I have written about the risks of chronic mold exposure before, but I only briefly touched on what to do with your mold-infested home and belongings.

Should you move? What if moving is not an option? How can you remove mold from your home safely? What to do with your mold-infested belongings? What can you keep and what should you toss? How can you keep mold away from your home in the future?

In this blog, I will answer these questions and give you detailed information regarding mold in your home. Ready, set, go!


testing mold with a microscope

What Is Mold?

Our world has over 5 million species of fungi, including mold, yeast, and mushrooms (1) They make up 10 to 25% of our world’s biomass (2, 3, 4). They comprise about 90% of the biomass of forest soil and 50% of agricultural soil (4). It’s truly amazing. I highly recommend the documentary, Fantastic Fungi, to learn about the fascinating world of fungi.

The problem is that not all fungi are beneficial for us. Mold is a type of fungi that can grow and thrive under all kinds of conditions, especially warm and damp places. Some mold particularly loves indoor environments, including growing in your bathroom, under carpeting, or behind old wallpaper.

Mold growth inside your home and chronic mold exposure can lead to serious health issues. Why? You can blame mycotoxins for this!

Mold makes mycotoxins, which are toxic compounds that are produced by certain types of fungi. They  are produced by the molds to out compete each other.  Essentially humans are innocent bystanders in the middle of a mold war!  Although we talk alot about mold, oftentimes it is the mycotoxins that cause most mold-related health issues. Mold mycotoxins can travel fast and far in your home and outdoors. The problem may start with one tiny moldy spot in your bathroom. But unless you address it quickly, mold mycotoxins can spread throughout your entire bathroom and then eventually the rest of your home. Since mold spores are invisible, you won’t even know that you are breathing them in.  Mycotoxins have a huge range of potential symptoms including allergies, fatigue, headaches, GI symptoms, neurological symptoms and chronic health issues.


tired woman with mold illness

Signs and Symptoms of Mold Illness or Chronic Mold Exposure

Signs and symptoms of chronic mold exposure or mold illness may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Malaise
  • Muscle aches and pain
  • Joint pain
  • Allergies
  • Asthma flare-ups
  • Chronic sinus congestion or runny nose
  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Eye irritation and redness
  • Skin rashes and other skin problems
  • Nausea and other digestive complaints
  • Migraines or headaches
  • Brain fog
  • Memory issues
  • Trouble focusing
  • Mood fluctuations
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Vertigo or dizziness
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Tinnitus
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic pain
  • Ice pick pains
  • Autoimmune issues
  • Immune system suppression
  • Histamine intolerance
  • Mast cell activation issues


woman with allergies

Mold and Other Health Issues

Unfortunately, mold mycotoxin issues trigger many other issues as they lead to inflammation, oxidative stress, immune dysregulation.  As a result, they often co-occur with other chronic problems. For example, mold and fungi mycotoxin exposure may lead to allergy or hypersensitivity (IgE, IgG) reactions, increased susceptibility to infections, mycotoxicoses, alimentary toxic aleukia, environmental enteropathy, environmentally acquired illness, chronic inflammatory response syndrome (CIRS), systemic fungal infections, mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS), and all sorts of other health issues (5, 6, 7, 8).

Mold may increase the risk and play a role in allergies, respiratory and lung issues, asthma, chronic sinusitis, skin problems, brain and neurological dysfunction, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), mitochondrial dysfunction, chronic migraines and headaches, general malaise, recurrent GI symptoms such as SIBO or SIFO, fibromyalgia, and other chronic health issues (9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15). In other cases, having a chronic health issue, such as Lyme disease, may make you more sensitive to mold mycotoxins, causing even more problems. It is also possible that mold mycotoxin illness can occur simultaneously with another condition, such as autoimmune issues, toxic metal exposure, pesticide poisoning, or Lyme disease, but then the symptoms overlap, and sorting out the whole story becomes more difficult and complex (16, 17, 18).


bathroom with hidden mold

Where Mold Hides

Mold may hide in your home in warm and damp areas, areas with moisture, water leaks, or water damage. Some top places where mold may be found include (19):

  • Your bathroom, including the bathtub, sink, tiles, walls, toilet, and shower curtains, especially behind the walls where the piping is located.
  • Under carpeting and rugs
  • Behind old wallpaper
  • Behind any wall where there are water pipes
  • Behind drywall
  • Under upholstery
  • Your kitchen, including the sink, tiles, walls, behind the stove, behind the dishwasher, the fridge, and window sills
  • Places with leaks, flooding, or other moisture issues, such as pipes, roofs, and windows, sliding glass doors
  • Indoor plants, especially the soil
  • Washing machine, dryer, and the laundry room, in general
  • Around the hot water heater
  • Air conditioning and heating vents
  • Under the mattress and cushions
  • In the basement, the attic, and the garage
  • From poor drainage outside the home leaking in
  • From sprinkler systems hitting the exterior of the house (a huge problem in California!)
  • Clothing, especially if there is too much humidity in your home or your closet is damp


woman cleaning mold in house

What to Do if Your Home Has been Infested with Mold

Avoiding mold completely is, unfortunately, impossible. All you can do is try your best to avoid moldy environments, protect your home from mold growth, and arm your body to fight harm from potential mold exposure.

