3 Common Mistakes That Can Lead To Mold In Your Home, From A Functional MD
Here's the thing about mold: It can sneak up in unexpected places, and even small exposures can become problematic over time. "A little bit of serious mold can make some people sick very quickly," says functional medicine doctor and mold toxicity expert Ann Shippy, M.D., on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast.
Shippy knows firsthand just how scary a toxic mold exposure can be. She personally dealt with chaetomium mold (a highly dangerous species) in her home and experienced some rather debilitating symptoms. "I started getting more and more tired… My hair was falling out all over the place, and I had so much generalized pain in my body that it was hard for my kids to even hug me. Then the scariest thing was that I started to lose the strength in my right arm; even [when I would] hold a glass to drink, sometimes it would slip out of my hand," she shares.
Since her recovery, Shippy has made it her mission to spread awareness and educate others about how mold can affect your health and the sinister ways it can creep up in your home. Below, she shares the most seemingly harmless mistakes that can lead to mold growth:
1. Wallpaper in the bathroom.
"Do not put wallpaper in the bathroom," says Shippy. "That's just a place to collect humidity and cause problems there."
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Considering how steamy your bathroom gets with every shower, it can be easy for moisture to become trapped behind the adorned walls—over time, this can lead to mold, as mold thrives in a moist and dark environment. And because of the pretty paper shielding it from view, it can take a while before you notice anything has gone awry.
If you already have wallpaper in your bathroom, you'll just want to be extra vigilant. "Definitely put moisture detectors in," Shippy says, so that you become alert to any slow leaks. She recommends these Govee WiFi Water Sensors on her website, which you can monitor on your phone while you're away from home.
2. Limestone in the shower.
"One mistake a lot of people make is they put a porous material in their shower, like limestone," Shippy says. Again, your bathroom can get pretty steamy, and that moisture can easily absorb into the soft stone's pores and lead to mold. Not to mention, your shower materials are directly exposed to the spray, which can make this process happen faster. "Use the actual tiles rather than things like limestone," she adds.
If you already have limestone installed in your shower, don't sound the alarm just yet: You just have to commit to diligent upkeep. "It's got to be resealed annually," says Shippy, which provides a protective coating to keep water from penetrating the stone. "There are some low-toxicity sealants as well," she adds, if you're worried about volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or odor.
3. Front-loading washers.
"The other thing that's really notorious for molding are front-loading washers," says Shippy (aka, washers that have a door on the front of the machine, as opposed to top-loading washers, which have a door on top). "I will never, ever have one again."
See, front-loading washers typically have a rubber gasket around the door, in order to create an airtight seal during the rinse cycle. However, that also means any lingering moisture post-wash becomes trapped inside with no air circulation—and that moist, humid environment is perfect for mold, particularly around that rubber door seal.
That's why Shippy prefers top-loading washers, which don't have that rubber ring. Still, she makes sure to keep the soap holder and the washer door open after every wash, just to make sure all the lingering water can evaporate. "If you've got a front loader, you've got to really make sure each time you do a load that you leave the door open, that you leave the soap dispenser open, and that you wipe out that inner space that has the gasket in it," she explains. "I would even think about getting a new washer if it's pretty musty, because it may be past the point of being able to actually [get] clean."
As a general rule, mold thrives in humid, moist surroundings, so it's important to think about the places in your home that foster this kind of environment. Make sure you aren't unconsciously promoting mold growth in your home, and if you think you might be dealing with toxic mold, please get in touch with a professional. According to Shippy, you can only start your healing journey once you remove yourself from the mold exposure.