OSU extension offers mold prevention strategies

February 11, 2005

BEAVERTON – Oregon may be known for its matsutake and chanterelle mushrooms, but that same moist, warm climate grows another fungus that isn't as desirable – mold.

Moisture control is the key to preventing molds responsible for allergic reactions, some asthma conditions and other human health problems, as well as property damage, including odors and stains, said Jeanne Brandt, 4-H youth faculty adviser with the Washington County Office of the Oregon State University Extension Service.

"People really underestimate what it takes to keep moisture under control," said Brandt.

For example, she noted, bathroom fans need to be run much longer than the time taken in the shower. And one person may "create" two to three gallons of water each day that moisten surfaces and saturates the air just by cooking, breathing and bathing, Brandt noted.

Keeping warm air circulating throughout the home will help prevent mold growth, she explained. Don't block off closets or back rooms, and open drapes to allow air flow around window sills.

"Life brings moisture into our homes," Brandt said. Running home fans and using dehumidifiers are good practices, but nothing beats preventing moisture in the first place. From plumbing leaks to indoor wood storage to wet boots and umbrellas, taking steps to reduce the numerous sources of moisture is most effective.

Anything from sugars to skin flakes, dust to drywall can satisfy mold's appetite. Sheetrock is another favorite of mold.

Unfortunately, there is no federal standard when it comes to acceptable levels of mold or its reproductive spores, Brandt said. Because every individual has a different level of sensitivity to mold or mold spores, it is impossible to set a standard. And, because mold is ubiquitous, any test will find it.

So, how do you know if you have a problem?

"If you can see it or smell it, you have a problem," said Brandt.

To clean a moldy surface, Brandt suggests combining one cup of bleach and one capful of detergent in one gallon of water. Using a stiff brush, scrub away debris and mold, rinse well and then dry thoroughly.

"Be careful to protect yourself when cleaning mold," Brandt cautioned.

She recommends wearing gloves, goggles, and a respirator, and always maintaining good airflow while working.

For cleanup, expediency is a key. During this time of year, any water damage should be addressed immediately.

Professionals may need to be called in some instances, she said. If carpets or walls are wet, repairs are required, a heating, ventilation and air condition system or sewage is involved, it is best to have the pros fix the problem.

More information on indoor mold prevention will be presented at a free public meeting featuring George Tsongas of Portland State University at Clackamas Community College, Gregory Forum, 19600 S. Molalla Ave. in Oregon City on Wednesday, March 30, from 7 to 9 p.m. Persons interested in attending are asked to pre-register with Brandt at 503-725-2101.

Author: Virginia Gewin
Source: Jeanne Brandt