How to Reduce Mold and Prevent It from Coming Back in Your Home

published Aug 22, 2023
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Old dirty bathtub, shower curtain, and faucet in an apartment bathroom
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Summertime is rampant with moisture, from humidity outdoors to air conditioning indoors, which is mold’s optimal condition and environment in which to grow and spread. While warmer seasons signify a higher prevalence of mold, now is a great time to start implementing ways to reduce mold in your home and ultimately prevent it for good.

When I first discovered that September was Mold Awareness Month, I figured it’d be best to reach out to an expert and get some helpful tips. Michael Rubino, mold and air quality expert and founder of HomeCleanse, shared his insight on how to reduce mold growth to keep your home a clean, safe, and healthy sanctuary all year long. 

The Effects of Mold

According to Rubino, most people often fail to consider the impact that mold can have on our health and well-being. Mold, which is a type of fungus found in all parts of the world, reproduces by creating and releasing microscopic spores into the surrounding area. These tiny spores, he says, will ride the air current aimlessly and land on whatever surface they bump into.

“The average individual breathes in 20,000 breaths a day and spends around 90 percent of their time indoors,” says Rubino. “Every time you’re in that indoor environment, you’re breathing air and touching surfaces. If there are high levels of toxins in the home, more and more contaminants are entering the body, which can cause an array of health problems including trouble breathing and a compromised immune system.”

Credit: Sarah Crowley/Apartment Therapy

How to Reduce and Prevent Mold

Rubino shares how to best reduce mold growth and prevent it from coming back.

Step 1: Maintain your HVAC air filters.

Rubino calls the HVAC the “lungs of the home,” as they filter out air and any other particles, so servicing the HVAC system bi-annually is essential to help avoid mold growth and other issues.

“Condensation can build up in the unit with temperature change, allowing hidden mold to grow. An experienced technician should thoroughly clean the coil and ensure the blower, furnace, and cabinets are clean so they can operate correctly,” he says. “Overall, maintaining your HVAC requires two steps: switching to the highest-rated MERV filter possible for the specific HVAC system, helping eliminate microscopic contaminants like mold spores; and changing these filters on time, checking the manufacturer’s instructions on when to replace them.”

Additionally, he recommends regularly maintaining AC window units, which can attract even more dirt, debris, and bacteria from outdoors. While every machine is different, he suggests cleaning it at least twice a year, once before and after the highest-use season; replacing the filters on time, and turning on the humidity setting. 

Step 2: Clean regularly — especially in high-moisture areas.

Give yourself and everyone else in your home daily, weekly, monthly, bi-annual, and annual cleaning schedules so you can stay on track with mold prevention, recommends Rubino. For example, cleaning up water and condensation around your bathroom sink and shower should be a daily task, cleaning the tops of door frames and cabinets can be done monthly, and filter maintenance can be done a couple of times per year. 

Vacuum your mattress’ entire surface; reduce clutter so that there are fewer surfaces for particles like mold spores and other contaminants to collect; keep appliances clean and dry so that they function properly and avoid microbial growth; actively throw away spoiled food; keep your kitchen sponge dry and replace it every few weeks; keep grout and caulk clean; deep clean your showerhead at least once a month, or more frequently if you live in a hard water area; separate the shower curtain and liner to dry after showering; and properly hang up towels, washrags, loofahs, and bathmats,” says Rubino.

When it comes to cleaning products, he warns against using bleach, as “it fails to support our indoor air quality, and does not properly handle microbial growth in a home.” Instead, he recommends the following:

  • Benefect Decon 30 Disinfectant Cleaner is a multi-surface natural cleaner used to neutralize surface contaminants using an active ingredient from thyme oil.
  • EC3 Laundry Additive & Mold Spray is a non-toxic spray that uses citrus seed extracts and tea tree oil to treat mold and its byproducts.
  • A HEPA vacuum cleaner, which uses an ultra-fine filter to remove tiny particles without releasing them back out.
  • Microfiber towels have great moisture retention and eliminate small particles including mold spores due to their production of static electricity and tightly intertwined fabric.

“We can’t put a bubble around our homes, so cleaning regularly, including appliances, will not only promote healthier indoor air quality, but also reduce the opportunities for microbial growth to develop,” he says. “As the saying goes: ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’” 

Step 3: Keep moisture levels low. 

Mold can grow in as little as 24 to 48 hours on a wet surface, says Rubino, so working to eliminate as much moisture as possible is a key aspect of preventing microbial growth. Reducing moisture is the ultimate key to preventing mold growth and its spread.

“The ideal humidity level in a home should be between 35 and 50 percent. When the humidity is too high, it can cause microbial growth, poor indoor air quality, and structural issues,” he says. “In addition to investing in a hydrometer to monitor indoor humidity levels and keep moisture low, you can also keep windows and doors closed when the AC is on, as warm outdoor air combined with chilly indoor air can create condensation; turn on the exhaust fan and crack a door or window while showering; turn on fans to increase air circulation; avoid leaving wet clothes in the laundry; clean standing water right away; fix leaks as soon as possible; and reduce carpeting throughout the home, which is notorious for retaining moisture.”

Step 4: Invest in air purification.

Air purifiers are a useful way to reduce particles in the home by removing airborne contaminants so that they’re not circulating through indoor spaces and making their way into your body. Rubino suggests investing in one that removes the maximum number of contaminants possible.

“The best option is to invest in a whole-home air purifier. These systems are installed at the home’s point of entry and will effectively remove contaminants from the air so that the HVAC system can run efficiently,” he says. “This filters out particles for the entire home, eliminating the space requirements that smaller units have. As a bonus, they also offer a layer of protection for the HVAC itself by eliminating contaminants before they enter the system.”