Removing the moisture source is the first step in combatting mold. Photo source: UF/IFAS Extension Pinellas County
Have you seen black, gray, white, or orange stains on your bathroom tile’s grout? Does it look slimy or cottony? Well, you guessed it—that’s mold. There are good molds – yogurts, cheeses, and antibiotics – and bad molds, like the kind that grows in the bathroom.
Mold and mildew refer to a fungus that flourishes in warm, humid, indoor environments. Florida’s heat and humidity supply the ideal habitat for molds of all kinds. Because mold reproduces by releasing spores into the air, mold can go undetected until it has grown into a colony, as in our grout example. Certain molds really are toxic, however, and not only cause health problems, but also damage building structures, furniture, books, and other items.
Health Impacts of Mold
Exposure occurs by touching mold or inhaling air containing its spores. Exposure may cause allergic symptoms and health problems, ranging from sneezing, coughing, or a runny nose to chronic sinus problems, nosebleeds, asthma, skin and/or eye irritation, headaches, difficulty concentrating, and even memory loss.
How to Prevent Mold
Mold is a part of nature and there is no way to keep it entirely at bay. However, we can limit its growth by keeping our house:
Cool – Keep the temperature below 77°F inside your home if you think mold might be an issue.
Dry – Keep the relative humidity below 60%. You can purchase an inexpensive humidity meter (hygrometer) from a hardware store.
- Dry wet surfaces or items as soon as possible. Do not leave anything wet for more than 24 hours.
- Wipe down shower walls with a window squeegee or towel right after showering.
- Fix leaks.
- Pull the shower curtain across the tub/stall to allow the curtain to dry.
- Run the bathroom exhaust fan while you are showering and up to 15 minutes after you finish or open the bathroom window to allow moisture to escape.
- If bath towels remain damp in your bathroom several hours after bathing, hang them in the garage or outside to dry. This reduces moisture in the bathroom and keeps towels from souring.
Clean – Keep your house clean to minimize nutrients for mold.
- Wipe countertops to remove any food residue.
- Refrigerate perishables. (This also reduces foodborne illness risk).
- Clean bathrooms – pay special attention to the shower/tub area and sink to remove soap scum and dead skin cell residue that some molds feed on.
- Change the air conditioner filter monthly.
When you find mold inside your home, it means there is a moisture problem – leaky plumbing, a roof leak, or water entering around a window or door. Fix the source of the problem or mold will continue to be a problem. If you cannot find the source, if there has been a lot of water damage, or the moldy area is larger than 10 square feet (about a 3 ft. X 3 ft. square), it is recommended to get professional help.
To clean small areas, scrub the moldy surface with a solution of dishwashing or laundry detergent and water, or a mild solution of bleach and water. Wear waterproof gloves and protective goggles to protect your skin and eyes from direct contact with the mold. Wear an N-95 respirator (available at most hardware stores) to avoid inhaling the mold spores. After cleaning, dry the wet area thoroughly to prevent further mold growth.
For more information on controlling mold and mildew, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office.
Resource: Keeping It Clean: Controlling Mildew
Source: “Keeping Your Home Healthy,” Taking Good Care of My Home, UF/IFAS Extension.
As the holiday season gets underway, shopping for gifts may be on the top of your To Do list. While there is usually no shortage of suggestions for the kids on your list, you may be stumped about what to give to your neighbor, co-worker, best friend, or favorite aunt.
Fresh fruit makes a healthy, colorful gift.
UF/IFAS Photo: Thomas Wright.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Fruit basket: Give the gift of health with a basket of fresh fruit – apples, oranges, and grapefruit are seasonal favorites loaded with vitamin C and make convenient snacks or a tasty, colorful complement to any meal. If the recipient has experienced some financial challenges this year, consider tucking in a grocery store gift card to help stretch their food budget.
Gifts of Service: If your gift-giving budget is smaller this year, give of yourself! Give gift certificates for a free housecleaning to an elderly neighbor or relative, a free car wash, pet sitting for a weekend, mowing the lawn, walking the dog, a plate of your famous brownies, or an evening of child care, to name a few. These also make great gifts for children and teens to give. Download gift certificate templates online or design and decorate your own.
Magazines: A magazine subscription is a gift the recipient can enjoy throughout the year. Check renewal offers that come with your favorites – many publishers offer free or greatly reduced gift subscriptions when you renew your own.
