5 Tips to Prevent Mold

In the rainy Pacific Northwest, buildings are prone to mold. Mold needs two things to grow – moisture and a good spot to grow on. Unfortunately, mold loves to grow on many common building materials and items in our homes. Since the conditions must be right for mold to grow, there are steps we can take to prevent those conditions.

1. Check gutters, downspouts, and drains.  Put on your rain gear and go outside during the next rain downpour.  Channel your inner preschooler and stomp in a puddle or two!  Okay, now your grown-up task is to check the gutters, downspouts, and drains to get a good idea of where the rain water is flowing.  The best answer is away from your building.

Clean, clear, reattach, or replace gutters and downspouts that aren’t working well. Clear any blocked drains. Please take precautions if you go up a ladder.  If you are renting, please check with your landlord or property manager.  While most property managers want to hear about water issues, they may not want their tenants up on a ladder or taking steps to fix a problem.

2. Observe your landscaping.  Do you need to make changes to the slope or drainage around the building so that water flows away and not toward the structure?  Consider contacting the Stormwater Stewards or installing a rain garden.  Depending where you live, you might even qualify for a rebate.  Prune tree branches or other plants away from the walls. This prevents water from being held against the siding, and allows air movement to help dry off the walls.  

Ready to come back indoors?  Even when we keep the rain outside, there is still moisture inside our homes from breathing, cooking, and bathing.  Here are some ways to keep mold out of your home. 

3. Fix leaks properly and quickly. If you have a leak, take care of it right away.  Wet items should be dried within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth.

4. Increase ventilation. 

  • Give moisture a way out. Use the bathroom fan or open a window for 30 minutes after bathing.  If your home tends to have high humidity, keep that fan on as much as possible. Use your kitchen fan when cooking. Make sure your fans are vented to the outside and not into the attic.
  • Once a day, walk through your home opening a window in each room. Then go back around and close them.  Because warm air holds more moisture than cold air, that rainy 40˚ air can actually be drier than the heated air inside your home.  If you do this quickly, you don’t lose much heat and you still bring in fresh air, which can help lower humidity levels indoors.
  • Allow for air flow.  Keep furniture an inch or two away from the walls.  Open the curtains or blinds in each room daily.  Open closet doors and doors between rooms when possible.  Allow room for any moisture that has condensed on a surface to be dried out or carried away in the air.

5. Heat each room in your home to at least 60˚.  Moisture in the air will condense onto walls, furniture, or other surfaces as it cools, and may grow mold.  Closed off rooms and cold rooms tend to be where mold grows. 

Would you like some help with mold prevention and other healthy home topics? Our Healthy Homes Program provides free, confidential visits to help reduce exposure to toxics, mold, and asthma triggers and other housing related health risks.

For more information about mold visit: www.epa.gov/mold/index.html

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