by my former insurance company (AAA) 'cleared' my home after taking two air samples and literally phoning in a 'protocol,' compared to IEE's 20+ air and surface samples and 16-page protocol. The remediation company I hired to remove the mold said IEE's inspections were the toughest in the Bay Area to pass; they had to redo one area of the house for it to clear at no additional cost (it was a fixed price contract and they had to pass the final inspection), and I've had no health issues since. It was worth every penny. Good luck! terry

Humidifier is making the walls moldy

Feb 2007

Our toddler has had several coughs this winter and we have been using a humdifier in his room on many nights. Unfortunately, it has created a lot of mold on the ceilings and walls. I removed a lot of it with Simple Green but am hesitant to use bleach because it seems so strong. Anyone have tips on either how to remove mold or how to humidify a room without growing so much mold? Are there humdifiers that are less mold-producing? We have pretty standard paint in the bedroom--I think flat paint on the ceiling and semi-gloss on the walls. anon


I grew up in Berkeley and suffer from mold allergies. I wouldnt recommend using a humidifier at all. The east bay climate breeds mold like no other place in the country. It is hard to find a house that isnt prone to molding, but there are some steps to take to prevent the growth.

First you should buy a mold testing kit at ACE hardware for $12.00 and send it away to be analized. it costs about $40.00, but well worth it, especially of you have toxic mold, which is very dangerous! if you rent, your landlord is responsible for treating the mold. This sometimes entails moving out for a couple weeks while they deal with it. But legally, they are responsible for your accommodations while all this is happening.

Second, I have had great luck with heat and air. Simply opening the windows once a day to get a good cross breeze can eliminate some of the mold. However, with the rain season, its best to do this when the sun comes out, and afterwards turn the heater on for at least 20 minutes to dry out the walls.

Good luck, and be careful! My sister and her kids had toxic mold in their house, and it made them very ill for a long time. kelley


Our humidifier manual says not to use it in a closed space. Have you thought about cracking open the window? anon
I can't respond to removing mildew, but I know of a product you might try to reduce the mildew in the first place. It's called DampRid and I just learned about it when we moved to Hawaii. We're in a very rainy part of our island and it gets very damp in the house. I found that when we didn't use the DampRid for a few days, it felt more humid in our house and the bedrooms started smelling musty. I'm not sure exactly how it works (I'm sure you can google it), but it has these absorbing particles, that you can refill as needed, and they sit above a container that fills with water pulled from the air. I just put them up high in closets, etc. I bought it at a hardware store and at Walmart here. Give it a try. No mildew for me
Hi, Try letting more fresh air into the room during the day. Also, light kills and deters mold- get more light into the room more often. I understand there are special ionic air cleaning machines from Sharper Image with special lights on them that kill mold very effectively. My co-worker says he has one and it works very well. Good lUck David
In my experience, in our home (especially in an unheated uninsulated closet next to a heated but uninsulated-walls bedroom) it was not the type of humidifier (cold or warm) that made the difference, but the simple act of having the air be humid and having it condense on cold surfaces (just like the outside of a cola bottle). In our daughter's room we tried to humidify her room when she was young but found that that ended up causing mildew to grow in her closet. Condensation also started to collect on and run down her walls. We ended up feeling that the air here in the Bay Area unlike winter back east) is humid enough and adding more humidity to her room was a net loss, health-wise. So if you do what we did, you'll stop using the humidifier, perhaps crack the window open at night, and avoid the mold and the bleaching/mold killing chemicals altogether. Mom
Bleach will only temporarily remove mold. Use a fungicide cleaner to remove mold from surfaces.Also,allow air to circulate in his room to inhibit growth. anon
I forgot to mention: EPA-registered mold fungicide anon
Hi- The mold may not only exacerbate the cough, but lead to other problems. Bleach is really the best way to clean it - use a solution, not undiluted bleach... I don't know the answer to low-humidity humidifiers... Mike
Yes humidifiers can create mold on your walls and inside the humidifier itself. The best thing to avoid the mold is, to not keep the humidifeir on for more thatn a few hours at at time. Also move the humidifier to differnt spots in the room so the mold does not grow from the constant moisture hitting the same place on the celing. Open the window a little in the room when you are using the humidifier that will also slow down mold growth. YOu should never leave water sitting in your humidier when you are not using it. After a few days , empty it, clean it and dry it well (sitting it outside in the sun is a good idea). If you have mold growing in this humidifier get rid of it. If there is mold in your humidifier when you turn it on it will be putting a moldy mist in you room. This is very bad for your sick child. Mold grows where there is moisture and lack of air. I work in the asthma field I recommend people use the humidifiers on a very limited basis. Good luck amy
As child, my Mom put a card table over the bed and put a bed sheet over the card table. The humidifier was then put on table next to the bed with bed sheet over the humidifier. This created a tent with the steam inside. The humidifier is put at a lower setting, so the humidity is in the tent. I would then put a de-humidifier in the room to remove the humdidity from outside the tent. Regarding the mildew and mold, that could be why your child has the persistant cough. Removing the sheetrock or plaster and the insulate the walls is the only permanent solution. If that is not possible, spray the area with bleach (let dry), paint the area with a fast dry oil base primer with a mildew additive added to the primer (Kelly Moore paints has it). Then paint the room with any paint of your choice, but with the mildew additive in the paint. Good Luck. Tom
Someone mentioned using an air filter from sharper image with an ionizer. I thought there might be a problem with those. Were they recalled? Might be good to look into that or the effects of ionizers. anon

White mold or fungus on basement dirt floor

Sept 2006

Our house has a basement with 6' ceilings, with cracked concrete floor sheathing 1.5 inches thick covering half, and a compacted dirt floor in the other half. We've lived in the house for 8 years. Late last spring a white mold or fungus started growing on the dirt side. The soil was saturated (water table is shallow) when the growth began. I sprayed the white growth with bleach and scraped it off, then put fans in basement to dry it out, coinciding with rain stopping for the summer months. The soil is now dry but the white growth covers the the soil.

Has anyone had an experience like this? Could you tell me what you did to stop the growth? How can I tell whether it is mold or fungus? Internet research says that mold can be ameliorated by spraying with bleach, also that it needs moisture to grow but because it grew back this summer after dried out, I am t hinking it could be something else-a fungus perhaps. I am hoping if it is such, that health concerns might not be as serious. We would like to address this with a low cost, do-it-yourself solution if possible, but welcome recommendations for professional help if that is the best route.

