Healthy Homes Deserve To Be Protected

Whether you’re totally free of mold — or just partially free — the path is the same. Protect what’s yours!

Nobody else will protect and maintain our space like we can. We’re the ones with passion, care, and a dream for healthy environments, and for healthy buildings.

It’s on us! It’s our responsibility and our opportunity to caretake well — and to reap the rewards, for ourselves and our loved ones.

Before you moved, you inspected the new place — keep inspecting it! You will learn much more after moving in than before.

It’s only a matter of time before a challenge will pop up. Be ready for it. Address it quickly.

Develop great habits. Ones that will serve you, the house, and your loved ones’ well-being as they interact and reside in your home.

Now that you’re free(-er) of mold, the old adage was never more true:

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”

Perhaps we could update the saying:

“$100 of prevention is worth a hundred thousand dollarsof mold remediation.”

In the endless litany of mold nightmares (just go to any mold group online — you’ll see them), one hundred thousand is a conservative figure. An ounce of prevention can be worth more than that.

We don’t live in simple times. Homes aren’t made of brick and stone, at least not in America. Even if there’s a masonry facade, wood is the structure.

And they aren’t simple. Our homes have endless systems: Windows, doors, roof lines, HVAC, plumbing, machines. Each is capable of failing, and is susceptible to poor installation.

With each problem, water finds a way into our homes.

It’s a complex task to live in modern buildings, these days. Staying on top of maintenance, and doing regular inspections of your home can be the ounce of prevention that saves you down the road.

1

Believe

To guard your house is a matter of belief: About its importance — that it’s a worthwhile use of your time.

In other words, required is a belief that good will come from this endeavour.

And maybe it’s more than that: A belief about your future — that good is attainable, that healthy living spaces lie ahead of you. You just need to align with that thought, and act on it.

This belief — not fear — inspires action. What sort of action? Perhaps what we discuss here in this Mold Protocol!

Keep inspecting! Watch for leaks and moisture intrusion.

Keep things clean (as much as feels right to you).

Keep a notion of reducing risky belongings.

Keep a spirit of breaking free!

In doing these steps, you can
guard your home!

2

A Good Idea:

‘Decontaminate’

When You come Home
Try to remove contaminated clothing immediately upon entering your clean home.

Don’t let this seem burdensome. It’s such a good idea. It’s worth exploring, but only if it feels good.

Here’s the slightly inconvenient reality:

Everywhere we go, there are mold spores. Stores, cars, other people’s houses, the gym.

Why? Because we live in an organic, natural world.

Anywhere there is moisture, there’s going to be fungus — living and growing and reproducing.

And that reproducing part is where the risk comes in.

Most places we go, the buildings have air conditioning. Work, homes, cars, the gym — there are vents. Not all of them are well-maintained. A majority aren’t. With vehicles, it’s almost impossible to maintain the HVAC. Everywhere we go, spores are flying out of vents and sticking to us.

Other people’s homes are often great examples of this. The neighbor with a 15-year old HVAC system that’s barely been maintained — and certainly has never had a UVC light installed (they are still pretty new to the industry). That neighbor’s spores could come to your house, on your clothing.

This is not worth a spirit of alarmism! This is just (the slightly inconvenient) reality. It’s a good idea to have a plan.

So… how do we prevent cross-contamination?

The first (optional) idea is to make a habit of changing clothes when we get home.

You don’t have to each time. Maybe identify more risky places, and change clothes after visiting those higher risk buildings.

It might be a good idea to change clothes if you’ve been doing yard work, or rolling in the grass!

Or if your workplace is presumably moldy — don’t bring “work’s spores” to your house.

Or perhaps if your car seems moldy, itself, consider changing clothes after you’ve been in the car.

A second idea: Make a habit of showering off when we get home.

This is an in-between step, added in the middle of changing clothes.

This is also an old idea from the mold community. To protect your new, clean space, don’t just change clothes — rinse off your body. Soap may not even be necessary, just a rinse. Remove those spores, get them off your face, arms, and hair, and send them down the drain. It only costs a few minutes, but rewards you with a fresh, clean feeling — and none of today’s spores on your furniture.

A third idea: Wipe down belongings — if they travelled with you.

Wherever you go, purses, notebooks, cell phones (and more) go, too.

Books are notoriously good at capturing spores inside their many pages, as are purses. If it feels good to do so, be mindful of this fact.

Keep It Light

Whatever you do, find your comfort zone — how much effort do you wish to use to decontaminate when coming home?

There’s no sense in stressing yourself out. Do this if it feels right to you.

