By Alan Pentico
Unusual weather patterns have been breaking records for heat and rain all year in the San Diego region. Weather experts say we’ve experienced abnormal amounts of humidity this summer due to storms that have drawn warm, moist air north from the tropics. Beyond being uncomfortable, this added humidity can increase the chance that you’ll see mold or mildew in your rental.
While mold and mildew can often be ugly or smelly, it’s important to remember in most cases, neither is particularly harmful. They may cause allergic reactions or respiratory complaints, particularly among people with asthma, but rarely is mold toxic to your health in the way it has been portrayed in some sensationalized reports.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says the No. 1 way to control indoor mold growth is to control indoor moisture. This is especially important if you live near the coast or another body of water, where moisture is naturally more prevalent year-round. Air conditioners and dehumidifiers will effectively reduce the moisture in the air in your home, but you don’t have to go out and buy a dehumidifier if you don’t already own one. There are a number of other simple precautions you can take.
First, vent your apartment by periodically opening windows and turning on fans to allow outdoor air to circulate through. This is especially important after taking a hot shower, running the clothes dryer or washing dishes in hot water. If you don’t have a window in your bathroom, you may need to leave the fan on for a few minutes after you finish a shower. Cooking can increase indoor humidity, too, so consider opening a window near the kitchen during or after using your stove or oven.
Second, keep an eye out for leaks or standing water. Check for water dripping under your kitchen and bathroom sinks. Survey walls and ceilings for any warping or stains that were not present when you moved in. Note any sprinklers or rain gutters that are consistently dampening the exterior of your home. Let your landlord or property manager know immediately if you spot any problems, and give them adequate time to respond.
Third, keep a clean home. Vacuum carpets, mop floors and wipe down hard surfaces in the kitchen and bathroom regularly. Give some attention to window tracks, ceiling fan blades and ventilation grills, too. Cleaning helps clear away both mold spores and the dirt that can promote their growth.
With weather experts predicting a strong likelihood of an El Niño weather pattern this winter, we’ll have to continue to be vigilant. Place mats or rugs near exterior doors so you and your guests don’t track in water during the rain. If rainwater leaks into your home, work with your landlord or property manager to repair the leak and to clean and dry any damp materials, such as carpet or drywall, within 24 to 48 hours.
—Alan Pentico is executive director of the San Diego County Apartment Association.