Thank you in advance for any advice you might be able to provide. Nervous homeowner, winter coming


You may be able to get some help with identifying this through the Agricultural Extension office or possibly through Dr. Raabe at the UC Botanic Garden. They will probably want a sample to look at ray
Are you sure it's mold? might just be calcium deposits we had extra minerals
Could also be efflorescence (sp?) which is not mold, but (I think) minerals that migrate through damp masonry and crystallize upon hitting the air. You may want to look into how you can shunt water away from your basement by draining it before it gets to your house, or putting in a vapor barrier of some sort. I am no expert and hopefully you will find one here hillside homeowner
For the people who asked about: *Mold In Basement *Removal of Ceiling Popcorn *Carpenter To Install Skylight *Contractor, pest, heating/duct, electrical needed *Contractor Needed for Garage Door Replacement *Contractor Who Might Call Us Back... We called Glen Larsen when my basement was flooding. He came out promptly and put together a drainage system that solved my problem. He explained things step-by-step and took the mystery out of my water problems. I now have a dry basement have confidence that it won't be soggy this rainy season. We have since used Glen and his crew for many other home improvement and repair jobs in our house, my mum's house, and her rental. He always calls back. You can reach Glen at 510-232-9122 jessica

Will pleated shades get moldy?

Sept 2006

Our house was built in 1898 and the wooden windows, which appear to be original, are drafty. I'd like to get the top-down bottom-up pleated honeycomb shades (blinds?) from Hunter-Douglas or a similar brand. However, I've noticed several older houses in my lower Rockridge neighborhood with these... and they're moldy. I'm looking for advice from someone with an older house with these type of honeycomb blinds. If my windows are open for ventilation all night, is it still likely that the blinds will get moldy? What has been your experience? Any way to avoid the mold with these blinds, while still keeping the look of my older windows (not replacing them with double paned windows)? Thanks!


Hi - we have the honeycomb, Hunter Douglas shades on our windows in a 1920s house with the old drafty wood windows. Firstly, shades and curtins work better than just shades. However we do get a lot of condensation on the insides of our windows in the winter. It collects at night when the shades are down and a couple of our shades started to mildew before I realized it. We only have this problem in the bedrooms, not in any other room in the house - I assume this is because the sleeping people put off the moisture that condenses on the windows. So, now I keep the window open a crack behind the shades (they're double hung so I can open the top rather than the bottom) and then open everything up in the morning to air it all out. It doesn't get that cold here so it's not a big deal and the kids all bundle up in bed and stay plenty warm Cameron

Investigating mold and other allergens

June 2006

We are starting to suspect that something in my 3 year-old son's room is provoking allergy symptoms in him. He has NEVER had allergies or health problems before. However, for the past few months, he has had a stuffy or runny nose, itchy nose and face, and even one rash (although this may have been due to sunscreen). At first, we just thought it was one cold after another (fairly typical for his age), but lately both my husband and I have noticed that after we sit in his room for a few minutes (e.g. to read him a story at night), WE start to have scratchy throats and stuffy noses -- after only a few minutes! I plan to take some basic measures such as covering his (organic cotton) mattress in a dust mite proof encasing, removing stuffed animals, dusting and vacuuming with a HEPA vacuum, and maybe even trying an air filter. I am concerned, however, that the cause might be mold, and I really have no idea how to go about investigating this, much less remediating it. There is no visible mold and no odor, but I know there are many types of mold that could cause symptoms that don't have an odor. His room has a carpet (installed 3 years ago), and there is a basement under his room. We have used a humidifier occasionally over the years whenever he has had croup (a couple times per year). I spoke with the asthma nurse at Kaiser, and she said to check the basement under his room to see if there is mold and mildew growing. I'm sure there will be (there was some water on the floor of the basement after all those heavy rains in March), but then what? Does anyone have experience with this who could share the steps to go through in investigating and remediating this type of problem? We are renting, but our landlord is very responsive and would probably be willing to do whatever needs to be done (within financial reason. I just don't really know how to get started. Thanks emily


I have been to Dr. Vincent Marinkovich in Redwood City (650) 482-2800. From what I understand, he is one of the two top doctors that specialize in mold related heath problems in the country. He might be covered by your insurance (but the labs are expensive). They also have these simple tests for mold in your home ($20) for which you just set out a petri dish in the room for 20 minutes. These petri dishes might also be available at Whole Foods, etc., where another lab would process them. moldy
Check out Sustainable Spaces (www.sustainablespaces.com) out of San Francisco. I have been wanting to do so myself. My daughter seems to be fine but my allergies are horendous in my house -- and definitely worse in some rooms (including my daughter's room). I purchased a Blue Air filter. My research concluded its one of the best on the market. And if you have forced air, a filter for your furnace is a must. I can't say this has helped me much, though. Unfortunately, I'm still pretty miserable. Would love to hear a follow up after you investigate! Rachael

Mold in basement

Feb 2006

In my finished basement I have some mold and dampness on some walls, and I also have some mold and dampness on some parts of a floor (that is covered with that astroturf-like wall-to-wall carpeting). I assumed it was a drainage problem, and that it meant I need to have drains installed. A friend came by recently and looked and said since there was no flooding it might not be a drainage issue. Is this true? If it's not drainage, what is it and how can I get stop the mold from coming back after bleaching it away? Many thanks for your advice on this! Nancy


Mold needs water to proliferate. So at some point you had water intrusion and probably still have it. No point in cleaning up the mold until you have taken care of the water intrusion. Hilary
Try getting a de-humidifier. This will take the excess moisture out of the air in your basement. My uncle lives in Seattle and uses one in his basement. It works. Good luck! Was raised where it rains
Hi! As an interior designer, one thing I'm concerned about is indoor air quality. You probably have insufficient ventilation which causes moisture build-up. I suggest you contact Sustainable Spaces for an evaluation of your home. You can call Matt Golden at (415) 294 5380 X22. Otherwise, I suggest you call Build It Green which is a non profit based in Berkeley. They have tons of resources of buidling professionals dealing with mold issues. I don't have their phone number at hand but you'll find it on their website: www.builditgreen.org Wishing you a healthy home. Celine.
a dehumidifier will help a lot- they are typically loud but that should be alright in a basement. I think you run them 12- 24 hours a day. still, try to find out the cause and fix if possible. we have a sump pump in our basement which sometimes gets floody from being below ground level, but if you never see flooding you probably don't need a sump pump. Chris
I had a similar issue a short while ago in my detached garage/turned office (slab- on-grade) and found it was from oversaturation of the soil from all the rains. I got some good suggestions from Frank Haskell of Stonebridge Painting & Waterproofing (510.595.1379) to ''deal with'' this act of nature. Good luck. Anonymous
I had the exact same problem that kept reoccurring in my basement. It turned out to be a drainage issue that was never dealt with properly. I was referred to a company called Purofirst Oakland East Bay (510) 482-4545 because it is run by a General Contractor who also specializes in mold remediation. It's a great one-stop-shop and I have not had the problem since! Mary

