We all know that Hong Kong can be hot, humid and damp, and all of us have discovered mold at one point or another in our homes. Humidity can trigger allergies, cause arthritis to flare up, and cause mold to form in and around the home. Mold is even more dangerous to your health. Nasal stuffiness, throat irritation, coughing or wheezing, eye irritation and even skin irritation can all be brought on by mold. In a study conducted by the IOM, sufficient evidence was found linking exposure to damp environments to respiratory tract symptoms, coughing, and wheezing in otherwise healthy people.
As mentioned in our Blog post ‘What you can do to escape air pollution in your home’ it is crucial that we do everything possible to keep our indoor environment a clean, healthy space. This article addresses what mold is, why it occurs and how to tackle it.
Mold is a common type of fungus that thrives in moist warm conditions, and steamy Hong Kong is a natural haven for these airborne spores. Mold infestations can manifest themselves suddenly during periods of temperature fluctuation, but in a subtropical climate like Hong Kong there is always a risk of your home or office being affected by this pesky invasion.
Before you think about tackling or preventing this unpleasant visitor, here is what you need to know about mold.
Mold or mould is a living organism that belongs to Fungi. Although some fungi appear plant-like, they are neither plant nor animal. Mold is heterotrophic, meaning it cannot make its own food like plants do. Mold must gain nutrients from other organic substances, such as water, cotton, leather or wood.
Mold manifests itself in a variety of colours, black white, grey, green and orange.
Mold needs four conditions to thrive: moisture, food, correct temperature and spores. A spore is a minute, usually one-celled reproductive unit capable of asexual reproduction.
Mold can grow on walls, ceilings, windows, floors, furniture, upholstery, within insulation, in air ducts, on clothes, and in basements and bathrooms. It will occur in places with a lot of moisture, like around water leaks, windows and pipes.
You can prevent mold in several ways.
Control Moisture and Humidity
Most molds need 1-2 days to begin to grow. Don’t leave wet clothes or linens lying around. Hang laundry immediately and clean up spills straight away. This is why it’s necessary to invest in a good dehumidifier.
Monitor humidity indoors. The EPA recommends indoor humidity to be between 30 and 60 percent. Measure humidity using a hygrometer, especially during the most humid months of the year.
Common signs of mold include cracked or peeling paint, discoloration and bulging. Also, if you notice condensation in your home regularly it means that a lot of moisture is present and mold is a possibility.
If your home has higher moisture levels, size up your flat and invest in a dehumidifier. A standard-use dehumifier is 10L, for larger apartments or multiple rooms it may be best to invest in more than one.
Unfortunately, sometimes it’s too late for prevention.
Inspect your home regularly for leaking pipes, taps or showers. Have them fixed by a professional as soon as possible, and ensure that all water is mopped up and absorbed immediately.
Cooking dinner, taking a shower or doing a lot of laundry can greatly increase moisture levels. Vent appliances that produce moisture to the outside. Use AC units and dehumidifiers, checking their functionality and cleaning them every three months. Don’t hang your clothes too close together; allow them the space needed to keep odors at bay. If you have the space install a ceiling mounted dehumidifier in your laundry room. We have successfully installed Drymasters before.
2. Tackling the problem
The SCMP recommends that if black spots have already begun to appear, wash the area with a mild solution of multipurpose cleaner.
Don’t have multipurpose cleaner, or prefer a natural approach? We recommend mixing 100ml white vinegar, 50ml baking soda and 2 liters water as a homemade alternative. Put into an atomizer and use as you would a store-bought cleaner. Don’t worry about the smell of the vinegar, when it dries the odor goes away!
A stronger chemical isn’t necessary, the main goal is to remove mold from the surface. Using a soft bristled brush or sponge, scrub the blackened area lightly, then wipe off but do not rinse.
Mold found in wardrobes can also be treated with vinegar. Using the same solution, dip a cloth in the liquid and wipe the affected surfaces. It may look like the mold is completely gone, but some spores may remain. Treat these with undiluted vinegar and allow to dry. Then carefully rinse the areas with cold water, and towel dry.
· Move your wardrobe out slightly from the wall to prevent condensation seeping in
· Never hang damp clothes in your wardrobe, always dry in an open space first
· Don’t cram your wardrobe full, leave space between each item
Sealing and Grouting
Mold growing in bathrooms is common, due to the amount of moisture produced from showering and drying clothes. After cleaning all surfaces thoroughly, you need to prevent the problem from coming back. If the sealant in your bathroom has developed mold that cannot be removed it may have to be removed and replaced. If you are a DIY kind of person here is a quick guide:
You will need: a Stanley knife, some standard anti-mold sealant available in most hardware stores, washing up liquid, an old scrubbing brush and a strong solution e.g. denatured alcohol
· Use the Stanley knife to break the entire seal away from the wall and pull away in one long strip.
· Scrape out as much of the leftover sealant as you can, then use a solution to break down the residue leaving a smooth clean surface.
· Ensure the area to be resealed is dry before applying the sealant in a long thin bead. Apply as evenly as possible.
· Using a little washing liquid on your finger to prevent sticking, run it along the sealant smoothly.
These simple steps can make all the difference. Be mindful of mold all year round, but especially in the most humid months of the year (April – September)
Keep your home well ventilated, don’t leave wet things lying around and ensure there is no trapped air in any cupboards or wardrobes.