My Daily, Weekly, and Monthly “Cleaning” Routines for a Healthier Home
I have readers write to me almost everyday wondering about the importance of mold maintenance and cleaning their homes for mold on a regular basis. I am often asked, “Is all of that cleaning for mold you are doing necessary? I thought you lived in a safe home now with no water damage or elevated indoor mold levels? Why are you still doing so much mold maintenance to stay well?”
Before I give my answer, I want to say that I realize this post does not apply to everyone. Because I am a mold-allergy sufferer with an autoimmune issue (ulcerative colitis), my impetus for being so thorough with my home environment, especially when it comes to mold is probably quite different from the average person. I strongly believe that for allergy patients, the mold sensitive, the elderly, or for those with compromised immune systems, regular mold maintenance is essential to maintaining good health. I believe it may also be essential for young children with developing immune systems. I am not pushing what I do as the right thing for everyone in every home.
What I am saying is this: For a certain population of people, cleaning for mold and actively preventing it in their homes can make a HUGE positive difference in their overall health. And, when you consider that Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS) affects 50 million people, and that 80 million people in the US have a genetic predisposition for mold sensitivity, it makes sense that my sharing this information and what I have learned that works for me can help a lot of people.
That being said, my answer to the above question is always the same and will always be the same as long as I can see it for me and my family:
“Fungi are among the most widely distributed organisms on Earth and are of great environmental and medical importance. I consider mold maintenance just as necessary as daily supplements and exercise for keeping my body well. Most people don’t realize that the air you breathe is MORE influential than your genetics at determining your overall health. So, I do a lot of preventative things in my home to better my indoor air quality and to support my health.”
Because my health has already been negatively impacted by mold, I look at it this way:
Mold is everywhere. It is naturally occurring in outdoor and indoor environments and is all around us. No matter how mold-safe our home is, mold still finds its way inside and can be a disruptor to our health. Also, since I am highly sensitized to mold and environmental toxins, I don’t want to allow ambient mold levels in my home to build up to a point where they become a problem for me and for my family again. It is not necessary for me to feel sick to want to prevent something like mold from disturbing my health. I have also found, in my experience with recovering from mold- and environmental-related illness, that effectively preventing mold from entering and growing and cleaning my surroundings brings me some of the greatest success and constant positive upswings in my health. That alone is enough to keep me at it.
For some people, I realize that all of this cleaning for mold might seem a little obsessive. You might even be wondering how doing all of this can be a positive thing for life and for health?
While our health and our bodies are not always in our control, some things, like mold inside our homes, are. Mold maintenance is one inexpensive action I can take to keep toxin levels down and my immune system up. Also, it is entirely doable to successfully clean for mold in the type of situation where there are not dangerously high counts caused by water intrusion, water damage, or an infected HVC system. Please, make no mistake, what I am talking about here is mold maintenance, not mold remediation. If you have mold levels that are making you and/or your family members sick, you need bigger guns, which means leaving the home altogether, or moving until you can find the source of the mold, fix the source, and then properly remediate your entire home to get rid of both visible mold and invisible mold spores and mycotoxins. For those dangerous situations, simple mold maintenance will NOT suffice. Those situations will need professional help and repeat testing to make sure the problem has been solved. What being said, simply knowing what to do on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis to keep mold out of your home, and how to handle things when it does creep in will help to keep you well if you suffer from mold-related or environmental illness.
The basic categorical breakdown for all things mold maintenance fall into the following subheads: containment—stopping it before it enters, ventilation/filtration, moisture control, HEPA vacuuming, and cleaning with mold-specific products that non-toxically but effectively eliminate mold and take mold spore counts down.
Also, I do realize that many of these categories overlap, so I tried to separate them for simplicity’s sake.
I am classifying containment as stopping mold at your doorstep. When you are thinking about mold like it is an unwanted guest, you can do a lot to keep the indoor counts in your home way down. In order to “contain” mold, I suggest the following:
1.) Remove shoes before entering your home. The amount of mold, bacteria, pollens, dirt, etc. tracked inside on your shoes can be significant. Simply setting up cubbies, floormats, or containers to place shoes in on the main thresholds of your home can decrease indoor mold counts by over 50%. (For a more in-depth post about reducing the amount of dirt and bacteria you track inside, click HERE. For a post about cleaning your shoes for mold, click HERE.)