Mold on bedroom walls

Jan 2006

We have a 1950's cinderblock home. We now have mold on our bedroom wall (the wall without a heater) and around numerous windows. The windows need to be replaced but I don't know what should happen with the walls or the plastered windowframe area. I would love suggestions on who to call for advice and short/longterm solutions. We have little extra funds right now to pay for this and the bleach and water solution I have been using doesn't seem the safest for us or the kids. Also, if you know of any books about keeping up cinderblock homes I would be grateful. Dreading the Rain


Have you thought about getting a dehumidifier? Our house is over 100 years old - and we bleach only once a year - when I start to see the mold (I wear a mask and use straight bleach) and use the dehumifier the rest of the winter. It helps A LOT!!! star
We had the same problem - mold on our bedroom (exterior) walls First, we replaced the windows... helped a little Then, we got central heating... helped a little more Finally, we did french drains around that side of the house since there was not much crawl space underneath. That seemed to do the trick! So, the problem for us was obviously moisture & cold. Good Luck! sheila
Hello, I am a professional painter, and deal with mold regularly.

1. Wash area with TSP, trisodium phosphate, sold in hardware stores, many other places. This will get rid of it.

2. To keep it away, go to a paint store and ask for mildecide to be added to a can of primer or paint which you use to paint the areas affected. You can also get ''mold and mildue killing'' primer by Zinsser. (You have to ask for the additive,and they have to put it in the paint for you because it has become a somewhat ''controlled substance'' since some kids are now using it as they used airplane glue in the past. to get high. Imagine!)

3. I use this additive quite often, and when it is added to a gallon of paint it is not noticeable by odor, or in any other way, at least to me or most people. I had a woman call me once who had had her whole inside house painted with mildecide additive, then she found out she was allergic to it! But this was the only time I ever heard of any adverse affect on humans. Yes it is a chemical that kills mold, a life form, but diluted in a can of paint, and spread in a wall, it is not a potent volatile chemical to humans, unless you have an allergy or sensitivity.

3. Keep the area well ventilated and exposed to sunlight as often as possible. Watch for recurrance, and if you do see it starting up (the mildecide becomes inaffective at some point. A year?) wash it with TSP before it can get going again.

Good luck! Susanne


Cleaning mold on bathroom walls and in grout

Nov 2005

We have mold growing on our bathroom walls and ceilings. Not a lot, but enough to notice (can't smell it yet...) Also the white grout(?) between the tiles has a lot of areas that are dark with either dirt or I suspect, mold. How do we clean this? Is there a fab product? Do I need to do bleach and a toothbrush in between the tile? I was hoping to paint the bathroom in the next few months but need to clean the mold first. Bleach? TSP? Vinegar? I'd rather not use any heavily toxic stuff. Any recs. appreciated. Thanks. missing my house cleaner


Just use bleach. The trick is to let it sit for a while (about 10 min) after you apply it. No need to get out the toothbrush, just take an old sponge, use gloves, and sponge bleach onto all of the moldy/mildewed areas. After about 10 min (it will have disappeared) rinse the whole area THOUROUGHLY with water. Your mold/mildew will be gone. Alternatively, you can use a tile product that contains bleach (Tilex mold and mildew? I think?) and just spray it on. Make sure to wear gloves, and make sure to rinse well. To prevent mold in the future just make sure that the bathroom is as well ventilated as possible, and that it dries out completely in between showers. Got rid of my mold
I nearly never use anything toxic in the house, but regular chlorine bleach is the fastest and most efficient for killing/ cleaning the mold (I also tried vinegar and a $20 natural enzyme mold product.) Wear gloves and a mask! and ventilate the room as much as possible (fan and/ or open the window is there is one) Chris
I've had good results using Oxi-clean (which is in theory for laundry but has a bunch of other uses) or other hydrogen peroxide based non-chlorine bleach cleansing powders and a scrub brush. Julie
hydrogen peroxide and baking soda and a tooth brush, then bleach. works great good luck
we have this problem too. If the mold is growing in between the tiles on the wall, you can clean it with a toothbrush and almost any kind of cleanser. If it's growing in the caulk (between the tile and the tub, for instance) that's a much bigger problem because most older caulks are silicon based and no amount of scrubbing will remove the mold. Usually the only thing that works is to scrape away the old caulk with a knife (very tedious) and recaulk with one that doesn't contain silica. You can tell the difference because grout is powdery/chalky and the mold is usually brownish and lifts off easily while caulk is shiny/slick, and the mold is usually dark black and looks ''set in'' to the material. good luck!
I would definitely call the ''Grout Doctor'' to get rid of the mold. 530-3104. He can also advise you what to do to keep it from coming back. Important to nip it in the bud. Good luck. Beth
You're right to be cautious about toxic cleaning products when alternatives work well and don't have the risks of usage or storage. I've ordered products from a company called Melaleuca, The Wellness Company, for 17 years and especially love the bathroom cleaners. (The Melaleuca oil in the products kill mold.) I don't find the website very user friendly, and I can help you understand the process of ordering. lynn
Tea tree oil is supposed to work but smell bad, Gratefruit seed extract is supposed to work and smells better. Myself, I am going to call the grout doctor! Yay! muriel

Mold abatement for mold in the crawlspace

March 2005

We recently found a ton of mold under the house (crawlspace). Does anyone have good recommendations for a mold analysis lab and for people (licenced in this) that do mold remediation? Any anwers will be much appreciated. We really want to move on this soon. Moldy


Hi In response to someone looking for mold abatement. I would call Sal at Synergy (510) 259-1700. His company has been doing abatement for years. They did the asbestos abatement in our old house and were quick and professional. We were very happy with them. They handle all types of abatement. margaret
Last January we found mold behind our shower wall backing to a closet. We fielded a couple of quotes for the abatement. One was by a real 'slick' guy suggesting all manner of costly investigation. The other guy, Steve Villareal, came out and was a 'real' contractor. He reminded me of my father who was a superindendent for Morrison/Knudsen. He came out for a very fair price and sealed off the area, cleaned out the mold, then sealed it with an anti mold sealant the next day. We are very satisfied with the job. He's licensed and specializes in mold abatement. The company name is Nova Abatement & Construction Services, Inc. Address 3051 Research Drive, Richmond. Phone 510 223-1744, cell 510 734-7602. Good luck. KM