Donations: We all have that one hard-to-shop-for person on our list – they have everything or aren’t involved in any hobbies. Or perhaps they have downsized to a smaller home and have limited space for “things.” Consider donating in their honor to one of their favorite charities or causes. There are several humanitarian organizations that provide needed supplies to persons in Third-World countries and even here in the U.S. Your donation can purchase a “share” of a farm animal that can provide income for a family, or you can select school supplies, clothing, sports equipment, or other items to benefit persons in need. Gifts of this kind always fit, take up no space in the recipient’s home, and help others in the spirit of the season. To check how well a charity uses donations for their intended purpose, visit the IRS Searchable Database of Charities, Charity Navigator, or Guidestar.org.
Gift giving doesn’t have to be expensive. With a little creativity, you can celebrate the season with fun, meaningful, budget-friendly gifts! Happy Holidays!
Ahhh…Fall! I love this time of year – changing leaves, cooler temperatures, and lower humidity make it a joy to be outside. It’s also the perfect time to give your house some TLC after the summer heat and before the cold winter winds blow. Regular maintenance keeps your home healthy, can lower your power bill, and saves you money on costly repair jobs as you catch them early on.
Clear roofline “valleys” of debris to reduce the risk of leaks. Photo source: Judy Corbus
Here are eight things to check inside and outside your home this fall:
Check weather-stripping and caulking around windows and doors. Check for signs of leaks, then repair or replace as needed. This keeps your heated or cooled air in and pests out.
Paint exposed wood. Check eaves, doors and frames, and other wood surfaces for chipped or flaking paint and touch up with a fresh coat to protect against rotting.
Check windows and doors for smooth operation. Install or patch screens, lubricate window tracks and door hinges, and repair as needed.
Clean gutters and downspouts. Use gloved hands or a trowel to scoop out debris from gutters. Flush downspouts with water or use a drain “snake” to clear blockages. Make sure they discharge water 2-3 feet away from the house to protect the foundation; a downspout extender can funnel water further away from the house. Clear gutters and downspouts allow water to drain properly from your roof to reduce the risk of leaks.
Clean roofline “valleys.” The V-shaped area where two roof slopes meet is the perfect catch-all for leaves, pine straw, and other debris. If allowed to accumulate, this debris can trap moisture, leading to a breakdown of the roofing material and eventual leaks. Use a leaf blower to clear the valleys to keep your roof dry and water flowing freely off it.
Clean the chimney. If you plan to use your fireplace, have it inspected and cleaned by a professional chimney cleaning service before you light the first fire of the season. This will remove creosote, an oily by-product of burned wood that builds up inside the chimney and increases the risk of chimney fires.
Change the batteries in all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. This ensures the batteries are fresh, whether your detectors are hardwired, with a battery backup, or completely battery-operated. Test detectors regularly to ensure they are operating properly.
Have your heating and cooling system serviced. Your service professional will make necessary tune-ups, so your system operates efficiently for a comfortable environment and lower utility bills.
For a complete home maintenance checklist, click here.
Adapted from: https://www.fcs.uga.edu/extension/healthy-housing#mantained
Eeekkk! A roach! Quick – where’s the bug spray? That seems like a logical way to get rid of the pesky critter, right? But what if the roach is in your kitchen? Or you have pets or small children? Is there a less toxic way to keep pests out of your home?
Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, uses a combination of methods to help you:
- Stop pests
- Inspect and monitor for pests
- Identify pests
- Have a game plan to protect your home
- Know if your plan is working
Pests, like people, need food, water, and shelter to thrive, so if you eliminate one or all these factors, you increase your pest control success. You can use IPM to prevent indoor and outdoor pests and solve existing pest problems.
If you can see light around the door edge, insects can enter. Photo source: UF/IFAS
Exclusion is a major part of prevention in IPM; it prevents outdoor pests from entering.
- Check the weather-stripping around exterior doors and windows – if you can see light, pests can enter. Did you know an American cockroach can enter through a gap the thickness of a quarter?
- Install door sweeps on exterior doors so insects can’t enter under the door – be sure the sweep brushes the floor.
- Patch or replace window and door screens to keep flying insects out.
- Use sealants around doors and windows to fill tiny gaps where pests can enter. It will help to conserve energy, too!
- Cover vent pipe openings, like dryer vents, on your home’s exterior with strong mesh or other covering to keep rodents and other small animals from entering.
We sometimes make it easier for pests to move in and thrive in our home due to our habits. Here are a few easy ways to prevent pests:
- Wash dishes promptly. Pests feast on food particles so wash dishes immediately after meals.