2.) Use EC3 Laundry Additive on all of your clothing, bedding, and washables in every load, every day. It is inevitable that mold and bacteria get into your clothing and hair. Just that simple action controls the flow of mold spores into your home and helps it not to get ingrained in your furnishings, mattresses, and pillows. Fogging with EC3 Mold Solution Concentrate is also an easy solution.
3.) Treat non-washable items worn outside your home with EC3 Mold Spray. Spraying the shoes, coats, gloves, and outerwear worn each day with EC3 Mold Spray prior to putting them away in our closets significantly helps control how much mold enters our home.
4.) Burn EC3 Air Purification Candles in the downstairs central coming and going rooms of your home for a few hours each week.
Mold spores come in from the outside straight into these rooms, so this helps get rid of airborne spores.
5.) Shower each night before getting into bed. Like I said before, mold and bacteria like to hitchhike on your clothing and hair. Cleaning and rinsing your skin and hair before bed and changing into clean clothing will increase the health of your home significantly. You will also notice that you do not get sick as often. I have spoken with numerous allergy sufferers who have tried this and find that they wake up with the congestion and puffy eyes that usually characterize their daily life during allergy season.
For the purpose of this post, I am going to broadly classify ventilation/filtration as adequate air flow and circulation throughout your home and adequate air cleaning devices to keep airborne dust, mold, VOC, and allergen counts to a minimum.
1.) Make sure you have the correct amount of supply and return vents for the size of your home. You need air blowing into your home and flowing out of your home at constant and adequate amounts. This also includes making sure your HVAC system is the correct power and size for your home’s square footage. If you are not sure and feel that the air is stuffy inside your home, have an HVAC or indoor air quality professional come out and inspect things for you. There may also be issues related to HVAC maintenance that need to be addressed as well.
2.) Install ceiling fans or move tower and box fans from room to room inside your home to keep the air constantly moving and circulating. This will keep things fresh and will also decrease humidity and moisture levels inside.
3.) Make sure all bathrooms are properly ventilated with fans expelling moisture to the outside of your home and not into your attic or basement.
4.) Make sure dryer vents stay clear of lint and debris and are vented to the outside of your home.
5.) Make sure your kitchen has an exhaust fan to remove the humidity, moisture and steam from cooking to the outside of your home. Kitchen exhaust fans are extremely important in controlling indoor moisture level. A fan that simply blows air will not do the trick. This fan also needs to be vented to the outside and not to your garage, attic or basement.
6.) Invest in high quality air filtration systems for your home. Units like the IQ Air and Molekule can be used to significantly reduce indoor particulate and mold counts. We have a unit upstairs and one downstairs. At the very least, I would suggest you one for your bedroom.
7.) Invest in quality HEPA filters for your HVAC and change them at least every 5 months. The cheap filters do not capture anything. This is a huge problem in many homes. For example, one indoor air quality professional told me that in 90% of the homes he inspected, people were using HVAC filters that pastry flour would pass through. He would actually show the homeowners in order to convey just how many extremely fine particles are not being removed from the air. If you also consider that a mold spore can be as small as 1 micron (for size comparison, a human red blood cell is 5 microns across, and a human hair is about 75 microns across), then you realize why it is so important to use high-quality HEPA filters. The HEPA filters help to remove 99.97% of dust, allergens, and mold from the circulating air.
8.) Consider whole-house filtration systems like the ones offered by Aprilaire and IQ Air, especially if you are highly allergic to molds. These systems start the filtration process at the source and have been proven to reduce dust and allergens by 80%. They are fitted directly to your HVAC system.
9.) Have your HVAC regularly cleaned and serviced. Do not discount the importance of this. You cannot expect your systems to run properly or to stay clean, if they are not maintained. Many times, investing in the seasonal maintenance package, which includes your filters and cleaning will save you money and headaches in the long run. It will also help you spot potential leaks or issues with your system before they manifest into bigger problems.
I just wrote a detailed post about this topic, so you can refer to that HERE for more details and specifics. The main points here are:
1.) Seal areas around ceiling lighting and doors that lead to the outside or non-conditioned spaces like attics and basements.