Mold spores from plumbing causing allergies in toddler

Feb 2005

Hello! I need a little advice. I am renting a home with a very bad mold problem. I know the source of the problem lies underneath the house and would need a complete plumbing restoration to correct. The issue is that my 16 month old remains sick. Originally we assumed he was just catching a lot of colds but upon speaking with his pediatrician, we learned that he could be having an adverse reaction the mold. I thoroughly clean the visible spores but Iím sure itís in the walls. Does anyone have any suggestions regarding de- humidifiers or air purifiers. Pro and/or cons of both. Also, if replacing the plumbing, drywall and carpet is the only real solution, does anyone have advice as to whether or not the Landlord is obligated to make the repairs? We were informed of the mold issue upon moving in (6 years ago) but is was not really a serious problem until now. Any info would be great. Thanks! js


You don't say where you live, but the San Francisco Tenants Union in SF on Capp Street can direct you to the similar organization in your area. Rest assured that you are protected, your tenancy is protected and your land lord is responsible for all repairs to abate the mold problem EVEN if you were told about the mold when you moved in. This is not something your land lord should get away with. Mold is dangerous and you won't and can't be evicted for reporting the problem to a higher authority nor will you have to pay for its removal. Good luck. SF tenant
I don't think the landlord's ''informed consent'' is an exemption from fixing the problem, but it does make the person unconscionable, unethical, or at the very least ignorant. It is dangerous for anyone, and especially horrible for a baby. The landlord is responsible for doing the work immediately and certainly you could sue if you wanted. This is reason to move ASAP. The mold exposure to your baby can set up a lifetime of allergy and asthsma problems. This is Really Serious. I am an adult with allergies after living in a rented house with similar issues (bathroom pipes behind walls leaking) the landlord let us tear out the carpet- this helped a lot yet not enough- but I continued to smell mold when no one else could smell anything and I continued to have breathing problems at night- finally moved I know it's a big deal to move, but mold exposure is bigger.

PRODUCTS: Air purifiers are not effective as they collect just some of the mold spores and even if they claim to germicidally kill the spores, live or dead spores in the room (including in the filter of the purifier) still cause allergic reactions. De- humidifying should definitely help, though best if there is a basement- they are so loud it is unlikely you could find one you could run at night in the house. allergybuyersclub.com has great info./ resources you do not have to buy their stuff necessarily. I did buy their product called ''air free'' can't remember exactly what its deal is, but it's silent, runs all the time, no filters- AND you are welcome to borrow ours for a few months (until you move?) as we are using it in current basement room but no longer need it for bedroom (we moved.) Please e-mail if you want to borrow the air-free thingy (look up on the allergybuyersclub website). Chris


Yes, the landlord is responsible for the repairs. Mold is a serious health risk. In fact, this is something you could successfully sue over, though hopefully it will never come to that. sd

Moldy smell from washing machine

Feb 2005

My otherwise well-functioning washing machine smells bad (mold) when it hasn't been run for a few days. I'm wondering if anyone has had this happen and solved it. Thanks in advance. Jenny


We recently got a new washing machine, and the manual states that periodically you should run a hot load with bleach added. Also, you should leave the door open and let it air dry after a load is done. Susan
We had a similar problem with our Maytag Neptune front loader, which angered me when considering the money we paid for this high end washer. The users manual suggests ''refreshing'' periodically by mixing a strong bleach solution, rinsing the door of the washer with the solution, then pouring the remainder into the detergent compartment and running a hot cycle. Its a pain to do but gives good results. Kristin
The best way I've found to prevent my washing machine from smelling moldy is to do my white loads in chlorine bleach. This kills all the gross stuff in your washing machine. If you do a bleach load every week or whenever you notice a moldy smell, it removes the odor like a charm. Incidentally, contrary to common belief, chlorine bleach is biodegradable. In fact, if you buy a bottle of bleach and don't use it within 6 months, its elements degrade into salt water and you have to replace it if you want it to work. anonymous
Try running a warm water cycle with 1 cup of Clorox in water (no laundry). Rinse twice. You may want to do whites for the first load after that too. Leave the washer door slightly ajar if a few days between loads, or at least leave it open long enough to let the thing dry out. If the smell isn't completely gone, do another clorox cycle. hope it works. had it before too

Clothes stored in basement have musty smell

Dec 2003

Hi! I recently went down to the basement and got out a whole bunch of clothes that I can now fit into again, but they all have that basement-y musty smell. I put them through a wash cycle and they still smell. Is there anything I can do, short of taking the lot to the dry cleaners, to get that smell out? Thanks! domestically challenged


I had this problem with towels. Martha Stewart online suggests adding a cup of white vinegar to your wash as you put your soap in. I tried this and it really works! Everyting smells fresher - no vinegar smell as it rinses out. You can also try a cup of baking soda. Good Luck

How to prevent bread from molding so fast

Oct 2003

Say, does anyone have any good ideas on how to keep preservative- free bread in your house/kitchen? We've bought several different brands of whole wheat/whole grain breads, and they seldom last more than 4-5 days before mold spots start showing up. We've resorted to refrigerating the bread, but it doesn't taste as good (unless you toast everything); I also heard somewhere that the starch/gluten changes under the colder temperatures, and that's what affects taste/texture. Jim


When we buy sliced bread we immediately freeze it and when we buy something fancier we leave it out for a day or two, then slice whatever hasn't been eaten and freeze it. Nothing molds, the taste is virtually unchanged, and all you have to do is pop it in the toaster before eating. If you don't always want toasted bread you could freeze half the loaf right away and leave the rest out to eat untoasted. Anna.
We get moldy bread, too. We freeze it and leave the loaf in the freezer. When we need a slice or two, we toast it. My husband likes it REALLY toasted, but I don't. So I let it go in the toaster for a little bit, then take it out before it even gets brown. Otherwise, mold. We also do this with bagels. I'm not a big fan of toasting, but I'm a bigger fan of non-waste. You gotta freeze
I have frozen my bread for years. When you are ready to use, remove approriate amount of slices and either toast, or put in microwave for a few seconds. You may have to try a few times wiht the microwave before you get it quite right. If you overdo it, the bread can get stiff. No special storage techniques are necessary. The bread needs to be in plastic and sealed. For artisan loaves, put in plastic bag and squeeze all the air out. I do not recommend that you microwave artisan loaves of sourdough, etc. That does not work. Bring to room temperature over the course of several hours. Leslie
For sandwich bread, put it in the freezer as soon as you get home from the grocery store. When you make a sandwich, just take it right from the freezer and it will be almost thawed by the time you have put everything on it and cut in half. Only takes about 10 minutes for a slice of bread to thaw. Of course if it's for somebody's lunch later, it will be thawed by the time they eat it. It will taste very fresh if you freeze it immediately and take it out of the freezer as needed. And by the way, even cold hard peanut butter spreads nicely on a frozen slice of bread. I learned this from growing up in Alabama. You should see the mold on the bread after sitting all day in 90 degrees in a plastic bag! We didn't refrigerate our bread because we thought that made it hard and stale-tasting. Always the freezer. Ginger

2 am sneezing attacks: mold allergy?

