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Category:  Home Improvement

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Controlling Mold Without Toxic Chemicals 

By Debra  Lynn Dadd

Mold can grow anywhere there are damp conditions--from a  windowsill to a bathroom, to a whole house. While the health  effects of most common molds are minimal, the chemicals we  commonly use to remove the unsightly growth can harm our  health. Mold cleaners can contain toxic chemicals such as  pentachorophenol, which can be harmful through skin  absorption or inhalation, and formaldehyde, which can cause  cancer as well as irritate eyes, throat, skin, and lungs.  Many mold cleaners carry the "DANGER" warning label and  state that they should be used only in a well-ventilated  area (next time you want to clean mold from your shower,  look around for the ventilation...)

Fortunately, there are ways to clean and even prevent mold  that are natural and safe for you and your family.

Mold is a living organism that needs certain conditions to  stay alive. A moist, dark, environment with little moving  air is perfect. Mold just can't live in an environment that  is dry, light, or breezy. The solution to any mold problem  of any kind is to introduce heat (to dry the moisture),  light, or moving air (such as from a fan).

I used to live in an old house in a forest, next to a creek,  in an area that has a lot of rainfall in the winter. One  year was particularly cold and rainy and so to conserve  heat, I closed the door on my extra bedroom, which contained  books and research papers, a bed, and out-of-season  clothing. By the end of winter, there was so much mold in  that room that it was literally growing on my clothing. My  cotton espadrille shoes and cloth-covered binders were  covered with blue fuzz. What to do? Mold was covering  literally everything!

In my situation, I opted to use heat. I put a portable space  heater in the room and closed the door. After several hours  I peeked in and steam was rising. It was like a sauna. After  twenty-four hours, however, all was bone dry and I was able  to brush visible mold (now a dry powder) from walls,  clothing, and other surfaces. The moral of the story: if you  live in a damp environment that doesn't get much sun, make  sure your heat circulates completely around the house, and  even though it may take more energy, it's needed to keep  your home dry and safe. Mold can do damage to material  possessions and human health, so its better to stay warm and  dry.

If you have just a small area of mold, use a hand-held dryer  to dry it up in just a few minutes.

You can prevent mold from growing by keeping areas dry. Find  the source of moisture and control it. Mold in an undersink  cabinet, for example, may require fixing leaky pipes.  Controlling mold in a bathroom may involve installing a  small space heater to run after a shower to dry out the  room, or using a fan for the same purpose. No moisture--no  mold. 

In a closet, hang garments with space between them to allow  for air-flow and install a small light, both to dispel  darkness and provide a little heat. If you live in a very  humid area, a dehumidifier may be necessary.

To remove mold from shower tile or other hard surface, mix  borax and water, or vinegar and water, in a spray bottle.  Spray it on and the mold wipes right off. Borax inhibits  mold growth, so wash down the walls in your bathroom with a  borax solution and just leave it on, or sprinkle borax in  damp cabinets under the sink. If you need something stronger  to remove stubborn mold, use hydrogen peroxide.

Steam cleaners--which clean, sanitize, and deodorize using  only hot water--also work great on mold.  You can purchase  small hand-held steam cleaners in the housewares department  of discount stores for about $50 or larger units on the  Internet.

Hailed as "The Queen of Green" by the New York Times, Debra  Lynn Dadd has been a leading consumer advocate for products  and lifestyle choices that are better for health and the  environment since 1982. Visit her website to learn more  about her new book Home  Safe Home, to sign up for her free  email newsletters, and to browse 100s of links to 1000s of  nontoxic, natural and earthwise products.


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