Preparing your home for the winter season is essential. You might think mold and mildew do not grow in the cold winter months. However, your house is not immune to these fungi growing in areas with damp conditions.
Failure to address moisture in your home — even in the winter — could create a breeding ground for mold, mildew and other indoor pathogens. Discover more about mold and mildew, how to avoid these fungi from growing in your house this winter and why doing so is necessary.
What Are Mold And Mildew?
Mold and mildew are often used interchangeably. While they are closely related, there are some slight differences between them, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Mold describes all types of microscopic fungi capable of growing in filaments called hyphae. Different types of mold can grow on any organic matter, such as paper, leather, clothing and the walls, ceilings and floors of your home.
On the other hand, mildew refers to specific types of molds and fungi. It’s essentially mold in its early stages. It’s common to see mildew on shower walls, windowsills and areas with excess moisture.
How To Prevent Mold And Mildew During The Winter Months
Molds are usually not a major health issue, but removing them and mildew is a good idea if you spot either anywhere in your home. Here are a few ways to prevent mold and mildew from taking over your house during the winter months.
1. Keep Humidity Levels Down
If you live in a cold region, you probably crank up your heater or thermostat to stay warm. Warm air makes your home feel comfortable, but it makes the air dry. Many homeowners will offset this dryness by using humidifiers. It’s important to remember to regularly clean lint buildup from dryer vents.
These appliances add excess moisture to the air, creating more opportunities for mold to grow. If possible, keep your house’s humidity levels around 45% by putting your humidifier on the lowest setting. This helps keep your home cozy and mold-free.
2. Clean Problem Areas Frequently
Certain areas of your house are more prone to mold and mildew than others. These areas require cleaning to remove and prevent these invading substances. Here are some of the most common problem areas homeowners should check:
- Crawl spaces
- Near HVAC vents
- Under carpeting
- Near showers and bathtubs
- Walls and ceilings near sources of moisture, like clothing dryer vents or exhaust fans
In addition to mold and mildew forming inside, some areas of your home’s exterior could become problem areas. For example, if you fail to clean your gutters appropriately, water can pool and leak into your roof, offering an environment for mold or mildew to grow.
3. Install High-Quality Insulation
Insulation is a standard material homeowners use to fill gaps, cracks and holes in their houses to prevent air leaks. Reinforcing your insulation in the winter is a crucial step for proper home weatherization.
Make sure to use high-quality insulation for your home to reduce the likelihood of mold or mildew forming. Additionally, proper installation is essential, whether you do it yourself or hire a professional.
4. Open Windows And Doors Occasionally
Adding insulation — as mentioned above — is an excellent step to prepare for the winter. Although it’s cold outside, another way to prevent mold and mildew growth is to allow air to flow throughout your house.
Opening the doors and windows once a week for a few minutes allows fresh air to enter, preventing condensation. Additionally, add weather stripping to doors and windows to seal any cracks.
Health Effects Of Mold And Mildew
Aside from looking unsightly, the presence of mold and mildew can have other drawbacks. For example, the fungi can cause potential health problems for you and your family.
Molds produce allergens and irritants, which can cause allergic reactions in some people. Additionally, areas with high amounts of mold and mildew could negatively affect your home’s indoor air quality (IAQ).
People exposed to poor IAQ can experience a variety of physical symptoms:
- Sinus congestion
- Coughing and sneezing
- Headaches or migraines
- Mucus membrane dryness and irritation
Before mold and mildew spread throughout your house, it’s better to stop the fungi from forming in the first place.
Prevent Mold And Mildew Growth Throughout The Winter Season
Mold and mildew could make your home look lackluster, but the harmful effects on your health are another concern. The winter season does not mean mold and mildew cannot grow, so ensure you weatherize your house and take steps to prevent mold and mildew. Use the tips above to save yourself a future headache and time spent cleaning.
Jane is an environmental writer and the founder and editor-in-chief of Environment.co where she covers sustainability and eco-friendly living.