Aug 2002

My three year old has multiple food allergies and some airborne allergies too. He's been taking Zyrtec for a few months and has had great results. We've done all that we can think of to combat the airborne allergens in his room(HEPA air purifier, windows closed, dust mite covers, no stuffed animals in his bed, etc.) but something is still bothering him around 2:00 am, causing massive sneezing attacks. Based on what I've read about airborne allergens, it sounds like he could be having a reaction to mold spores. These attacks do seem to be worse on damp, foggy days. Once he is out and about for the day he's fine. He wakes up from his nap a little congested, but the sneezing only happens in the early am. Does anyone out there have experience with this kind of allergy? I don't know where to begin looking for the mold let alone how to get rid of it. Help! Frustrated mom


I have mold allergies, and what you are describing sounds about right. The best thing I did for my mold allergies was to move from Seattle to Walnut Creek. The relative humidity is so low, it really helps!! Another thing that helps is running the A/C...it dries out the air and helps around here. I think the Berkeley/SF area is much more humid and this can cause more problems. I no longer take routine meds for my allergies, it's great. Avoid humidifiers and take care of any leaks and check bathrooms and kitchens regularly for leaky pipes and drippy faucets. I use a bleach solution and clean the windowsills and bathrooms/kitchen frequently. Mold-free mom
It sounds as though you have taken a number of important preliminary steps in discovering the reason for your child's allergy attacks. Based on your observations, it does indeed sound like mold is one of the prime culprits. I can share some of my first-hand experience with a mold allergy and hope that what I say will help you take further steps to protect your child's health.

Four years ago, I moved into an apartment in Albany and began to suffer from a number of disturbing symptoms--acute asthma attacks, headaches, continuous coughing. Things kept getting worse in spite of the increasingly aggressive asthma/allergy treatments prescribed. I was taking 10 different prescription meds every day--steroids by mouth, by nose, by inhalation; antihistamines, four different types of inhalers, and Singulair. My health kept deteriorating--my doctor told me I was probably allergic to a pollen in my neighborhood and told me to keep my windows closed and stay indoors as much as possible. I had several weekend emergency-room visits, and things only kept getting worse. The more housebound I became, the more severe my asthma. When I finally underwent allergy testing, I found out that I was allergic to mold, among other things. My allergist advised me to ask my housing office to conduct mold testing. The maintenance supervisor came over, poked and peeked around a bit, and sent me a letter stating that there was no mold in my apartment. By the end of my fourth month there, I was told that my asthma attacks were life-threatening, and I was already on the highest doses of all the best medications. My immune system was so depressed by the combination of the severe asthma and the aggressive drugs used to treat it that when I got a cold at the end of the semester, I developed pneumonia and sinusitis. I was coughing so hard that one of the nurses I saw told me I could fracture my ribs. My allergist told me that if I didn't leave my apartment immediately, I would probably die. I ended up having to get a friend to come and get me and my daughter, and I had to leave everything behind in my apartment because I was too sick and too weak to take anything with me. It took three courses of antibiotics to cure the infection. The severe physical and emotional trauma of the 5-month-long asthma flare caused me to develop a chronic pain and fatigue condition I will live with for the rest of my life. I had to take a 2.5- year medical leave from my program of study, and I will never be able to gain back the health and strength I had before moving into my apartment.

By the way, even though the maintenance supervisor denied the presence of mold in my apartment, I found mold behind the furniture; and many units of the apartment complex (section B of the student family housing in Albany) was tested for mold in 2001, and dangerously high levels were found.

Basically, my advice is not just to medicate the allergies. Do everything you can to eliminate allergens from your child's environment, even if this means moving. I cannot find the words to tell you how much my life and health and the well-being of my family have been disrupted. I cannot find the words to describe the pain I have to live with as a result of my exposure to high levels of mold. Not everyone who is exposed to mold will develop the same symptoms I did, but I don't think it's a risk I would want to take with my children.

Have your apartment tested for mold. If your apartment complex will not hire someone to do the testing, find a company that will do it for you.

Please feel free to email me if you have any questions or comments. sara


How worried should I be about mold?

Sept 2002

We just got our lab report from Nelco Laboratories and found out that, according to their scale we have a ''very unusually high level'' of cladosporium and penicillium mold. I'm not sure how worried I should be. Now that we have a central heating system and have cleaned(clorox) and newly painted our walls I'm not sure what else to do inside. Just last year we put in vents alongside the base of the house where we have a crawl space that, for years had been quite moist but now is not. Has anyone dealt with this before or have familiarity with this type of mold' Please get back to me with any advice or recommendations. Thankyou


Finding mold growing inside your home can be a serious issue, depending on the magnitude and extent of the contamination and the susceptibility to mold of people living therein. The health effects of indoor mold chiefly include respiratory, especially allergy-like, symptoms. The Institute of Medicine reviewed the literature and found evidence that mold exacerbates asthma, but there was insufficient evidence that mold exposure leads to the development of asthma. Allegations that indoor mold causes other serious health effects (e.g., memory loss or chronic fatigue) have not been scientifically substantiated.

The steps for addressing this problem always start with identifying and fixing the source of moisture. During clean-up, it is important to prevent contamination from spreading from the source area. Moldy rugs, drapes and other fleecy items usually cannot be thoroughly cleaned, so they will need to be discarded. Hard surfaces can be effectively cleaned. People sometimes (erroneously) recommend using bleach to clean, but this is not as effective as using detergent. Also, bleach can be a respiratory hazard (why use one hazardous material to clean another?). You can find abundant literature on-line with details to guide you (see below).

If you wear personal protection equipment (e.g., a good dust mask, gloves, etc.), you can do the clean-up yourself. Currently, there isn't any kind of certification for mold abatement services, so "let the buyer beware". See our guidance document (below) about hiring professionals, if you need to go that route. In general, mold testing, especially in a case you describe, is a waste of money - use your resources to fix the obvious problem. It sounds like the humidifier use was the source of moisture, and discontinuing its use would be warranted.

Jed Waldman, Chief, Indoor Air Quality Section (and Berkeley Parent) California Department of Health Services http://www.cal-iaq.org

On-line resources:

CA DHS infosheets, including "Mold in my home, What do I do? " http://www.cal-iaq.org//iaqsheet.htm#Mold

CDC Information on indoor mold http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/airpollution/mold/

U.S. EPA's "A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home" http://www.epa.gov/iaq/molds/moldguide.html

Guidance document for hiring IAQ professional http://www.cal-iaq.org/FIRMS/Howto.htm


Mildew odor in our rental house

Jan 2002

We are renting a 1922 home that has some water damage (from the roof and possibly poor sealing from pipes) and the walls and ceiling have large brown stains and damp spots. The caretaker apparently repainted the rooms and now the spots are coming through the paint. The house also has a mildewy smell or old house smell that we can't seem to air out no matter how many times we leave the windows open or use room freshners. This is only the 2nd week of living in this house and we already signed a year lease. Do we keep repainting the walls and using air deodorizers? Any suggestions most welcome.


