Mould reduction: living with dampness, condensation and mold.
Living in Scotland, the weather is usually cold and damp, so it is unsurprising when that cold and dampness invades your home in the form of mould spores. No amount of removal treatments and anti-spore paints will solve the problem long term, especially in old houses that have poor insulation. This is a problem that affects thousands of people in this country, and it is an issue that the housing departments refuse to acknowledge, and even pass off as normal.
Tell me, would you class furry walls with black things in as normal? I certainly don't!
Would you consider having to move all of your furniture to the centre of the room as normal? Or having no shelving on half of the walls in your house because mould will form behind your belongings? It gets a bit ridiculous!
Some of the suggestions that have been made by our housing association have been equally ridiculous. I have been told to clear my room. Get rid of my belongings... Because it is caused by having stuff! Don't get me wrong, I have a big cd collection, but there is never an issue behind that, only along the empty walls! i learned long ago to avoid putting anything valuable near the affected walls! They have also said that we have condensation because of people breathing... Because apparently houses weren't built for people to breathe in!?
I suggest that we have condensation because of the gaps around the windows, and the lack of insulation in between the walls. The way my house is made, there is an outer wall and an inner wall, with a huge gap in between... No insulation there. Unfortunately as it is a council house, we are not allowed to make any improvements, particularly to the walls and stuff like that, so essentially we need to learn to live with the mould.
I have written this hub as a helping hand to those ware have found themselves at the beginning of their battle with dampness, condensation and mould.
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The first step in your battle against the mould is to clean everything. It may help you to have a clear out, because anything that has been affected and infected by the spores will be unsavable, and will also encourage more mould growth later on. Trust me, I have tried to keep things after mould has got to them, and recently had to admit defeat and bin over 50 pairs of shoes!! No matter how much i washed them, the spores kept coming back.
So, anything porous, like material or paper that has mould, or even smells of it (you know the smell I'm talking about- yeuch) just get rid of it... It will save you time in the long run, and it will also allow more space for air flow around your home, which is essential to prevent further flare ups.
Non porous surfaces can be saved, using a little bleach formula, and this is what I use to clean my walls as well. I recommend cleaning your walls down at least once a month, particularly the parts that are typically affected by spores. To do this easily, save an old spray gun, and fill with 1/4 bleach, the rest cold water. Bleach is the most effective solution against mould, but it does cause discolouration in fabrics, so if you have carpets, you may want to make up a strong disinfectant formula, such as flash, instead.
I also recommend drying the walls after washing, to ensure that all of the moisture you created has been lifted. whether you use an old towel, or a mini electric heater faced towards the wall, make sure that every drop is dried up.
Whatever the cleaning solution, it is the routing cleaning that stops the mould coming back. When you constantly disturb the area, it can't settle anywhere, so it doesn't grow.
Don't get me wrong, the damp, murky smell can still linger now and then, and i recommend a good scented candle. A nice Yankee Candle or Glade will help make everything smell nice, and I usually always have one burning.
Now, to make your life easier you have to protect as many of your belongings from being infected as you can. I like to use plastic storage boxes to keep linen and shoes in- just make sure they are 100% dry before you put them inside. I also like to vacuum pack my clothes that I'm not using so that it's less to wash if I do have a flare up. Those vacuum pack bags are an absolute life saver in my house!
I know that living in a home as though you have just moved in doesn't sound like the best idea, but it is so much easier than doing 15 loads of laundry on clothes that you haven't even worn!
Another issue in my house is condensation. This can actually cause the mould, because if the condensation runs down the windows onto the wall, it can add to the dampness that is already there. In addition to your monthly wall clean, I recommend de-misting your windows whenever you need to.
Whether you invest in a squeegee or just use old rags, quickly going over the windows when they mist up each morning is a good habit to form. I also have a few old rags on my windowsill to soak up any moisture that drips down before I get to it, and I replace these every month. You don't need to invest in loads of cloths for this, old nighties or t-shirts work wonders torn up. (just don't use mouldy ones) Wash, dry and reuse.
Air flow is essential in reducing the development of mould in your home. Although, in Winter, it can seem difficult to allow your heating bills to go out the window, literally!
I like to open the windows for even half an hour each morning, after the de-misting. It lets out any stuffy air, and lets in nice, fresh air. It does also let out all the nice heat in the house, so it's not the best for the really cold days.
I also like to make use of fans to encourage air circulation. If warm air goes into the fan, warm air comes out, so it is a good alternative to having your windows open when it's a blizzard outside!
There is plenty of advice already out there about home improvements that help with mould. Unfortunately these are usually expensive, or, as in my case, you aren't allowed to modify the property. So, if you are going to be living with this problem for a while, it probably is a good idea to have a bit of redecoration. This needn't be expensive, as we are thinking about necessity for the moment rather than aesthetics, but if you have a few bucks, then feel free to make it look pretty too.
While wallpaper is pretty, and has loads of patterns, it isn't practical for mould. It retains the spores, and will not withstand much washing down. It also will fall off the wall as the dampness creeps in.
If you have wallpaper, it is an idea to take this down, and paint the rooms that are affected with a semi-gloss paint, or an eggshell paint so that they are easy to wash down. You could paint a nice pattern onto the walls using stencils, or freehand if you're arty!
You can also treat your walls with anti spore paint before applying the colour, but I find this is a waste of time in a major case such as mine, because it doesn't work!
In terms of flooring, i think that laminated floors are easier to clean, however I think that carpets keep the heat in better. Then again, carpets withhold the mould spores, and you definitely don't want to be exposed to these long term! Perhaps a nice insulated floor covered with laminate would be the ideal solution.
All in all, the fight against mould is constant. Unfortunately, you just need to form the habits of cleaning, and repeatedly checking for mould to make sure that it doesn't crop up in other areas of the home. Don't be embarrassed of your home, because you are doing all you can!
Try not to give in or feel helpless, and don't feel as though you are the only person with this problem. I know that in this country, it is an epidemic. Hopefully, this hub has gave a nudge in the right direction, towards a mould free home. I have learned loads about this in the last few years of living alongside it, and I may have left some stuff out, but if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I will answer them as best I can.
© 2012 Lynsey Harte