How to prevent mould and fungal growth

In a previous article, we covered the “what” of mould and fungal growth. Specifically, the question of “What causes mould and fungal growth at home and in my office?”

In this article, we’re going to get into the ways to prevent mould and fungal growth. To recap, the three most important conditions needed for mould and fungal growth to occur are moisture, a lack of adequate airflow (or poor ventilation) and low levels of lighting. Out of these three, moisture is the easiest to control, and also the main factor in mould growth.

1) Take special note of previous problem areas and pre-emptively improve their mould resistance.

Previous problem areas can refer to areas or items that are frequently faced with moisture or humidity, such as a leaky or broken window, ceiling or rarely used storage room.

To fix leaky windows, repair or replace damaged external caulking. For ceilings, call in a professional to assess any water damage and fix them if necessary. For rarely used rooms you can install dehumidifiers that soak up humidity and moisture, reducing the opportunities mould has to grow.

It may seem like a lot of trouble and work to go through just to prevent mould, but mould is pervasive and can cause serious respiratory health issues and considerable damage to your property.

2) Remember that mould grows really fast.

A while back, I had a leaky washing machine, and noticed that while there was no mould yet, the problem had obviously been going on for a while.

Since I was leaving out the door on a short holiday, I decided that the mould could wait till I came home. When I got back, there was a very noticeable black trail of mould where the leak was occurring, and a mouldy smell in my kitchen. In the end, professional mould removers had to be called, costing me plenty of time and money.

For some numbers, under the right conditions, mould spores can germinate and grow in as little as 1-2 days. The spores can colonize in 3 to 12 days, and become visible in about 18 -21 days.

In less than a month, mould can gain a strong foothold in your home or office and spread to other rooms. It’s also important to note that the longer mould goes unchecked, the harder it will be to remove and you might have to get professional help if it’s bad enough.

3) Monitor humidity levels, especially here in Singapore.

The annual averages for relative humidity in Singapore range throughout the day from a maximum of 96 percent to a minimum of 64 percent, which makes Singapore one of the most humid places in the world. That makes Singaporean homes and offices a prime candidate for mould growth, and a moisture meter a good purchase.

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) recommends keeping indoor areas between 30 and 60 percent. If you don’t want to splurge on a moisture meter, another way of detecting excess humidity is keeping a lookout for potential problem areas in your house.

Symptoms of excess humidity include condensation (little water droplets) near windows, pipes or walls.

If you notice such symptoms, look for nearby sources of moisture, such as humidifiers or overwatered plants.

4) Improve ventilation in your home.

Do you often forget to reopen the windows in the living room after a heavy thunderstorm? That might be promoting mould and fungal growth, and many of us are guilty of that.

Improve ventilation by creating cross ventilation (pushing warm and dirty air out of the house and allowing fresher and cooler air to enter). This is ideal for if you have rooms with directly opposite windows, and reduces the need for air conditioning.

Additionally, you should let wet towels and laundry dry outside or use a dryer. Dishes should also be wiped thoroughly dry before being put away in their cabinets. On rainy days, wet umbrellas should ideally be left wide open outside to dry.

If you use the air conditioning on a regular basis, regular cleaning at least four times a year is recommended, to clear out blockups of dust and ensure well cleaned, cooled air that decreases humidity.

5)Heal or remove sick or dead plants.

We’ve always heard that plants are really beneficial for your rooms, and that’s true. However, that only applies when the plant is able to absorb the moisture in your room, and is not otherwise being preoccupied with disease or being dead.

Delicate plants with lots of leaves are highly susceptible to being infected by mould or fungal spores, and if you don’t intervene and stop the infection, the plant is likely to end up being an unwitting carrier for mould spores around your room or diseased beyond repair.

Check your plants regularly for suspicious black spots, or signs of general illness. When a plant is ill with an unrelated disease, it becomes more easily infected by mould. Hence, it’s really important to treat plant diseases as soon as you notice them or they might become mould hosts.

In that same vein, if your plant is beyond rescuing or is dead, throw it out as soon as possible. Dead plants are a haven for all sorts of nasty bugs (maggots, anyone?) and can give you not just a mould problem, but a full blown insect infestation.

6) Call a mould professional if in doubt.

If you’re really not sure if you have a mould issue or just want a general checkup of your home or office for problem spots, that’s what mould professionals are for. A mould professional can help you examine your home for any signs of existing mould, and warn you of potential problem spots that mould might grow in. They can also offer you additional tips and tricks on how to prevent mould especially here in Singapore. After all, as the saying goes, it’s better to be safe rather than sorry later on.

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