SURPRISING PLACES WHERE MOLD LURKS
For the 10% to 15% of Americans who are allergic to mold, inhaling (or ingesting) the spores can trigger symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, swollen eyelids, an itchy throat and wheezing. We all know that mold thrives in obvious places such as damp basements (Not so much a problem here in Florida), steamy bathrooms and storage areas with piles of old books and/or clothing. But there are plenty of other spots you’d never suspect that also can harbor these nasty fungal spores.
Hot Spot #1: Your coffeemaker. In one study, mold was found in the water reservoirs of about half of the tested drip-type coffeemakers. To prevent this, once a month, fill your coffeemaker’s reservoir with a 50/50 mixture of water and white vinegar. Turn the coffeemaker on, just as you would if you were brewing a pot of coffee. When the reservoir is half emptied, turn off the coffeemaker. Wait 30 minutes and then finish the brewing cycle. Rinse the machine by running plain, cool water through the cycle twice (or check manufacturer’s instructions). When you finish your coffee each day, allow the reservoir to dry completely by leaving the lid open.
Hot Spot #2: Your washing machine. Mold has no problem growing inside the rubber gaskets on the doors of front-loading machines. Those gaskets prevent water from pouring through the door, but water is often trapped inside the rubber folds. In all kinds of machines, detergent trays can stay damp between cycles, and the agitators of top-loading machines can be an area for mold growth, too. To prevent this from happening, keep the door and detergent tray open when you’re not using the washing machine. For front-loaders, wipe the inside of the gasket bottom with a rag or paper towel to dry it if no more loads will be done that day. If you think you have mold, run an empty cycle with the machine on its hottest setting, using a mixture of one cup of baking soda, one cup of bleach and one-half cup of powdered dishwasher detergent. Some front-loading washers have a separate cycle for washing the inside of the machine. If a top-loading washer smells musty, the agitator may have to be removed and the shaft and agitator cleaned.
Hot Spot #3: Under your refrigerator. Keep an eye on frost-free refrigerators and freezers because your freezer section isn’t actually frost-free. Frost is automatically melted during a heating cycle, and then the water accumulates in a pan at the bottom. The heat released from the condenser coils is supposed to speed up this evaporation, but often there is standing water in the pan. This water allows bacteria, yeast and mold to grow in the drip pan, and air movement can disperse these organisms into your kitchen. To prevent this from occurring, keep the condenser coils on your refrigerator clean by removing the grill at the bottom or back of the appliance and vacuuming the dust from the coils. A 36-inch Flexible Crevice Tool is available at Amazon.com for $12.99. Cleaning the coils once a year improves the efficiency of the refrigerator and can eliminate dust-containing pollen, mold spores and pet dander. Cleaning the drip pan might not be as easy with some refrigerator models because the pan is accessible only from the back of the fridge and/or may be attached to the condenser. Check the refrigerator manufacturer’s instructions for proper cleaning of the condenser coils and drip pan.
Hot Spot #4: The underside of the toilet tank. You probably don’t look, but moisture often lingers here and so does mold. If it’s easy enough, get on the floor (otherwise, use a mirror and flashlight) and take a look at the underside of each toilet tank in your home. If there’s mold, mix one cup of bleach with one gallon of water, open a window or door for ventilation and scrub the moldy areas with gloved hands. Clean these areas with a nonabrasive bathroom cleanser once a month during times of high outdoor humidity. You can also use a squeegee (found at home-supply stores) to remove moisture from the shower walls. A ceiling fan or oscillating fan that directs air at the shower walls will also help dry surfaces and reduce the threat of mold. Generally, small exhaust fans commonly used in bathrooms do not effectively remove moisture-but they do help, so if you have one, use it when showering and for about an hour afterward.
Hot Spot #5: The water reservoir of your Waterpik and toothbrush. The water reservoir of your Waterpik or other water-jet appliance may not dry out between uses, and mold may grow on rubber gaskets and/or the water reservoir. Toothbrushes generally dry too fast for mold to grow, but it can grow inside the hollow heads of electric toothbrushes. After each use of your Waterpik, remove the water reservoir, invert it and let it dry. To drain the pump, lower the sprayer in the sink so that it is below the level of the pump. Gravity will allow the water to drain. To clean electric toothbrush heads, soak in diluted bleach, 3% hydrogen peroxide or vinegar for a few minutes once a month.
Hot Spot #6: Your dehumidifier. Dehumidifiers are designed to remove moisture and help prevent mold. But condensed water accumulates on cooling coils and can lead to mold growth in any dust trapped on the cooling-coil fins. You should empty the water basin at least weekly. During hot, humid weather, empty it daily. A few times a year, wash the plastic filter in a sink, scrub the inside of the bucket with nonabrasive cleanser (use diluted bleach if it is moldy) and spray any dust off the fins with water. Before storing the dehumidifier when it’s not in use, wash and dry all of the parts carefully. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning the machine.
The Law Offices of Steven S. Farbman are always interested in the safety and well-being for the people of our community. As always please feel free to contact my office with any legal questions you may have. For more than 30 years, Steven S. Farbman has been helping members of this community who have been seriously injured due to the carelessness and negligence of others.