- Quickly clean up grease and spills. Just like dirty dishes, grease and food spills attract pests so clean them as soon as they occur. This also will keep the spill from spreading, saving you cleaning time in the long run.
- Store food items in sealed plastic containers. This keeps pests out and food items fresher for longer.
- Clean on a routine schedule. Regular sweeping, vacuuming, mopping, dusting, and general cleaning removes food sources for pests and creates a healthier indoor living space for you and your family.
- Get rid of clutter. Piles of paper, clothes, and other items can provide a dark, cozy home in which pests can hide and multiply. Organize these areas so your home is less inviting to pests. Cockroach control alone can significantly reduce allergen levels.
- Dispose of recycling frequently. This removes a breeding ground for pests.
- Inspect incoming goods or items before bringing them into your home. This will reduce the risk of “stowaways” entering.
- Use plastic bins for long-term storage. Cockroaches love cardboard boxes and paper bags so transfer items you plan to store for longer than three to six months to plastic storage bins with tight-fitting lids.
There are a variety of treatment options for controlling pests.
Use window cleaner, rubbing alcohol, or baby wipes to disrupt ant trails in your home. Photo source: Judy Corbus, UF/IFAS Extension
- Window cleaner, rubbing alcohol, baby wipes: Ants travel in trails to and from their food source, emitting pheromones, or scent trails, to “mark” their path to the food. To disrupt ant trails, spray window cleaner on or apply rubbing alcohol to a paper towel or use baby wipes to wipe the ant trail. This removes the scent trail so the ants cannot find their way back to their food.
- Whole home gel bait: These products come in a syringe-type applicator with formulations for cockroaches and ants. Examine your home carefully to see where these pests are entering and apply a pea-sized dollop of the gel bait at the entry points. The pests eat the bait and return to their nest, where the gel bait eliminates the nest. The gel bait can be used anywhere in and around the house where cockroaches or ants are found and is more effective than treating kitchens and bathrooms only, a common pest control practice. Gel bait works well behind appliances, swtichplates, and outlet covers. Reapply gel bait periodically to keep pests from returning. You may need to rotate brands, as pests can develop immunity over time.
So, the next time you see a bug in your home, consider IPM before you reach for the spray. For more information about integrated pest management for homes, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office.
Flour is considered a raw ingredient so bake before eating. Photo credit: Judy Corbus
There is something about cooler weather that brings out the urge to bake and fill my home with delightful aromas befitting the season. Enjoying the fruits of my labor is a tasty experience but here are 8 tips I follow during prep and afterwards to keep my baked goods safe.
- Wash my hands, baking tools, appliances, and work surfaces with soap and hot water before, during, and after food prep – clean as I go!
- Break eggs in a separate bowl before adding to the batter. This keeps shell fragments out of the batter and, if the egg is spoiled, I don’t ruin the whole project.
- Never eat unbaked flour – this includes dough and batter. Flour is considered a raw ingredient, as it is minimally processed before being packaged for use. Wheat stalks in the field come in contact with birds, rodents, and other bacteria sources, which can spread E. Coli. Raw eggs can contain salmonella so bake foods to the proper internal temperature and resist the urge to lick the bowl, spoons, and beaters.
- Use a food thermometer to check internal temperatures – a brown crust does not equal doneness. Insert the probe food thermometer in the product center and wait for the temperature to maintain a level reading. This Baked Goods Internal Temperatures Chart is a handy guide for determining internal doneness. If the outside is browned but it’s not done in the middle, lay foil lightly over the crust to prevent overbrowning and continue baking until the proper internal temperature is reached.
- Always refrigerate perishable ingredients, pies, cheese-filled breads or baked goods with perishable filling ingredients (this includes eggs, custards, cheese, pizza, meats, casseroles, cream pies, puddings, and crème puffs) within 2 hours of use, preparation, or serving at room temperature. Cookie, scone, biscuit, pie, and yeasted dough may be refrigerated or frozen for later use.
- Cool baked products on clean wire cooling racks on a clean counter or table away from where raw batter or dough are prepared. Don’t cool in the baking pans or directly on counter tops.
- Wash my hands before packaging cooled products.
- Store plain yeast breads at room temperature no longer than 1 to 2 days; freeze for longer term storage. Do not refrigerate unless the bread is filled with perishable ingredients.
Enjoy your favorite baked treats safely this holiday season and beyond!
Sources: Home Baking Food Safety 101
What’s Cooking America
North American Millers Association