China Morning Post,
Hong Kong, April 16, 2010
with mold advice from
consultant Phillip Fry
trait of our summer arrived early this year. One minute Hong Kong was
shivering - the next the annual mould home invasion was back.
fungi, in their various forms, are nobody's friend: they look unsightly,
and can quickly ruin your best clothing, leather goods and furnishings.
They also contribute to poor indoor air quality, and are linked to asthma
attacks and other respiratory and allergic conditions.
mould problem seems worse this year, handyman Mark Fraser of CDI Hong Kong
(aka manwithdrill.com) says that may be because of sudden temperature
fluctuations. Fungal spores are almost always in the air but to develop
into mould they need moisture or condensation, 'which Hong Kong has had
plenty of lately', he says.
have lived in other hot, humid climates but haven't had to wage war on
mould wonder why Hong Kong homes are predisposed to the yearly growth.
Fraser says this could be because of building design and living habits.
'It could be
that the construction of windows and vents in other places are different
to Hong Kong, creating different temperatures inside the buildings,' he
says. 'Perhaps people tend to use fans more often elsewhere.'
for example, an open-plan internal layout favouring screens, as opposed to
solid walls, would create a more even temperature throughout. 'Also, the
use of centralised air-conditioning systems may better regulate relative
humidity levels,' he says.
tips for dealing with mould include using an air conditioner - ensuring
the filters are cleaned regularly - and keeping windows closed. He says
that if you don't close your windows in humid conditions the materials in
your house will absorb moisture, regardless of the internal temperature.
An ionising air purifier will remove spores of mould and dust in the early
stages, he says.
humidity in your home should not exceed 55 per cent in the daytime, Fraser
says. 'You can buy a digital humidity sensor if your air conditioner
doesn't have a readout. This will indicate the correct figure in your
home. If the reading is high, check your filters and coils are clean and
look for leaks.
for any water leaks around air conditioners, under windows and sinks. Use
exhaust fans in bathrooms and shower areas, and wipe wet areas dry after
a fact of life where mould is present. Fraser says vinegar may help: the
acetic acid reacts with the mould to inhibit growth.
non-severe cases household bleach diluted one-to-one can be washed over
the surface using a sponge or cloth. If severe mould is present you should
buy a chemical mould solution such as the Sandtex brand, and apply using a
brush, but it's quite toxic so rubber gloves, eye protection and a
suitable mask need to be worn.'
sufficient drying time, this process can be followed with the use of a
good quality anti-mould paint such as Dulux Supreme or Nippon 5-in-1.
Apply at least two coats.
really feel defeated, you could call in the mould-busters. Phillip Fry
lives in the Philippines but regularly packs his hi-tech kit to carry out
home inspections in Hong Kong. Fry trained as a 'certified mould inspector
and remediator' after identifying mould as the culprit in his own ill
health. He has written five books on the subject and runs a website (www.moldinspector.com).
Fry is not
convinced Hong Kong's mould problem is any worse than in previous years,
but feels that people are becoming more aware of the associated health
is hidden, he says, often inside air conditioners, which should be cleaned
thoroughly at least every three months.
where water gets in - from, say, a leaky roof or dripping pipe - is a
danger spot. Mould can grow on your wall paint, and be all but invisible
as it gnaws away at your timber furniture. You mightn't realise it's been
eating away at your bedhead or dresser until you pull it out to clean
behind and find tell-tale signs on the wall. Leather is 'really delicious'
for mould, he says, and poorly ventilated closets or organic clutter such
as piles of newspapers are a fungi playground.
On a typical
home inspection (costing US$1,000 upwards), he starts by using a moisture
meter to identify unseen water sources. He collects samples of visible
mould spores, to be identified by a microbiologist. Interior wall cavities
and the insides of air conditioners are probed and videoed using a fibre-optic
camera. A hygrometer is used to measure humidity. Finally, he uses his
sight and sense of smell.
report and action plan will result, but Fry prefers to train the
householder on the spot. Getting rid of mould is 'not rocket science',
once you know what to do, he says. 'Most householders can do the job
themselves, or hire a handyman.'
involves washing down walls and ceilings every few months, and keeping all
furniture surfaces scrupulously clean. Fry says regular chlorine bleach
'doesn't work' on mould, recommending instead a wash made with boric acid
(not sold in Hong Kong, but available online from moldmart.net).
dehumidifier is crucial to any mould combat plan. Fortress offers the
following tips for choosing the right model:
Size up your
flat. A 300 square foot space needs a 16-litre dehumidifier.
location of the air outlet, as these vary. Japanese brands, with the air
outlet at the back, should be kept 30cm away from a wall. European models
can be put against the wall as the outlet is at the front.
special functions. Models with a timer can be set to reduce humidity to
the required level, and then shut down to save energy use.
Some of the
newer air conditioners also come with an independent dehumidifier
function, although these are less effective than dedicated machines.
Fortress stocks two brands: Fortress model FCD08CXR6 and Hitachi model