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This blog started as a way for me to share my recipes + culinary adventures, tips for vibrant health + happiness, thoughts on the latest developments in nutritional medicine + the low down on the Sydney wholefoods scene and beyond...

How to keep your home (especially wardrobe!) mould-free in humid and damp weather

Becca Crawford

Last year I wrote a comprehensive and lengthy blog on my harrowing experience with mould in my home and how I tackled that beast. Restoring my home and health took months and months of very expensive structural building work, remediation work on the contents of my house and an in-depth study of what caused it and how to create an environment that prevents it from growing back. 

Due to the most humid and damp weather Sydney has experienced on record this month, mould has been rearing its ugly head even in typically mould-free homes. I have had numerous phone calls and emails from people asking for help. Last weekend when I did a routine monthly scan of my wardrobe (the one place where mould tends to grow in my house) to my horror I discovered it growing on some shoes, a bag and 2 leather jackets. After all of the work, energy and money I spent last year to mould-proof my house I was totally guttered and disheartened to discover mould growing yet again! What the??!??! 

After an intense week of numerous emails, texts, conversations with my go-to panel of experts and my own research, here is what I have learnt that I felt incumbent to share:

1. Mould growing in wardrobes, especially in damp and humid weather, is VERY VERY VERY common...

So if you find it growing there, do not throw your hands up in despair as a failure. Even though it might be common, you still need to swiftly take action to remove it, as mould is a biotoxin and can cause health to unravel (congestion, sore throat, mucous, headaches, and coughs are often tell tale signs of mould toxicity).  The purpose of this blog is not to discuss how to remediate mould i.e. how to physically get the mould off property and belongings. The purpose of this blog is to discuss how to create an environment that will prevent the growth of mould in non-ventilated areas in humid and damp conditions that are prone to mould. In terms of how to remove mould from home and contents, I discussed that in my previous blog. But the short of it is that you need to remove mould in a very particular way and typically involves wearing gloves, a mask and sometimes a suit. How you remove the mould depends on what surface it is growing on (e.g. hard surfaces need to be HEPA vacuumed first), then wiped down with particular solutions (typically 80% white vinegar, 20% water solution), and then thoroughly dried with a dry cloth, and being mindful not to spread the mould to the rest of the house (i.e. quarantine the room until the mould has been cleared to avoid spreading the spores to other rooms). 

2. Find the root cause of the mould

Even though the cause of the mould in my present case wasn’t structural (i.e. there was nothing more I could have done to the actual physical structure of my property to have prevented it e.g. no leaks, adequate drainage etc), the cause was poor ventilation (air flow) in that bedroom, combined with extremely damp and humid conditions. These 2 conditions combine to create a perfect breeding ground for mould, especially on sandals (where human sweat is found in trace amounts on the soles of the shoes), leather garments and bags. 

3. Ventilate and dehumidify like all hell

If poor ventilation in a room is an issue (which is often the case with wardrobes which by definition are small confided closed dark spaces) then here are a few things you can do when the weather is especially damp and humid:

  • Keep wardrobe doors open (or insert mesh grills on them) to increase ventilation and light to the area. I found it easier /cheaper to just keep the wardrobe doors open 24/7 as no one ever goes into that room and sees the contents of my wardrobe other than me and my kids.
  • Invest in a dehumidifier. The one I recently bought is this one here upon the recommendation of my integrative GP Dr Min Yeo. It is rated #1 by Choice.  
  • Run an air purifier right near the wardrobe or other affected areas. Be sure to purchase one that kills mould spores. The one I have is AirOasis from the USA but even better are Innovaair (and they are Australian made!). 
  • Leave windows open as much as possible (only if there is no chance of rain coming in!). 
  • Have a portable fan blowing directly into the affected area or a ceiling fan going on low 24/7 or as much as possible to circulate the air. This is important when it is raining and you can’t leave windows open to get air flow naturally. 
  • Throw in a few packets of moisture absorbers into the bottom of your wardrobe or affected cupboard (especially on shoes and leather garments) for good measure. I buy mine here
  • Move storage of shoes and leather bags to higher up in the wardrobe if the lower part of the wardrobe is where mould tends to grow due to rising damp. If you live on a bed of rock or sand or a sloping block then chances are that you have metres and metres of dampness under your house. Unless you pick up your house, lay a plastic sheet on the ground and put the house back on it, that moisture is going to rise up from the ground hence why (all other things being equal) mould tends to grow on the floor or bottom of walls of buildings. So some re-organisation of your wardrobe might be in order. 
  • Make sure items are completely dry before putting them away. I suggest leaving sandals out of cupboards after wearing them for a good 24 hours to ensure that any remnants of sweat are gone before putting them away in a cupboard or wardrobe. Ditto for jackets or coats that have been rained on. Leave them hanging up in a dry airy part of the house if you can’t leave hang them outside due to rain. If something is not dried within 48 hours or stays wet/moist for 48 it can be prone to mould. 
  • Certain essential oils like Thieves by Young Living are great for killing mould but do not use an essential oil diffuser in a room that contains mould or has poor ventilation as it will simply add moisture to the room. You can get the benefits of the essential oils in other ways like dropping some Thieves oils on tissues or cotton wool balls and leaving them scattered in your wardrobe. Once the room is mould-free and well ventilated you can start diffusing again. Young Living does sell vapour-less diffusers that do not diffuse any moisture into the air made specifically for rooms that contain mould. You can look into buying one of those. 

4. Routine inspections of wardrobes and other mould-ripe areas is critical

Fortunately, I was able to nip this little outgrowth in the bud as it was only 1 months worth of mould (as opposed to years) due to regular examinations of my wardrobe.

In terms of your own health if you have been exposed to mould here’s what I would suggest to clear it from your system ASAP:

  • Do not spend any time in a room that contains mould other than the minimum amount of time to clear the mould (wearing mask, gloves and possibly a suit). This means closing all of the doors and windows to that room to prevent the spread of mould spores to other parts of the house and sleeping in another room until the mould is fully cleared. It might even mean moving out of your home until the mould is cleared depending on the severity of the problem and your sensitivity to mould (you can get tested for the mould sensitivity gene by an integrative GP). 
  • Rub a couple drops of the Thieves blend of essential oil on the soles of your feet every day and dilute it in a carrier oil (like olive oil or coconut oil) to rub on your back, chest and back of neck (not on face). Thieves essential oil is a special blend of essential oils that has been university tested to kill mould and remove it from the body. 
  • Get a herbal tonic from a trusted naturopath like Anthia Koullouoros from Ovvio that has immune boosters, anti fungals, mucolytics and anti inflammatory actions.

In short the way to tackle mould is 3 fold:

1. Find the cause (is it structural or poor ventilation or combo of both?)
2. Remediate (get rid of the mould properly)
3. Manage your home in such a way to make it as well ventilated and humidity-free as possible as I have outlined in this blog and in my previous blog. 

If you need help with finding the cause of, and/or ways to remediate, mould in your home, I highly recommend that you book in a home health consultation with qualified building biologist Kelly Abeleven from Building Biology NSW. I have used Kelly extensively in my home over the past few months and highly recommend her services. She is a doctor for your home and examines and tests for mould, moisture levels, air quality, ventilation, and building materials used in your home (she can also test for levels of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, EMR too). Her partner is a builder, so together they can assess, remediate and if need be rebuild. 

I too am always here and contactable as a sounding board and go-to person if you need advice or a sympathetic ear. I hope you found this blog helpful and here’s to wishing for clear skies soon!