Mold prevention isn’t always top of mind, but even if mold or mildew isn’t visible the spores could be circulating around your home and having a negative impact on you and your family’s health. Until recently mold was considered a nuisance rather than a serious health concern, but according to the 2017 Documentary Moldy, at least 45 million buildings in America have what would be considered dangerous levels of mold. This problem is even more pronounced in holiday homes, which are left vacant for long periods of time and thus poorly ventilated, but before we look at mold prevention in holiday homes specifically, let’s take a look at the problem of mold in general. What is mold? Why is it bad? And do you need to worry about it? Let’s find out.
What exactly is mold?
Molds refer to microscopic organisms that are all around us. They are an essential part of the ecosystem and help breakdown plant and animal matter. Molds can grow almost anywhere with low light, enough moisture and organic material. Mold spreads by releasing spores when it is disturbed, and it’s these spores that can be of concern.
How does mold form in the home?
Mold spores are everywhere, we breathe them in every day and help spread them around our home. These spores are generally harmless to a healthy person, and most will land in places where the environment isn’t suitable and perish. However, when mold lands in damp or humid places it can form clusters and this is where it could be a problem. Mold tends to form in the same places in every home these include bathrooms, basements, kitchens or in walls as these spaces provide the right conditions for mold growth.
Types of mold that occur in the home
Harmful molds commonly occurring in the home, can be divided into three categories. Allergenic molds, which cause allergic reactions such as Asthma attacks. Pathogenic molds, which can cause illness in those suffering from acute conditions. And toxigenic mold, which releases toxic substances and can cause serious illness and even death.
The importance of preventing mold in your holiday home
If you are lucky enough to own a holiday home, you probably already know that these types of property are particularly susceptible to mold problems. The main reason for this is the fact that they are poorly ventilated for large parts of the year. Ventilation is one of the most effective ways to prevent the buildup of mold, as it reduces humidity and damp, two of the most common causes. To help keep your holiday home mold-free it needs to be properly cleaned after occupancy and regularly aired while it is standing vacant.
Mold prevention tips
Now that we know what mold is and how it spreads, let’s take a quick look at some of the measures we can take to help reduce mold build up in your home, whether it is a vacation home or a permanent residence.
Keep your windows open
As we mentioned earlier proper ventilation is one of the most effective measures we have to stop mold from building up. The simplest way to achieve this is by opening your windows or doors and allowing air to flow freely through the home. The more you air your home, the less likely you are to have mold buildup, that’s where a lockable window or door latch such as LockLatch can prove invaluable since you can keep these open all day (or even when you are away) without worrying about break ins or burglaries. Alternatively, LockLatch’s sister product the MiniLatch allows for openings as small as 4cm, making it perfect for areas with inclement weather.
Clean the carpets
Carpets trap moisture and organic matter in their fibers and this makes them a potential mold hotspot. To prevent build up, carpets should be aired or deep cleaned regularly. This is especially important for carpets that are exposed to lots of foot traffic or are near openings such as doors and windows.
Check for leaks
Here we don’t just mean checking the pipes, it’s important to check anywhere where water can get in. This includes the waterproofing in your roof and walls, as well as the seals around windows and doors.
Regular spring cleans
Regular spring cleans help reduce the buildup of organic matter mold feeds on and this makes it more effective at preventing mold build up than cleaning infrequently. Setting a day aside regularly to clean those hard to reach places. Holiday homes should be cleaned before and after they are occupied.
Use extractor fans
Extractor fans are particularly useful in two of the most common trouble areas in the home the bathroom and the kitchen. Not only do both these rooms have all the ingredients of a potential mold problem, they are also often the two least ventilated spaces in the home. An extractor fan not only helps remove the hot humid air, but also some organic matter and mold spores, which will otherwise build up in the room.
Keep an eye on humidity levels
The EPA states that keeping your humidity levels between 30% and 50% provides the best condition to avoid mold growth. The best way to test your humidity levels is with a hygrometer, but if you are looking for a quick way to test you can use the ice cube method to get a sense of what the levels are.
Keep doors open
Just like with windows, doors provide an excellent source of ventilation, often being able to provide the all-important cross ventilation you need to reduce the damp and humidity that causes mold. But, just like windows, if you wish to leave your doors open for extended periods it is important to install a security gate or a lockable door latch, such as LockLatch to help reduce the security risks.
Mold remover and prevention products
You also get a variety of products designed to prevent mold buildup. These usually come in the form of special paints formulated to prevent mold formation, but if you discover mold it is important to act before it spreads. Simply cleaning the spot with bleach or vinegar should do the trick, but it is also important to treat the area to prevent future build up.
Products to increase holiday home ventilation
As we briefly mentioned before, holiday homes pose a unique challenge when it comes to instances of mold. They are only ventilated when occupied, and sometimes aren’t cleaned as regularly or maintained as rigorously as lived in properties. All this can lead to mold becoming a larger problem in the long term.
One possible solution is to install Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) appliances. These help by circulating the air to stop the accumulation of moisture and spores. While it’s not good for your energy footprint (or wallet) to leave them running permanently, they provide a quick way to circulate and filter air in your holiday home.
The LockLatch is great for holiday homes as it not only allows for secure ventilation when occupied, but can also allow you to leave an out of reach window slightly ajar (weather permitting of course) when you aren’t there. The LockLatch is a lockable window and door latch which fits quickly and easily onto any door or window allowing you to leave them open, but securely locked in place. It is one of the simplest and most cost effective ways to enhance the natural ventilation of your home away from home.
The MiniLatch is another good option for holiday homes, as it allows for smaller gaps, which let fresh air in, but keeps out the other elements.
Humidity is one of the key ingredients of mold problems and a dehumidifier is purpose built to help you regulate the humidity in your holiday home. While you do still want moisture in the air, you never want the humidity to be greater than 60% as mold thrives in these conditions.
Extractor fans are particularly useful for bathrooms and kitchens, which are prone to the buildup of organic material and humidity. Switching on an extractor fan when you are using either of these rooms can greatly reduce the conditions that facilitate mold build up in your holiday home.