Effective strategies to minimize mold

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Charity Kuahiwinui

Upon relocating to Portugal, new residents inevitably encounter a common and unifying challenge: managing moisture levels within their homes. Over time, mold steadily creeps in to become unwelcome house guests, thriving in environments where moisture persists and ventilation is lacking. Understanding this fundamental principle is crucial in developing effective strategies for combating problems that result from excess moisture.
The question is what tips moisture levels from being pleasant to becoming problematic? The ideal amount of indoor humidity falls into a range of 40 – 60%. (source: WorldData.Info 2024) Over 60% fosters the growth of mold which can lead to allergy and respiratory problems. Under 40% humidity can cause discomfort, itchy skin, and irritated nasal passages.

Practical tips for moisture management
Avoid plastic storage: mold thrives in enclosed, moist environments. Instead of storing items in plastic, opt for breathable containers or open shelving.
Ventilated wardrobes: arrange wardrobes to facilitate air circulation, preventing moisture buildup. Don’t fill them to the brim. Air out storage spaces daily when the weather allows.
Utilize moisture absorbers: consider using passive dehumidifiers in closed spaces. Place containers of salt or specialized moisture-absorbing products in closets, dresser drawers, and storage bins to combat excess humidity.
Opt for anti-mold paint: apply anti-mold paint on interior walls to prevent mold growth, especially in high-humidity areas like bathrooms and kitchens.
Promote natural ventilation: even during winter, opening windows for 15 – 30 minutes every day allows fresh air to circulate, helping to reduce humidity levels indoors.
Good ventilation is key to minimizing spore growth. The habit of sealing doors and windows tightly during colder seasons only elevates indoor humidity levels, leading to condensation and mold growth.

Technological solutions for effective moisture control
Beyond the practical options for controlling mold, there are several effective technological approaches that can be taken to help you win the battle against moisture.

Dehumidifiers: invest in dehumidifiers to extract excess moisture from the air, particularly in areas prone to dampness. In our home, we run one in each bedroom, the bathroom, and the common area and during most of the year. In winters, we typically empty at least one liter of water from each device every single day. Of course, we try to use the water extracted from the air for plants and other household needs.
Air Conditioning with dehumidifier setting: modern HVAC systems equipped with dehumidifier settings offer comprehensive moisture control while providing heating or cooling as needed. Minimizing the amount of moisture in the air creates a feeling of warmth even without raising the temperature.
Bathroom ventilation systems: add a fan that exhausts outside your home in the bathroom to minimize moisture buildup after baths and showers.
Electric wardrobe heaters: install ceramic heaters in closets to maintain optimal temperature and prevent moisture buildup on clothing and stored items. These devices require very little energy but can make a big difference for fabrics.
Double-glazed windows: upgrade to double-glazed windows to enhance insulation and reduce condensation on glass surfaces.
Underfloor heating: implement underfloor, radiant heating systems to regulate indoor temperatures and minimize moisture accumulation in flooring materials.

Remediation techniques for mold-affected surfaces
When mold does appear, prompt action is essential to prevent further spread.

Treatment methods include:
Mold removal spray: popular mold elimination sprays can be found at local hardware stores that reduce the amount of visible mold and prevent it from returning.
Vodka or alcohol sprays: spraying affected surfaces with alcohol-based solutions effectively kills mold spores without the risk of spreading.
Vinegar water: a solution of vinegar and water serves as a natural disinfectant, effectively eliminating mold on various surfaces.
Bleach: be careful when using bleach as it may inadvertently spread spores.
By understanding the root causes of mold growth and implementing practical solutions, you can create a healthier, more comfortable living environment.

References: WorldData.Info (2024) available at www.worlddata.info/europe/portugal/climate-lisbon. Accessed 9th April 2024. ■

Acknowledgements: Eduardo Roisman (Artist) Lucy Grey (Feature editor)