While my job is to help people find and treat mold issues in their homes it is more than a job to me. It is very personal. My youngest daughter is mold sensitive and becomes sick from any exposure to mold. When people hear about my situation, they often ask what I do to deal with mold exposure in my own home. The beginning of the New Year always inspires deep cleaning and health resolutions, I want to encourage you to resolve to keep mold under control in your home. Get started with these 5 things that I do in my own home.
1) Dry Fog with HavenFog™ Once a Year.
To obtain the cleanest air in my home, I dry fog my home with HavenFog™ once a year. HavenFog™ can treat a 3,000 square foot home in about 5 hours. This solution is naturally derived from citrus extracts and is completely safe for those who are chemically sensitive to harsh cleansers and chemicals.
2) Use HavenMist™ Monthly.
To maintain my indoor environment, I treat my house with HavenMist™ on a monthly basis. It’s an affordable option for monthly use to reduce the mold spore count in your home. People don’t often realize that the contributors to the production of mold spores in your home can be varied. Even if you don’t have a water intrusion, and depending on the geographic area you live in, mold is naturally everywhere; inside and outside. I have a lot of aspergillus penicillin (a common mold) outside my home, so everyday when I open the doors, I inadvertently allow aspergillus penicillin inside and over time, those mold spores build up inside the house. When mold spores are introduced into your environment, the bio balance ratio can become unbalanced.
3) Use Portable Air Purifiers.
There are three things I look for in a good air purifier. First, the air purifier needs to have a MERV rating of at least 16, so it offers true HEPA filtering. Secondly, use a unit that has a charcoal VOC filter. Charcoal filters out volatile organic compounds. Finally, I look for units that don’t chemically change the air. Many units produce ionization, ozone, or hydroxyl ions. While these types of purifiers do work, the reason I don’t recommend them is that they cause a chemical change in the air. Most of my mold sensitive patients are also chemically sensitive leaving many with a reaction to that chemical change.
With that criteria in mind, I personally have three favorites.
- Austin Air
- Air Doctor
It is important that you place the purifiers strategically throughout the house based on where you and your family spend the most time. Since most of us spend an average of 8 hours in our bedrooms asleep, it is imperative that you have one where you sleep. In our home, I have one in the master bedroom. My daughter, who is mold sensitive, has one in her bedroom, and we also have a larger unit that takes care of the living room, kitchen, and dining area.
4) Upgrade to Merv 11 HVAC Filters.
I’m not an HVAC professional, but I use MERV 11 filters in my own home. They will capture 97% of three micron-sized particles including mold spores. If you have an HVAC system, I recommend a filter with a MERV rating of 11. The reason I don’t go higher or lower than that rating is because a higher rating like 17 or 19, can restrict airflow in the HVAC unit itself, which can prematurely wear out your HVAC components. Restricting airflow can also cause condensation. I change our filters out at least every three months. If you live in an area that experiences a lot of dust in the air, dirt, or debris, you may replace them more frequently such as once a month or once every two months.
5) Proper Air Exchange.
An air exchange system is a professionally installed system that circulates your inside air, sending it out of your home and fresh air brought in. Toxins such as radon, mold, chemicals like Lysol, hairspray, bleach and ammonia can build up in your home without proper air exchange. Basements are most often the number one area for problems. When I do a home inspection, I usually find a problem in the first five minutes in the basement. My inspections always begin on the lowest floor in the home since there is typically very little air exchange below ground.
A great example of the need for an air exchange unit is the situation I found when I was inspecting a church in Oklahoma. At a high humidity of 72%, the church maintenance team kept the church auditorium closed up when it wasn’t in use. When they shut off their HVAC system in the auditorium, mold began to grow on the back of the chairs. While mold can’t eat anything on that chair, it can thrive in high humidity and off of dust. For buildings like churches or schools that are closed up for a large percentage of the time, mold can grow and thrive.
While air exchangers are highly desirable, they can be expensive. An alternative solution is to open your home’s windows and doors to allow the circulation of inside and outside air. If that is not an option, such as in the winter when it is cold, run the vent fan in your bathroom (as long as it is vented to the outside of the house and not up in your attic).
Note: If you have unsealed HVAC ducts in your attic or crawlspace, this could create a problem. When your HVAC system comes on, it creates negative air pressure and brings in attic air into the breathable air in the home. Attic air is highly toxic as it consists of insulation, dust, dirt, debris, and petroleum.
6) Water Alarms (Bonus)
I’ve outlined the five most important practices for keeping your indoor air clean, but I have one extra precaution that I personally take. Water alarms should be part of any home’s indoor air arsenal. These electronic leak detectors continuously beep when they become wet. Place them underneath your sink, behind your fridge, and underneath your HVAC system, the places you don’t look to check for errant water. By becoming aware and taking care of it right away you’ll be fending off a potentially big mold problem.
Here are the water alarms I recommend.