I'm no contractor, but I'm wondering if the house has dry rot. When we purchased our house it had significant water damage from a leaking roof and other problems. The house had significant dry rot and we had to replace a significant portion of our walls. If this is the case with your house and the walls are permeated with mold, I don't believe frequent repainting and air fresheners are going to solve the problem. Especially if the mold is already coming through recently painted walls. Plus, it can be a health hazard to be living amongst so much mold. I guess if it were me, I would check with your city's tenant's rights board to see if this problem gives you recourse to break your lease without penalty. I wish you luck and hope this resolves easily for you.
I had this problem in my house in Philadelphia, and it was an ongoing battle. I replaced a few pieces of wet sheetrock (not too difficult -- my house painter did it for a reasonable charge), which got rid of the mold temporarily, but the only permanent solution is to stop the water from coming in -- a tricky problem at best. Obviously, your landlord is responsible for that. Since mold is becoming notorious as a dangerous allergen, you might be able to make a case for breaking your lease. In the meantime, I recommend a dehumidifier and a HEPA or ULPA air purifier (for some reason, there is no one machine that combines these two functions). That might help slightly with the smell. If the house has moldy wood that's out of reach, however, you're probably stuck with it. Sonya

Shoes in my closet are getting moldy

Jan 2003

This post may overlap with a recent request for advice about items that had gotten moldy in a damp garage. In my case, I have discovered that a number of leather and suede shoes in the bottom of my disorganized closet have become moldy. Yuck. Are the shoes at all salvagable? How should I clean the closet to prevent the mold from speading further this winter?


I don't know whether the shoes are salvagable, but here is how to deal with the closet: Wash down the walls and floor with a bleach solution. One handy trick to avoid this problem is to simply leave a lightbulb on in the closet at all times during the winter, when mold is most likely to grow. Janet
Mold is a sign of high humidity inside the house, of course. The solution is better ventilation (bathroom, kitchen especially) and/ or dehumdification. It would be important to find out if there is moisture under the house, and correct that and any drainage problems. Then you may want to heat and run a dehumidifier if the problem is not solved by the previous measures. (I took a class on this given by the EPA last year, as mold causes allergies or asthma in some people). Christine V, Berkeley nurse & indoor air quality person

What is the Nature of Mustiness?

What is the Nature of Mustiness? Sounds like a silly question. But I have a basement full of musty stuff (basement has flooded every winter, we store our stuff several inches off the ground). I'm moving to a new house, brand-new construction, with a carpeted basement, and am worried about "infecting" it. The metal stuff (bikes, tools) is probably OK, but I'm concerned about all the porous stuff (wood, papers, boxes). Does a musty smell mean this stuff is rife with mold or mildew spores? and if so, can I do anything to get rid of them? Will airing outside do the job? Should I avoid using the empty boxes I've stored down there for my household packing? Can anyone refer me to an "expert"? Thanks! Mary
I've been doing a bit of searching around on mustiness myself. Primarily what it is is fungus: i.e., mold, mildew, and something else I don't remember. My husband is quite allergic to it. Apparently sunning the stuff can kill the mold, but I haven't tracked down the original sources on how long and in exactly what conditions you have to do the sunning. (Book conservation websites are where I started looking for the info, if you want to pursue it.) Fungicide kills the fungus but causes other problems, obviously. What we decided to do was throw away all our nice moving boxes (that had sat around for 4 years in humid/damp basements), and sun all our books as best we knew how. We're still in the middle of doing this so no results to report yet.

Here's another aspect of mustiness.

Once you have the mold (which itself is not always obvious from looking, more obvious from breathing), you get other critters too, including the following, which we've been advised that we have (and which I've seen in our books):

*** PSOCIDS ***

DESCRIPTION: These pale yellow insects are about 1/25 inch long and with short legs and antennae. The species in houses usually do not have wings and remain hidden in damp secluded areas.

BIOLOGY: (Liposcellis sp.) These small insects develop from egg to adult in about 65 days. Reproduction occurs throughout the year, the adults live about 3 months. They feed on microscopic fungi and molds in damp locations, starchy part of books and wallpaper, they are sometimes found in cereal.

SOLUTION: Remove and discard infested material, vacuum areas. Reduce harborage sites such as old books and magazines. Lower the relative humidity in structure for several days.

The above info comes from the website of UPCRC, the Urban Pest Control Research Center, an entomology research/consulting firm that I found on the web (neither a pesticide company nor an anti-pesticide group -- just all about bugs). Joyce


Mold on the walls of our rental

I have a very damp house, and need advice/information about how to identify any "dangerous" molds, and the best way to clean and dry them out. We have black mold on the walls, green mold on the windows, and some kind of spongy mold on the wooden window sills. Our closets are musty, and hard candy liquefies on the dresser. Our landlord is completely useless, and we are not prepared to move. Any helpful suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Re: Mold Clean with bleach and buy a de-humidifier at Sears. Roger
Someone on the eczema list I belong to recommended a company called Hygenaire in Grass Valley CA, 1-800-432-2719. I think they have a website also. I've not tried the mold reduction product yet but am thinking of it. By the way, when I was in college, we successfully won a small claims court case against our landlord for a bad mold situation (we took lots of gory photos). I know it doesn't directly help the mold situation but the cash came in handy. Good luck. Tracy
Check out Allergy Control Inc. (www.allergycontrol.com). They have many products to deal with mold, including dehumidifiers, chemicals, and an electronic mold zapper. I can't speak to the efficacy of these products, but other stuff I've bought from this has been good. The catalogue is better than their website, and their staff is helpful on the phone too. Meghan
I would suggest you contact Barbara Sparks at the local EPA office; she is the local guru of molds/allergens and an advocate for people too. Also, the USEPA has a good Indoor Air Quality page with a ton of info about molds. Its hard if not impossible for you to identify them; you'd need a lab to do it. But don't waste your money (unless you want it for legal reasons) because it doesn't really matter; no mold is acceptable in living conditions and it should all be removed. You'll find lots of info about how to at that website (basically bleach and water). But remember, if you don't figure out where the moisture source is, it will continue to be a problem. So these are short-term solutions. Best of luck. hilary
I don't know anthing about identifying mold, but I can give some suggestions to clean it and avoid it. Straight bleach (or bleach mixed with some water, if the mold is less thick) kills mold faster than anything I know of. I fill a spray bottle with bleach and spray directly on the spots and leave it for 15 minutes or more, until the mold either disappears or can be wiped away with a cloth. Then I rinse the whole area with clean water and a cloth. To avoid mold, we ventilate the house as much and as often as possible. We keep our windows open at least a few inches even at night, and often wide open during the day. For security, you can cut dowels or 1x2's to lock the windows open an inch or two even at night or when you're away. We also ventilate our clothes closets by leaving them open just a crack all the time. And we try to keep all furniture slightly away from the wall, so mold doesn't grow behind it.

