How to deal with mold and mildew growth in the bathroom

From the Washington Post 1h ago

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Hannah Selinger

When my husband and I bought our house in 2017, we had little time and energy to focus on our renovations. With a time window of 10 weeks between closing and our then 1 year old son moving in, we had to renovate the interior of the house, finish the basement, build a terrace, sand and paint the floor and reconfigure the painfully small elementary school bathroom.

We may have moved a little too quickly on this last point. The mistakes we made in our quick renovation haunted us just a few years later when moisture buildup from poorly made decisions caused paint to bubble, rust lights, and mold to grow on windows and medicine cabinets.

A few weeks ago, we fixed the moisture problem with a DIY renovation that returned our bathroom to its former glory – and relative dryness.

The good news is that there are workarounds for homeowners installing bathrooms, remodeling bathrooms, or dealing with moisture in their current bathrooms.

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Prioritize prevention

The best way to tackle bathroom moisture issues is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Most problems (e.g. mold, mildew, and wet walls) are caused by condensation, said Kate Reggev, a New York-based architect. To reduce moisture, homeowners should consider three things before building or renovating: “Try to reduce the amount of cold surfaces in a bathroom, plan for adequate ventilation, and choose the right construction products for a wet room.”

According to Reggev, homeowners can install or upgrade to double-glazed, properly fitted windows to cope with cold surfaces. Opening a window after a shower to allow the humidity to escape from the room is also an option. If the bathroom has exterior walls or is in contact with an uninsulated attic, Reggev said by insulating the walls or installing underfloor heating, “make sure you keep the bathroom surfaces warm.”

If you’re building or renovating a bathroom, you can also install mold- or moisture-resistant wall panels, Reggev said. “These types of wall boards are specially treated with a special paperless backing and coating to prevent mold and / or moisture,” she said. Showers, she added, should be surrounded by cement backing panels.

Using large porcelain tiles and stain-resistant grout – such as epoxy grout – can prevent water from seeping into walls behind tiles, said James Upton, a Washington-based bathroom renovator and blogger at “Porcelain tiles are impermeable,” he said, and epoxy and one-part mortars “aren’t as porous as cement mortars.”

Update the details of the bathroom

If you already have problems with the water, there are steps you can take to lessen the damage. A powerful ceiling fan or one that also provides heat can help remove moisture, said Kymberly Glazer, marketing and sales director for the Decorative Plumbing and Hardware Association. “This is really going to be your greatest line of defense against moisture,” said Glazer. Upton also suggests buying a fan with a humidity sensor or timer that will turn itself off and save energy.

Glazer recommends consulting a professional or visiting a hardware showroom before installing a fan. “They will make sure you are the right size,” she said for your room. Leave the installation of the fan to the professionals for the best results.

The right kind of paint can also help combat moisture issues, Reggev said. Some paint manufacturers, including Benjamin Moore, make paints with antimicrobial additives that resist mold growth. “You should also make sure that you use a moisture-resistant primer to prevent moisture from seeping between the paint and the surface it is being applied to,” Reggev said. Otherwise, the paint will tend to peel off.

Consider new products

There are other elements you can add to an existing bathroom for extra moisture protection. Towel warmers, according to Glazer, are easy to install and can help heat small rooms while drying excess moisture. Electric towel warmers can be hard-wired or plugged in, and there are even free-standing versions. Medicine cabinet defoggers, she said, are another option that uses the same principle of heat to reduce moisture.

Some companies make moisture-proof showers that prevent water from seeping behind the carrier board, according to Upton.

Getting rid of moisture from the bathroom can also be a matter of care, Reggev said. “A low-tech solution can be as simple as wiping the damp surfaces after you shower,” which can prevent mold and mildew from taking root in the first place. Major maintenance, like repairing cracked mortar, loose sealant, and missing sealant on the edge of a tub, is just as important, Reggev said.

Another easy way to let wet air out is to leave the shower door open. “Combine this with using a squeegee after every shower,” he added. “This helps in reducing the humidity and keeps your shower clean.”

Basic maintenance can be one of the most important elements of bathroom preservation. “What looks like little crevices that aren’t a big deal,” Reggev said, “can ultimately have a huge impact on moisture control. Water is amazing in its mobility.”

Tackle it

If you have mold and mildew in your bathroom like my husband and I did, all is not lost. When your bathroom is completely dry, wipe the walls and surfaces with a solution of bleach or distilled white vinegar mixed with water. This kills the existing growth. For tiles and grout, use a brush and cleaner that will protect against mold and mildew. If you do decide to repaint, make sure your newly cleaned walls and surfaces are mold free and bone dry before you begin.

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