A good system can make this second nature. If it’s easy to disrobe when you walk in (with a laundry basket, mud room, etc), then stress levels don’t have to go high. Simple steps can even make it rewarding, and lower stress — by giving you peace of mind. Quick showers and dirty clothes in the hamper can leave us feeling fresh and revitalized!

Another variable: If your house has hard surfaces throughout, it’s a lot easier to clean.

But if your house has lots of fabrics and carpets, maybe you decide protect it a little more vigilently.

Moldy Church Pews

A couple of years ago, I was made aware of a local church that responded to covid-19 by opening its doors during services. A few months later, there was an outbreak of mold all over the pew cushions.

Why would that happen? Well, two main reasons.

The first reason is that this happened during the humid summer months. An essential component of air conditioning is to remove moisture from indoor air. Keeping cooled, dry air inside is essential to keeping humidity low. If we bring in too much fresh air at once, we can’t control humidity any more.

The second reason is how clean the pew cushions likely were — or weren’t. Weeks or months (or longer) of dirt, skin cells, and dust will always collect in any fabric or cushion. With people shuffling in each week, mold spores are inevitibly brought from all the houses of the congregants, as well as their cars, and from nature outside.

With enough organic matter in the cushions, (dust, dirt, skin cells, and even the cushions themselves), and humidity (from opening the doors), a high spore count could lead to rapid, seemingly overnight, mold growth — directly on (and in) the pew cushions.

3

Pre-Owned Items

Shiny new objects are one thing. But what about old, vintage items? Or even just second-hand, used goods?

Ultimately, whenever we buy something new, we can’t know where it’s been, what it’s been exposed to, the health of the shop/factory it was made in, and, therefore, what it might bring into your home.

Therefore, perhaps it’s wise to be cautious about new objects — especially ones that are new to us, but pre-owned.

We just can’t know where used objects have been. Maybe they lived in a damp garage for the past two years. Maybe in a decrepit storage unit. Or perhaps in someone’s bathroom.

Perhaps a dog slobbered all over an object — or worse. If you’re as “reactive” to rodents as I am (after living with mice for nearly a decade, I’ve now identified them as a major contributor to sick building syndrom for me and many others), we don’t want to accept items from a house or warehouse with mice issues.

Especially risky are antiques. Why? They’ve had more time for something to go wrong. They are frequently neglected — forgotten about in old garages, sheds, and attics.

As fantastic as some antiques can be, they are usually equally unknowable when it comes to their history, and whether they are capable of spreading mold spores and fumes to your house.

“As children — in India — we never wore our outside shoes in the house.  Nobody did.  That would be considered highly unsanitary.  When we got home, we’d leave our shoes at the door, go to the bathroom and wash our feet in the bathtub.  Then we’d walk around the house in either clean bare feet or slippers. The floors were hard and cleaned every single day.  We often ate meals sitting on the floor, our plates right there on the clean floor.”

Pratibha Ghare
5

MYTH:  Modern Life is Sterile

There is a popular idea circulating these days called the “hygiene hypothesis.”

It suggests that modern humans are killing the microbes in the environment (via chemicals), and as a result, our gut microbiomes and immune systems are weakened due to being uncer-exposed to these microbes.

This modern myth is a misunderstanding of the facts.

Are Buildings Really Sterile?

The first wrong assumption — that buildings are sterile — is a big one!

The truth is, modern indoor environments are nowhere close to sterile.  

Microbes (bacteria, fungi, and viruses & more) are everywhere, on every surface. They are continually growing and spreading.

The big revelation to me — about just how populated our buildings are with microbes — comes from a landmark study about sterility and hospitals.

It turns out, despite heavily filtered air and frequent, entire-room sanitization — much more cleaning than residential homes receive — hospital aren’t remotely sterile.

Underneath the bright lights and on the stainless steel gurneys lives a large community of microorganisms.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4080534/

With its tightly filtered air and regular cleaning, humans are the main source of microbes found in hospitals.

Most of the microbes present in the hospital environment, however, arrive via humans, whether brought in on the soles of our shoes, on our cell phones, or our bodies themselves.

Like Pigpen’s permanent aura of dirt in the “Peanuts” cartoon, humans are surrounded by a cloud of microbes. “Humans shed microbes wherever we go,” Gilbert says.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4080534/

Different body parts shed different types of microbes.

“Each time we touch an object, we can (and do) transfer millions of microbes from our body to the environment. Because the types of microbes available to be transferred vary from person to person and body part to body part, different surfaces are likely to host different species.

Objects such as computer keyboards, light switches, and soap dispensers are continually reseeded with microbes from our hands each time they are touched.

Restrooms, on the other hand, are dominated by microorganisms associated with the gastrointestinal and urogenital tracts.”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4080534/

Even Sterile Rooms Aren’t Sterile

Even in rigorous scientific labs, in rooms designed to be “sterile rooms” we find that sterility is nearly impossible.