I know one family who purchased a dehumidifier and were very happy with it, but I always felt like their house was still steamier than ours. It seems like you'd have to keep your windows shut all the time in order for a machine to effectively remove all the water from home air. good luck. Cheri


My husband was once informed by a professional painter that the best thing for mold/ mildew is a product called TSP by Jasco. The initials don't Stand for anything that's just what it says on the label. I got a quart of the light green fluid in a plastic bottle at Home-depot for about $7.00. Depending on How big your areas of mold are that should do the job because you do have to dilute the concentrated liquid with warm water as the directions are on the Bottle. It's very safe non-corrosive, non-flammable and no rinse needed and has no odor. I used the product myself for our bathroom that doesn't have a Ventilation system (we just open the window and bought this two-way fan that sits in the window between the window and the ledge etc) but prior to us moving in the previous renters just let the mildew mold take over the bathroom. So basically it preps the area for painting and stops further growth. We also had to paint just to Make it look better and we used BEHR premium plus mildew proof paint which we got at Home-depot for $17.00 a can. We only used one can and since then which Was about a year ago no further mold has grown. On the bottle of TSP it also says: "It removes grease, grime, mildew, food stains, crayon, dirt, smoke, old wallpaper paste and wax from painted or unpainted wood. Their website is also on the bottle www.jaasco.help.com. Hope this helps. Warren
Someone replied to this list mentioning TSP. TSP is trisodium phosphate and I have read in several places that it's a big pollutant. I would avoid it if possible. Our painter said he can add fungicide to paint which is used in areas where mold often grows (for example, on the south side of our house). When repainting you might find out about that and try it. Fran
A recent posting mentioned concern about TSP as a major pollutant. This is true if you were to pour your used solution into the storm drain (never pour anything into the storm drain!). If you pour your solution down the sink, it goes into the sewer system, where it actually helps cultivate the bacteria which break down the other nasty sewage stuff in the waste treatment plant. TSP is not an airborne pollutant. If you get it on your skin, it will irritate it (and it's bad for the eyes), so wear gloves when you use it.

I can't remember if earlier writers recommended a bleach solution. This is the most effective and least toxic (and cheapest!) fungicide you can use. It will kill the mold on the wall, where TSP will just wash it way so it can return later. Bleach is the active ingredient in most commercial mildew removers.

The fungicide that your painter will add may be something called "M-1", which is, at worst, mildly toxic, and mostly to the painter through skin contact. Another solution is to apply an exterior paint (even though this may be an interior wall) because any good exterior paint has an effective fungicide in it. Louise


It's really disturbing to read about your mold problem. My husband and I rented a house much like the one you're living in now, and I developed severe allergies and allergy induced asthma while living there. They were caused by the mold which was constantly releasing spores into the air. Some mold releases spores when wet, some while dry. You say that you're not prepared to move and that your landlord is no help. I agree that it's not easy to find a place and to move, but mold exposure is serious, and you should seriously consider relocation. Please contact the rent board at or 664-6128... and do it quickly. If you live in Berkeley you have very specific and important rights as a tenent. Your landlord has the responsibility of maintaining the property in a habitable condition, and this includes your mold problem. We broke our lease to move out of our moldy house. Please make sure that you document any health problems and requests made to your landlord for repairs and removal of the mold (send letters by certified mail, and send copies to the rent board). We got all of our deposit back because we had good documentation. The sad thing is that our landlord simply turned around and rented that house to another couple. We were lucky enough to be able to speak to them before moving and to let them know WHY we were leaving. If you have allergies to other things, you are more susceptible to developing a mold allergy... and believe me, the last year has been no picnic for me. Good luck. Laura

Everything in our apartment is getting moldy

We have a terrible mildew/mold problem in our apartment. It first manifested itself when we found that all the leather shoes in our closet had were covered with mold. Lately, any place where furniture is close to the wall and restricts the air flow, the walls begin to mold (especially behind our bed). Yesterday I found one of our daughter's unfinished wooden toys covered in mold.

We've washed specific walls with a bleach solution. Other people have suggested TSP. I am wondering if we need to get some of the moisture out of the air.

Any suggestions about ways to deal with the problem systematically, rather than just cleaning up as it develops? What experience have people had with mechanical or chemical dehumidifying products?


I am living in an apartment condo. Due to the heavy humidity in my apartment, mold is easily spread over the walls, the ceiling and my furniture despite my efforts of openning windows every day. Is there any tool or formula to reduce the humidity in the room?
We have also had a serious problem with humidity and mold in our apartment. We have taken some steps which seem to have worked -- judging from our improved health and the lack of huge black growth on the walls. However, it may just be that it hasn't rained as much this year. We purchased a rather large de-humidifier (Sears) and run it just about all the time. When the mold produced chronic bronchitis in my husband, we escalated the attack and purchased an air purifier (HEPA filter) on-line. It was between $300-$400. We also run that most of the time. We washed every last bit of our bedding and threw away everything that looked the tiniest bit moldy. We also repainted our bedroom. We also wash down the walls frequently with one of those Chlorox cleaners with bleach.
Get a dehumidifier. It's a machine that cools the air in its vicinity to cause the moisture to condense out. I had one as a child that had a series of coils. The water then drips off the coils into a cup, and you periodically empty the cup down the drain. Good luck!
I am responding to the question of humidity and mold. We recently had experience with mold and learned quite a bit. You really need to properly deal with this. Some molds produce allergies but others actually produce toxins which can be dangerous, especially for children. If you have a lot of mold in your apartment, it is worth having it analyzed and then properly removed. We contacted an environmental engineering firm, SINA Environmental, who analyzed and found 3 different kinds of mold and made recommendations on how to best get rid of the mold. Sometimes it can be washed with a 10% bleach solution and then use a fungicide - but sometimes it is not easy and actually requires that containment fields be set up and the sheetrock removed.

I believe that you can purchase dehumidifiers to help reduce the level of moisture. You also need to determine the cause of this high humidity. If you rent, this is something your landlord should take care of. If you own, you will have to spend some money to properly deal with it. Otherwise it will continue to return and pose health risks. Simply washing off the wall is usually not adequate. Good luck.