2.) Install whole-house dehumidification, or at the very least use a hygrometer to monitor and help you control humidity levels in your home. Keep humidity levels below 50%.
3.) Install bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans to remove moisture to the outside of your home.
4.) Check for interior condensation on windows during rains and drops in temperature. If this is occurring, have someone come out to your home to seal and fix the window frames, storm windows, or whatever is causing the imbalance that is leading to the condensation. Many times, controlling indoor humidity will take care of this issue.
5.) Seal and dehumidify crawlspaces.
6.) Keep conditioned basements warm and dehumidified in colder months.
7.) Make sure there is adequate natural ventilation to the outside from your attic. This will slow migration of moisture from the interior of the home to the attic. Make sure also that water and critters are not coming into your attic from the outside and nesting in or causing mold to grow in your insulation.
Investing in a good-quality HEPA vacuum is imperative for mold sufferers. (P.S. Stay tuned, because I have an upcoming post on what to look for and how to find a good everyday HEPA vacuum.) If there is one takeaway from today’s post, I hope that it is this: Frequent HEPA vacuuming of your home and the contents of your home can reduce mold counts significantly and will improve your health in noticeable ways. I suggest doing floors, rugs and hard surfaces one day per week, and upholstered furnishings, drapes, etc. on another day each week. If you move efficiently from room to room, you will find that you can knock it out fairly quickly. I have also tried doing everything upstairs one day and everything downstairs another day. Just schedule it like you do most everything in life. I promise you that you will feel the air quality difference in your home.
If you need a little scientific proof as far as HEPA vacuuming goes, let’s look to a recent study on the efficacy of HEPA vacuuming done in Taiwan:
Hospital workers were given HEPA vacuum cleaners and were told to HEPA vacuum their personal mattresses everyday for 8 weeks. The research staff took a vacuum dust sample of each mattress before the study started and then every 2 weeks during the study. The study found that the everyday HEPA vacuuming resulted in an 85% reduction in dust mites, endotoxins from bacteria and glucans from fungi—which is pretty substantial. The study subjects were then told to stop the daily vacuuming. When the mattresses were retested at the end of a 6-week period, the dust mite, endotoxin, and mold levels were right back where they were when the test began. This tells us unequivocally that HEPA vacuuming does reduce total contaminant load, but once maintenance is stopped, that load climbs rather quickly. Thus, HEPA vacuuming surfaces and contents is significantly helpful in reducing the toxic load inside your home. In my opinion, even if the mold levels are low inside your house, if something as simple as HEPA vacuuming frequently could bring harmful dust mite, bacteria and mold levels down by 85%, I am definitely going to do that.
Now, let’s consider foam and upholstered items. When you sit or lay down, you are pushing the air out. When you get up, the air sucks back inside. Overtime, the contaminants are drawn further and further into the materials. Yet another reason why preventative maintenance, like regular HEPA vacuuming and spraying/fogging things with EC3 Mold Spray is so important.
Mold Maintenance and Cleaning for Mold Sufferers
1.) Make our beds and mist with EC3 Mold Spray.
2.) Wash all loads of laundry with a gentle detergent and EC3 Laundry Additive.
3.) Spray shoes in cubbies by garage with EC3 Mold Spray at the end of the day.
4.) Spray bookbags with EC3 Mold Spray.
1.) HEPA vacuum furnishings, drapes, and rugs.
2.) Dust and wipe down hard surfaces with EC3 Mold Spray as needed.
3.) Burn EC3 Air Purification Candles for a few hours in the rooms, like our living room, den, and kitchen that get the most traffic.
4.) Steam mop our floors to kill mold and bacteria and to remove dirt and dust.
5.) Change all bed linens, wash with hot water, a mild detergent and EC3 Laundry Additive.
1.) Check under sinks and around toilets for leaks or moisture. Address any issues as needed.
2.) Go up into attic to check that all HVAC equipment and whole house filtration systems are working and there is no moisture intrusion or leaking in the attic.
So, there you have it. The bare-bones breakdown of what I do in our home to prevent mold from becoming a problem.
Any questions? Is there a topic you would like me to dive into a little more in depth? Please comment or email me to let me know.