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Got mold? Try these tips to a healthier home

/ Source: TODAY contributor

Warmth, moisture, and plenty of food might sound like the ingredients to a perfect vacation spot, but they're actually the perfect recipe for the growth of mildew and mold. Mold is alive, but it’s not a plant or an animal. It’s a fungus. There are hundreds and hundreds of different strains of mold and many serve good purposes and have helped create medicines that we use every day. But harmful mold strains are the ones we don't want in our lives and when the levels are too high, that’s when our health can suffer. 

Twenty-five years ago mold in our homes was not that big of an issue. The reason was that  homes were not as tight and as efficient as they are now. As architects and builders we succeeded in lowering energy bills, but we also helped to create other issues, like mildew and mold. For most of us it’s the mildew and mold we see in the bathroom, especially where the tub meets the walls. This can be controlled by regular cleaning with a scrub brush and using the right caulking. Look for latex and silicon caulks with additives like Microban® or Bio-Seal™.  These additives are infused into the caulk when it’s manufactured and help reduce the growth of mildew and mold onto the caulk.

Cleaning mold and mildew requires some specialty products that go far beyond just chlorine bleach. While bleach can kill Ebola, it's not an effective mildew and mold cleaner on porous surfaces. A home mold cleaning kit called Mold Control (Scottsliquidgold.com), priced at around $30, is very effective. It’s  the same formula used by many professional mold removal companies in homes, hospitals and institutions. Mold Off™ mildew and mold cleaner was developed for marine applications, and as any boater will tell you, there is plenty of mildew and mold around the water. It's a non-bleach, biodegradable product that is very effective in cleaning and inhibiting future growth. (Moldoff.org) DampRid™ Mildew and Mold Blocker is readily available at hardware stores and home centers and works great on both hard and porous surfaces and will keep mildew and mold from coming back once cleaned (Damprid.com).

For areas that will not or cannot be cleaned, then testing is a necessary step. There are home kits like a mold test kit from Pro-Labs (Prolabinc.com) that cost around $10 and for an additional $30 you can send the samples to their lab to give you a scientific analysis of what you have. If a serious strain is found then you need to seek professional help. High mold levels can cause serious health concerns and need to be addressed. In the case of high mold levels, you'll need to find a licensed and certified mold inspector and remediation contractor. You can start your search at: Ashi.org and Moldpro.org.

Now the one thing that mildew and mold do not like is airflow. This is especially true in the bathroom, basement or crawlspace — three places where moisture levels can be quite high. And this excessive moisture can permeate throughout your home. In the bathroom having a good exhaust fan is critical, but more importantly you must let it run. The trick is to operate the fan at least 15-20 minutes after you bathe to get rid of all of the moisture. Broan® has figured out a way to make this fool proof with their Ultra Silent Humidity Sensing Fan. It’s a long name, but the fan senses the humidity at the ceiling level and turns on and won’t shut off until the moisture is gone. You can see it at: Broan.com

Basements and crawlspaces can be a breeding ground for excessive moisture that can lead to mildew and mold. While a dehumidifier can help, many times they are just not big enough and can be cumbersome to operate and drain. The SaniDry system from Basement Systems not only eliminates high moisture levels, it also cleans the air of potential mold spores, so your basement will finally be dry and it won’t smell. To find a professional in your area to install these units for a cost of around $1,700, go to: Basementsystems.com.

Finally if you are remodeling or building a new home there is an insulation product that can help keep mold from growing inside the wall cavities where you can't see it. It’s called DryRight™ from CertainTeed (Certainteed.com). The barrier on this insulation keeps moisture from entering the cavity from inside your home, but if it enters from the outside from a breach in a window, door or siding, the moisture will be allowed to wick out and not create a dark, moist cavern for mildew and mold to grow. The cost increase is minimal compared to regular insulation.

These tips can help you control the mildew and mold in your home. Just keep in mind that when using any of the cleaning products you should follow the instructions on the bottles. Wearing gloves, eye protection and in some cases a respirator can keep you safe while using these.

If you have more questions you can visit TODAY home contributor Lou Manfredini at: