When environmental hazards invade your home and impact your family’s health, it’s time to fight back. From safe mold remediation to hypoallergenic mattress covers, today’s innovations offer protection that is often complemented by eco-friendliness, allowing you to enjoy indoor air quality that is fresh and free of contaminants.
Mold and Mildew Mitigation
In Atlanta’s warm, moist climate, fears about mold and mildew have plagued many a homeowner. Although few molds are toxic, all molds are allergenic, according to Joe Arcuragi, owner of MoldStoppers Atlanta, which means that mold can affect members of the household in negative ways.
Raymond Lane, owner of EnviroClear, says, “Mold is an environmental fact of life. No house is free of mold.” He explains that, since mold can only survive in 50 percent relative humidity or higher, the most significant cause of mold in homes is water intrusion. This means that your mission as a homeowner is to keep humidity down and moisture out, especially in areas under the house, like basements, crawlspaces and the foundation. Roof leaks can be culprits too. Maintaining gutters and keeping your air conditioner running properly will help contain humidity and water.
“It only takes 72 hours for water damage to start growing mold,” says Lisa Blaurock, vice president of Biltmore Roofing and Contracting. If you put off maintenance, she warns, “What should have been a minor roof repair can turn into a costly mold-remediation job.”
In the event that mold and mildew do creep into your house, tackle the cleanup yourself only if the affected area is less than 10 square feet. While you may have heard that bleach and a scrub brush are your best defense, this treatment will only stun and disturb the microscopic mold spores, but they will soon resettle and continue to flourish. Instead, Arcuragi suggests using white vinegar to kill the mold, taking care of any spots as soon as you see them. “A speck of mold the size of a dime, within 36 hours, can become up to a trillion mold spores,” he says.
For larger jobs, call on a professional mold remediator who will brush affected areas with special disinfectants and cleaning solutions and then dry the area with commercial-grade dehumidifiers, all the while using an air scrubber to suck out airborne mold spores.
“A few years back, mold remediation would consist of harsh chemicals. But now we have started using products that are organic in nature and not harmful to the customer or the environment,” explains Blaurock. For example, Lane uses hospital-grade Aseptic Plus disinfectant followed by a peroxide-based cleaning solution. Most importantly, find the source of the intruding moisture, or the mold will return.
While they may not have the fuzz factor of mold, finding pests like roaches, ants and mosquitoes in and around the home can really bug most homeowners. But did you know that some of these—for example, German roaches—can trigger allergies and asthma as well? “The saliva, feces and shedding body parts of cockroaches act like dust mites, aggravating symptoms when they are kicked up in the air,” says Patrick Carter of Healthy Home Termite & Pest Control. While this sounds gross, the National Pest Management Association reports that 63 percent of homes in the United States contain cockroach allergens, and that percentage rises in urban areas, according to Carter.
If getting rid of creepy-crawlies has you concerned about utilizing toxic chemicals at home, today’s pest-control solutions go beyond standard pesticides, allowing you to treat pest problems in an environmentally responsible manner. “One of the coolest innovations in pest control is microencapsulated products,” explains Carter. These are liquid sprays that contain millions of microscopic capsules that enclose the toxin. “Pests, such as ants, walk across the treated area and the oils from their feet break down the capsules to release the toxin directly on the ant. But people and pets walk across it and touch nothing but water,” he says.
In addition to scheduling regular pest-control service—Carter recommends that homeowners schedule quarterly visits for pest-control inspections and that they mist once a month for mosquitoes. You can also help keep insects at bay by caulking any gaps around your windows and doors, keeping bushes and trees trimmed away from the house, not allowing dead leaves and debris to pile up near the foundation, cleaning the gutters twice a year and avoiding storing firewood indoors.
When the Bedbugs Bite
One of the greatest challenges in controlling allergens in the home is that many homeowners cannot find the cause of their discomfort, according to Jeff Gill, president and founder of Germinator Mobile Sanitizing. “Allergens reside in places you cannot clean effectively yourself, such as your pillows, mattresses, carpets, drapes and furniture.” And, according to Dr. Stanley Fineman of Atlanta Allergy & Asthma, “There are also a number of things within a home that can cause non-allergic allergy symptoms. People can even be sensitive to scents that can come from things like ‘plug-ins’ and air fresheners.”
To remove allergens that you cannot clean yourself, enter the Germinator, a mobile sanitizing truck that brings its EPA-approved process involving the administration of heat and ozone treatments to you. The Germinator team removes infested items from your home and places them in the mechanically sealed and locked sanitation cell. After about 30 minutes, the items are returned, free of allergens like dust mites, odors from pets or smoking, mold and mildew and even lice and bedbugs.
Gill’s company also offers an antimicrobial application that helps prevent mold and bacteria growth, and it’s safe for children and pets. “Be diligent about using your vacuum at least once a week,” he advises. Adding periodic sanitizing “is the ideal way to maintain a healthy living environment in your home.”
In addition to keeping a clean house and using HEPA filters, best practices to lessen allergies start at the front door—hose off your welcome mat frequently to avoid tracking in pollens. Opt for hard surfaces over carpet or rugs and choose leather furniture instead of fabric. Gain peace of mind while you sleep by choosing hypoallergenic bedding, pillows and covers that enclose the entire pillow and mattress.
One of the coolest innovations in pest control is microencapsulated products. These are liquid sprays that contain millions of microscopic capsules that enclose the toxin. Pests walk across the treated area and the oils from their feet break down the capsules to release the toxin directly on the pest.
Blogger Sabine Schoenberg, host of Sabine’s New House, gives us her take on fresh, healthy and natural cleaning solutions for your home
• Pests and spiders just HATE vanilla. If you have problems with unwanted pests or notice spider webs around the house (inside or out), make a concentrate of 1 cup vegetable oil, 1/4 cup of liquid dish soap and 1 tsp. vanilla extract. Mix 1 Tbsp. of the concentrate with 1 cup of water in a spray bottle. Spray anywhere pests or spiders are likely to hang out.
• Get rid of germs without harsh chemicals with VINEGAR! There is no reason to expose yourself to harsh chemicals. Get rid of mold and mildew in your washing machine (it can grow there between cycles) by pouring vinegar in like you would bleach when you wash a load of clothes. It will remove odors from your clothing and keep the washer drum mold-free, too. Vinegar and water solutions are also great to clean your kitchen counters, bathrooms and other surfaces.
• Have pets? A strong vinegar and water solution works great to get rid of pet odors and stains.
• Clean your stainless-steel appliances with olive oil. We all love our stainless-steel appliances, but they can be hard to clean and are a magnet for fingerprints. Using a very small amount of olive oil and a microfiber cloth, clean your stainless steel, going with the grain. The olive oil will even help prevent fingerprints between cleanings.
• Clean with straight-up water via the magic of microfiber cloths. When it comes to dusting, cleaning windows and general surface cleaning, nothing beats the power of a damp microfiber cloth. In fact, some manufacturers incorporate silver into the fabric, which has an antimicrobial property.
• Embrace the power of steam. Chemical cleaners and even some natural cleaners, like vinegar, will eat away at your wood floor finish and reduce its luster over time. Steam mops are great, as the steam helps to kill germs, lift dirt and grime—and won’t typically damage your wood floors.
Biltmore Roofing and Contracting, Lisa Blaurock | GAMold.com
EnviroClear, LLC, Raymond Lane
Germinator Mobile Sanitizing, Jeff Gill
Healthy Home Termite & Pest Control, Inc., Patrick Carter
MoldStoppers Atlanta, LLC, Joe Arcuragi
Sabine’s New House, Sabine H. Schoenberg