Microbes are stubborn and hardy. It can be challenging to completely kill them.

‘“It’s very hard to clear out all of the microbes from a particular ecosystem,” Eisen says. …Simply put, sterility doesn’t exist.’Rethinking Sterile — The Hospital Microbiome

Every drain, every sink, every trash can, every toilet — each is a jungle of microbial activity. All food in the fridge is growing microbes (though growth is slowed by the cold air).

The Classroom Study

One study analyzed the microbiome of a classroom, with surprising findings.

Each surface was home to a different combination of species, depending on how humans touched the surface:

  • Floors had outdoor species from shoes.
  • Chairs had microbial species from our digestive and urogenital tracts and skin.
  • Cell phones, light switches, and keyboards were populated with microbes from the hands (and whatever they touched).
SHOW STUDY

Of course, we can’t forget that, moisture intrusion (even high humidity) causes fungal spores to sprout mold — which is incredibly difficult to effectively kill. Even if air dries enough to kill mold, thousands and millions of spores are released before death.

In modernity, buildings aren’t sterile

Related image
Even a well-organized, frequently-cleaned kitchen cabinet will never be (remotely close to) sterile.

We need to go outside for our microbes. We don’t need our homes bustling with microbial life.

The good microbes — mostly, certain bacteria — are found in nature.  Evidence suggests this helps our gut microbiome and immunity become diverse and strong.

Related image

In large part, nature keeps a balance of microbes. The air in nature is fresh, with blowing wind, rainfall, and sunlight.

Our modern buildings cannot take advantage of rainfall, blowing air, and sunlight to keep them healthy and balanced.

And no amount — literally no amount — of cleaning and sterilization could create a sterile indoor environment.

We don’t live in a sterile world,
we live in sick buildings.

Image result for hospital

A Ground-Breaking, Myth-Busting Study

I ran across a news report that laid out the real truth about indoor cleanliness. I was so happy to hear this study was done!

(click to read the study)
(click to read the news article)

This study’s findings are revolutionary. Here’s why:

  • First, the microorganisms found in a home are not the ones that we need for immunity.
  • Second, the microorganisms of the natural environment are those important for our health (not microbes found indoors).
  • Third, “recent research demonstrates that when epidemiologists find an association between cleaning the home and health problems such as allergies, this is often not caused by the removal of organisms, but rather by exposure of the lungs to cleaning products that cause a type of damage that encourages the development of allergic responses.”

This is the way forward!

Outside — in nature — is where we should interact with environmental microbes.

Inside — in our homes — it’s best to keep things clean, free of moisture — and low in microbes.

In other words, once you find yourself in a safe, healthy home, guard it!

Congratulations! You’ve completed Guard Your Home!

You don’t need to feel overwhelmed. You don’t need to feel lost.

You know what to do! You know what matters. You know when to act — and how.

There may be confusing situations, sure. Loved ones won’t always agree with how to handle things. That’s okay!

You may not be sure how aggressive to be with any of these steps: inspecting, cleaning, reducing, breaking free. That’s okay!

Some of this takes time to get familiar. Time to try things, and see how it goes.

And some of this takes intuition, a listening to what feels right. Decisions somehow work better when they feel right. The best steps are taken when they feel right for everybody involved.

These might sound like basic thoughts! But they are lessons learned the hard way for me.

Learn the easier way. Heal the easier way.

Make these steps with a sense of ease. There’s no reason you can’t keep this spirit in times that previously would have felt hard.

I see a future for you! A future that’s healthy, supported, balanced. One that feels right. Not perfect. That’s not possible, but it also isn’t necessary.

You don’t need a perfect home. You don’t need perfect loved ones or friends. You don’t need perfect anything.

The future that’s coming for you is better than that, anyway. It’s one you design, and also allow to come. We don’t get there — see our dreams come — being afraid of the bad stuff. And, what’s amazing is that dreams don’t come only through our own effort.

It may take some of that, but you’re not alone in this. You’re just not alone. You’re going to have help. You may not see it yet, but it’s real. You have resources available to you — right now — beyond you.

From friends, from loved ones, and from people you don’t even know yet — help is coming.

New ideas will come. New insights. New clarity.

Perhaps something beyond all that, even. Good things I don’t have the words for.

You’ve got this! Your skills grow daily. Help is coming, at the right time. Get your spirit ready for what’s next. Stir up your dreams.

Dream of anything that will serve you and your loved ones well, and then dream more.

It’s going to happen!

Therefore I tell you,

whatever you ask for, believe that you have received it,

and it will be yours.

This completes the Mold section of this website.

(click to return to home page)

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