Regarding the mold problem; you need to figure out the source of the moisture and stop it, or you will have a continual problem. Possibly a leaky roof that you were unaware of? This should be the landlords responsibility. While I could give you some advice (I used to do a lot of INdoor Air Quality work), I would suggest you get in touch with Barbara Sparks of the EPA (the SF regional office). She is the mold queen there, and VERY much on a crusade to bring this issue to the people's attention. I don't have a number sorry...but you should be able to find it fairly easily. The EPA also has an IAQ web page which has all their publications posted. They have a lot of info for homeowners. (http://www.epa.gov/iaq/). Good luck.
For several winters I was disgusted by the amount of mildew and mold that accumulated in my houses and apartments. I've found 3 inch high mold growing on leather sandals, and one year my futon mildewed and caused a severe allergic skin reaction! Anyway, here's some things that we've tried during the last two winters. We are having some success.

First, we bought "dehumidifying crystals," which you can find at most hardware stores. They are sold in plastic tubs and look like little pebbles of chalk. We fill the bottom of empty yogurt tubs with the crystals and place them in closets. Eventually the tubs fill with water and we empty them out and replace the crystals. We also bought a "dehumidifying bar" at Ace Hardware. This is a heated bar that warms the bottom of the closet to inhibit growth of mildew. I suppose you could use something like this behind a bed as well. Finally, we open all windows whenever there's a dry, sunny day and allow air to circulate for as long as possible. We try to always open the bathroom window whenever we shower. Since our baby was born, we've been running the heater at night, and this has seemed to help as well.


We had a mold problem in San Francisco and I tried using one of those products that is like mothballs but takes moisture out of the air. It came in a can and was white granules. It made us really sick so I don't recommend it.
Please be careful of dehumidifying crystals. I believe they are toxic. Ingestion by an exploring child could be fatal. An electric dehumidifier seems like it would be less of a hazard. Peggy
Two sources of moisture are bathing and cooking. While taking a bath, do you close the bathroom door to keep the moisture only in the bathroom? After a bath or shower, open the bathroom window and close the bathroom door until the moist air has been replaced by drier air. After a shower, wipe the walls with a squeegee. While cooking, put lids on pots and pans and/or open the kitchen window to allow the moist air to be carried outside. Whenever the weather is reasonable during the day, open the windows to allow some air to circulate around the rooms.
I have strong alergies to mold, which have plaqued me my whole life. I also used to live in a place where everything molded (including my beloved book collection- I am still just sick about it). Since you said apartment, I assume you don't own the place and would not be willing to spend the bucks required to fix this problem. Your landlord may not either. Most often, these problems are caused by water getting into the house from outside- not because you are not opening the window when you take a shower. I finially realized my apartment was hopeless when I removed a nail from the wall and noticed that the part stuck in the wall had rusted. I moved. Most of my shoes, books, any organic possesions where either actually moldy or smelled real bad. I had to throw out a lot of things. You can take measures to keep you apartment dry on the inside, and keep the air circulation, but I am very serious when I suggest that you move. It could prevent mold allergies in your child, and save you money in the long run.
We had serious mildew problems in our house, which we were able to reduce a great deal by reducing moisture. This meant adding an exhaust fan in the shower (which made a big difference!), improving drainage around the house (still in progress), and other changes.

If you live in an apartment, you may not want or be able to add fans, etc. Maybe your landlord can be persuaded to make the necessary improvements -- as it is, s/he may be risking dry rot problems in addition to renting moldy housing. You can also buy a dehumidifyer from someplace like Sears. These use a lot of electricity, much like an air conditioner, which ultimately ends up as heat. It's like having an electric heater that also removes several gallons of water from the air each day.

Finally, a friend who lived in a moldy apartment that got bad enough to make her sick eventually discovered that water from the roof was leaking down through the walls. She was forced to move and is suing the landlord. If your apartmnt building has a serious structural problem, you might consider moving now rather than later.


Recommendation for moldy apartment: If your child has asthma, her lungs sound congested, you should consider moving as soon as possible. My friend just bought a new house that was built on slab and discovered black mold first under the kitchen sink then all over the house upon being tested by an environmental lab service. They finally tested their blood at the doctor's and discovered they had very high levels of antibodies to the toxic mold, I forgot the name. They are trying to get the builders to take the house back. Toxic mold has been known to cause allergic symtoms, make people sick and feel tired, etc...I'm planning to do a search on physicians on line myself to find out if this is the same common balck mold sometimes growing in the edges of my shower Susan
We have a really bad water condensation problem too (it's also contributing to our mold problem but that's another story...) I purchased some chamois towels in the auto parts section of the big Longs Drugs at 51st & Broadway in Oakland and use them each morning to dry off the windows. It doesn't solve the problem long term but seems to be really helping keep everything less wet.

Cleaning solutions for damp rental?

We are having a mold and mildew problem in our rental house and are wondering if anyone has any advice on cleaning and prevention. The house is on a hill, so lots of water runs down toward it. We have mildew on the interior walls where ever there is a piece of furniture against the wall. I have moved the furniture and cleaned the walls, but it comes back. We also get mildew on the window sills. I am considering cleaning with a fairly strong bleach solution to kill the stuff. Also, items left at the back of the closet for winter (sandals, sunhats and such) got moldly. I cleaned the mold off but they still really stink--any advice on removing the smell--these sandals aren't cheap. The landlady is considering some long term solutions--but I need to deal with the cleaning now. Thanks Sarah
We have a similar recurring mildew problem in the house we rent. Our best success in one room has been to a) wash walls,ceiling, and woodwork with a solution of household bleach, ordinary powered laundry soap, and water (these are the chemical components of many commercial mildew cleaners); b)prime everything with Zinsser 1-2-3 latex primer/stain blocker and c) place plastic on the ground (dirt) under the house under that room. That combination has worked for about six months while mildew has recurred in other rooms that only got the solution wash. We are not willing to wash/prime/repaint the whole house without being compensated by our landlord.

I work in the remodeling field and should mention a couple of other longer-term solutions. First if the house does not have a finished basement and sits over dirt the dirt should be covered with heavy plastic. Second, mildew grows best in dark locations where moisture exists, and often in a house that is places where condensation occurs such as windows/sills and exterior walls. Condensation occurs when warm moist interior air contacts a cold surface such as windows, walls or the space between walls. When remodeling I encourage homeowners to install dual glazed windows if they are not present and add insulation which helps both reduce condensation and fuel bills. The other obvious items are checking the roof, gutters, or other places water may be penetrating the building. Good luck.


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