Mold and mycotoxins thrive in modern buildings — and according to Jill Carnahan, MD, who specializes in treating mold-related illnesses, indoor molds are more toxic than ever. “When our grandparents lived in log cabins and houses that were damp and moldy, they never got sick,” she notes. “But back in the 70s, manufacturers started putting fungicides in paint so mold wouldn’t grow, which killed off benign molds and created ‘super molds’ that produce a lot more toxins.”
Mold that builds up behind walls or in attics, basements, and flooring typically demands professional remediation, but these simple expert-backed steps can eliminate mold from the most common home hot spots:
Whip Up a Natural Mold-Killing Cleaner
Most women think of the borax that’s sold in supermarkets as a laundry detergent, but Dr. Carnahan gives it top marks for combatting mold and mycotoxins too. “Its alkaline pH creates an environment that’s inhospitable to mold,” she explains.
To mix a cleaner that’s suitable for use on household surfaces, dissolve 1/4 cup of borax in 1 quart of water, then transfer to a spray bottle.
Throw Open the Windows
Lack of airflow can cause indoor levels of mold to climb, so Carnahan suggests opening the windows whenever possible.
Also smart: Clean windowsills on a regular basis since condensation encourages mold growth. University of Arizona researchers found that mold flourished on windowsills in 88 percent of the homes they studied in a variety of climates, including Chicago, Atlanta, Phoenix, and Dallas.
De-Gunk Door Gaskets
In that same University of Arizona study, 83 percent of rubber seals on refrigerator doors were found to harbor mold, so Bill Rawls, MD, Suffered Long Enough: A Physician’s Journey of Overcoming Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue, & Lyme ($16.95, Amazon), advises cleaning them every month.
Similarly, rubber gaskets on front-loading washing machine doors are constantly exposed to mold-promoting moisture, so he recommends cleaning them monthly and keeping the door open between washings.
Upgrade Your Vacuum
If you don’t have a vacuum with a HEPA filter, Carnahan recommends getting one. While “regular” vacuum cleaners can suck up mold from your carpet and release it back into the air, HEPA filters trap 100 percent of mold spores.
Look for a vacuum with a built-in HEPA filter and other allergen-prevention features, like the Shark Rotator Professional ($229.99, Walmart), a model that features anti-allergen seal technology.
Keep Ducts and Filters Clean
Mold that originates in the coils and drains of your home’s HVAC system can spread through ductwork, spilling spores into rooms. To prevent that, Dr. Rawls advises having systems serviced annually.
Also smart: Replace your furnace filter with one that has a high Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating. “Filters higher on the MERV scale remove finer particles”, explains Carnahan. “When it comes to tiny mold spores, you want to aim for a MERV rating of 8 or higher.” And because ventilation systems in cars are another source of mold, Rawls suggests asking your mechanic to check the filters in your car’s ventilation system when you take your vehicle for maintenance.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.
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