How to mould-proof you home, naturally

Received above average rainfall and suffering with mould over the past few months? Journalist Charmaine Yabsley shares her most effective (and eco-friendly) hacks to banish mould this wet season.

With its ugly green spores, mould can not only ruin clothing, carpets, curtains and blinds, it can also severely affect your health, too.

“Mould is a class of microorganisms similar to bacteria, but more complex,” microbiologist Dr Cameron Jones tells Body+Soul. “They’ve adapted [to] a way of life making use of hostile environments. Mould can grow on nuclear waste, has survived flights into outer space and, because of that, it can grow on very low water activity areas.”

Most people have health problems due to mould exposure because they have an allergy-type response, such as hay fever symptoms or a runny nose.

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“There are millions of different fungi [and], when given something to feed on and sufficient moisture, they release spores into the air in a rhythm, every 24 to 48 hours,” Jones explains.

He adds that prolonged exposure can cause serious health issues such as dementia, word-finding problems, brain fog and disordered thinking.

Depression may also be a sign that your home is harbouring mould. “This doesn’t mean the person is being eaten by the fungi,” Jones assures. “It’s an inflammatory response that’s leading to the synapses and dendrite in the brain miscommunicating.”

The past couple of years have seen Australia suffer from increased damp and rainy seasons, leading to a higher number of homes being affected by mould. “There’s a connection between climate change and why microbes are becoming more problematic,” Jones says.

“Ideally, houses are designed to heat and cool themselves sufficiently. Instead, we have buildings that don’t ventilate well.”

Have you experienced a problem with mould thanks to recent weather events? Here’s how to banish it for good.

1. Find the source

If you’re hiring a building inspector or have a pre-existing mould-related condition, ask them to look for sources of water ingress. Jones says that 90 per cent of the homes he sees have a mould problem due to the roof void, or the area between the ceiling and the roof.

Marianne Zander, an instructor at the Endeavour College of Natural Health, says it’s important to ventilate your home well by opening windows and using fans or a dehumidifier.

Plug any airway leaks from sources such as pipes or a leaking roof.

“Declutter your belongings to help increase air flow and always use a fan in the bathroom when having a shower, and for 10 minutes afterwards,” she adds.

2. Clean the air

According to Geoff Hannaford, ANZ country lead and director at Philips Domestic Appliances, investing in a portable air purifier may be worth its weight in gold.

“On average, people spend 90 per cent of their time indoors with indoor pollutants and air-quality levels [that are] frequently two to five times – sometimes even 100 times – higher than outdoor levels,” he says.

One 2016 study published in the Journal of Asthma found that air purifiers can reduce the number of particles in the air by 43 per cent.

3. Run a hot wash

If some items of clothing show signs of mould, “put your clothes in a hot cycle with detergent and, if possible, dry your clothes outdoors,” Jones advises. “Make sure the washing machine and dryer have been inspected for signs of mould.”

He also recommends running an empty machine with a cup of bleach or vinegar, or you can add bicarbonate of soda or baking soda to the wash cycle.

4. Prioritise bathroom maintenance

Rachel Gilding, a Beaumont Tiles design specialist, says that while it’s tempting to use bleach to remove mould from the grout, it erodes and corrodes the surfaces, making them more porous and vulnerable to further fungi growth.

“Opt for epoxy grout as it’s a waterproof polymer that will repel water, mould and mildew, unlike cement-based grout,” she tells Body+Soul.

5. Remove dust regularly

Mould needs organic matter to thrive, such as dust or dead skin cells, so it’s important to regularly vacuum and dust.

Muzaffar Izamuddin, a design manager for Dyson, tells Body+Soul that frequently vacuuming will help to stop dirt building up and getting trodden into your floor. There’s never been a better time to invest in a filter for your vacuum cleaner.

Make your own cleaner

Send mould packing with these potent DIY concoctions

  1. Fill a 500ml spray bottle with white or cleaning vinegar.
  2. Add 10 drops each of wild orange, tea tree and clove essential oils, and 5 drops of oregano essential oil. Shake well.
  3. Spray the affected areas, leave for 10 minutes, then wipe clean. Avoid using on granite surfaces.
  4. If using on grout, wipe, or rinse with water immediately.

Originally published as How to mould-proof you home, naturally

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