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June 12, 2019
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Summer may be a time of relaxation, but there are some things we need to stay diligent about in the warmer months—mold being one! Exposure to toxic mold has been associated with a slew of health issues—from brain fog to chronic fatigue. Here are my top strategies for keeping your space mold-free:

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1. Most importantly, maintain a tight seal and low humidity.

I always say that the most important thing you can do to avoid mold during the balmy summer season is protect against leaks and reduce humidity.

Hydration may be great for your body, but your home is a different story! Keep the humidity in your house below 50% if possible. (Official guidelines are 55%, but in my experience less than 50% is optimal, with a goal of 45%.) A simple humidity gauge—which usually costs around $10—can let you know if you're on the right track.

Remember that modern houses are sealed up so tightly that humidity levels can increase after everyday habits like showers and cooking, so you may end up needing a dehumidifier depending on your space. I recommend investing in a high-quality unit that has a larger tank capacity (70 pints, for example). Though a good dehumidifier will cost around $200 to $700, I've found that smaller "room size" countertop units are simply not as effective. Be sure to check reviews to make sure that yours is quiet (especially if you're placing it in the bedroom) and easy to empty.

2. Double check that everything is in order before you head out on vacation.

If you're vacationing longer than a week, make sure hoses are turned off and all sinks and showers are not dripping. Consider shutting off water valves to sinks, toilets, and water heaters as a precautionary measure, and/or have someone check inside your house for leaks at least once while you're gone.

If you have a washer and dryer at home, make sure they're empty before you head off. It's a good practice every day—vacation or not—to leave the washer door and soap dispenser open to let things air out. Dishwashers, too, are always best left empty and with the door cracked open.

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3. Don't wash your car interior without drying it out thoroughly.

Cars can get moldy too! Don't keep wet swimsuits in there, and don't sit on the seat still damp if you can help it. (And once you get home, be sure to hang wet towels and swimsuits up to dry immediately.) If your car's interior does get wet, let it air out by opening the windows and doors.

4. Do a full home inspection.

If you do have more time in the summer months, you can use it to dive into a more nitty-gritty home inspection. Here are some things I recommend looking for:

  • Check and possibly reapply caulking on the exterior windows, doors, chimneys, and ducts as well as in your showers and tubs.
  • Check windows for leaks and damage. Is there paint chipping or wood warping?
  • Check vents for blockage or leaks.
  • Inspect your fireplace and chimney.
  • Check your roof, eaves, and flashing.
  • Make sure your sprinkler systems are not hitting the house.
  • Make sure outdoor drainage is working properly and water is not pooling up next to your house.
  • Make sure your gutters are cleaned out so water does not pool on the roof.
  • Inspect the attic and the roof for leaks and check to see that air vents from bathrooms and utility rooms are venting to the outside, not the attic.
  • Look for water stains on the ceilings and walls. If you see anything suspicious, call a mold inspector immediately to investigate further. (Don't tear it apart yourself—you can make yourself very sick!).
  • Inspect the basement and make sure the humidity is controlled there also.
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Enjoy your summer, and don't let mold dampen your good time!

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Ann Shippy, M.D.
Ann Shippy, M.D.

Ann Shippy, M.D., is on a mission to help create extraordinary wellness by using cutting-edge science, testing, and the latest genetic research to find and treat root causes—and not just the symptoms—of illness. As a former IBM engineer, Dr. Shippy became frustrated that traditional medicine couldn’t find answers to her own health ailments, so she left a decade in engineering to adapt her skill set to the world of medicine.

She attended the University of Texas Medical School and has a thriving practice in Austin, Texas. She is board certified in internal medicine and certified in functional medicine. Creating custom blueprints and real-world health solutions for those suffering from any combination of physical, environmental, genetic, and individualized health concerns, she insists on using science and personalized attention to treat the patient in totality—and not just bandage symptoms. She is on a tireless mission to help create a world of wellness… "because every life matters." She is the author of two books, Shippy Paleo Essentials and Mold Toxicity Workbook: Assess Your Environment & Create a Recovery Plan.