Dear James: I am remodeling my kitchen. It has a mold problem, now and my children are allergic to it. What should I do when remodeling it to make sure we do not have a mold/mildew problem there again? — Robyn T.
Dear Robyn: Mold and mildew can be more than just an unsightly problem throughout the house, particularly in kitchens and bathrooms. Many children and adults are highly allergic to mold and some types of mold can be toxic to humans.
If you have a severe mold problem and some of your children have unexplained physical ailments, discuss this with your physician to see if mold could be the culprit. Contact your local health department or the Yellow Pages to find companies which can test your home and identify the molds present.
Mold and mildew need several conditions to thrive inside a home. Unfortunately, mold likes to live in the same temperature ranges as us. Mold also needs a nutrient source which can be the slightest traces of almost any organic compound commonly found in a home.
The key condition, which you do have control over, is moisture. Mold requires moisture to live, so if you can maintain a low moisture level, you can reduce the amount of mold in your home. Every time you bring a piece of firewood indoors or your children run in with damp, muddy shoes, you are reintroducing molds into your home.
It is actually the mold spores which affect people. The spores can be thought of as mold “seeds”. Once they are inside your home, it is very difficult to totally eliminate them. Luckily they are fairly large particles, so they do not stay airborne for long after you plop down on the sofa or the floor. A good HEPA room air cleaner can help.
In order to keep the moisture under control in your new kitchen to reduce the mold, select countertop materials which have a continuous glossy surface. This will make it easier to wipe off and dry the countertops after you use them.
Avoid installing countertops with sharp inside corners. It is difficult to get the inside of the corner complete dry. You may be able to carefully dry it with a cloth over the tip of a knife, but I can guarantee your children will not go to the trouble.
Express your concerns about moisture control to the workmen. A kitchen sink is often set into a bead of plumber’s putty so it seals where it overlaps the countertop. Have them make sure they are very careful about creating a continuous seal.
Install a range vent hood (to the outdoors) which is the same width as the range top to draw cooking moisture from the kitchen. Ones which are overhead are more effective than ones which draw the air downward into or behind the range. Definitely spend a little extra and select a quiet one. If it is noisy, neither you nor your children will run it longer enough to be effective.
Every week or so, wash the kitchen surfaces where you experienced mold growth before, to kill the mold. There are cleaners available specifically for this purpose. A solution of one quart of chlorine bleach to one gallon of water is also effective for controlling mold and mildew.