So what if there is mold in your home? We’ve all been there. I recently had to deal with a mold exposure-related move. Here is what I recommend if your home has been infested with mold:

Avoid Moldy Environments and Move if You Can

You need to get out of the moldy environment as soon as possible. If you are able to move, that’s fantastic! Take nothing with you and put your beloved belongings in storage for now.

Moving, of course, is not an option for most people due to financial, family, or other reasons. There are still options for you. If you can’t move, see if you can stay in a mold-free area for a while instead. Some of my patients have lived in a tent in their backyard or moved in with a family member temporarily. If this is an option for you, take it.

I understand that this may not be an option for you either. If you can’t move or change jobs, the next step is to remove mold and take measures to reduce further mold growth. In the next sections, I will offer some tips on how to remove mold and reduce further and future mold growth. Either scenario, avoid other moldy environments and moldy foods to prevent further exposure and re-exposure. In my experience, patients with mold issues tend to be attracted to moldy environments. It’s important that you are careful.

What to Do with Your Belongings: What to Keep and What to Clean?

What should you do with your belongings? This is a great question! Whether you are moving or staying, you probably can’t just throw away all your belongings. That would be expensive and feel wasteful, not to mention the sentimental aspect of things.

When deciding on what to keep or toss, remember: Dilution is the solution for pollution, meaning, reduce the amount of contamination to reduce exposure –  nothing is written in stone that it has to be tossed. It depends on your personal situation, goals, and approach. Use my blog as a guide and make the best decision for your family.

Here are some aspects of your individual situation to be considered:

The size of mycotoxins and degree of penetration into belongings:

The more the items are affected, the more likely you will have to toss them.

The duration and proximity of belongings to the worst aspects of the exposures:

For example, if your closet is full of clothes next to a contaminated bathroom that shares a wall with it, it’s gotta go, whereas a small wooden table at the extreme opposite end of the house may be salvageable.

The degree of illness of the sickest family member:

The sicker the person, the most items you likely have to get rid of.

As I will explain, there is also the option of putting beloved items into storage and seeing if they would be better tolerated after some time has passed so that you and your family can better discern IF you are having an adverse reaction.

Consider the storage unit for removing personal belongings from your immediate environment to ensure it is as clean as possible, and then cleaning the items in the storage unit or, better yet, before they go into the storage unit would be ideal. Be sure that it is temperature-controlled and that there is no risk of flooding or other water damage to your unit. Otherwise, you are risking further contamination!

For example, I had some beautiful Chinese antiques in my moldy home that I just loved and didn’t want to get rid of. I put them in storage for a year. Unfortunately, when my husband and I tried to bring them home into our new house, we both felt ill moving them. We had to make a decision, so rather than moving them into our home, we moved them to a consignment place.

My story shows why I think dilution is also a benefit. Just because we couldn’t tolerate the furniture, it doesn’t mean that someone else can’t. If the Shoemaker statistics are to be believed, 75% of the population should tolerate these things just fine. If someone moves one contaminated item into their home, it doesn’t mean that their home is “contaminated” if they don’t have issues…  I do also find that these mycotoxins diminish  and spores degrade  over time. Sunlight also helps a lot.

Again, as you see, it’s all up to your personal situation, your health issues, and your family’s health issues. Make the best decision for your and your family’s health. Use this blog as your guide.

Let’s look at the keep-and-toss lists.

Non-Porous Items to Keep

Non-porous means that it’s made from materials that cannot absorb or be contaminated with mold. Mold may land on these items, but mold spores can’t get trapped in them. This means that the item can be cleaned.

Non-porous items you can clean and keep include:

  • Metal and glass furniture
  • Dishes
  • Glassware
  • Silverware and metal cooking utensils
  • Pots, pans, bakeware, and baking sheets, except for cast iron
  • Non-wood cutting boards
  • Silicone bakeware and utensils
  • Metal jewelry
  • Anything made of glass
  • Bikes
  • Metal and brass instruments
  • Eyeglasses

Porous Items to Keep

Porous items may attract and absorb mold toxins. However, some porous items can still be cleaned properly and kept. This depends on the actual item and your personal situation.

Porous items you may be able to keep, once cleaned:

  • Cell phones, tablets, laptops, and computers
  • Weights and barbells
  • Oven, stove, and kitchen appliances without a motor
  • Hair irons
  • Irons
  • Towels and linens
  • Clothing, unless they require dry-cleaning
  • Office chairs
  • Leather furniture, bags, and clothes
  • Car

Items to Toss After Mold Exposure

There are also items that are more difficult to clean and remediate. These may be the best to leave behind for the sake of your health. Some of these are still expensive and important items, so I can’t make this decision for you. However, I strongly suggest considering saying goodbye to these items for good:

  • Papers, including books (you may store these in plastic bins to make a decision later)
  • Anything made of wood, including cutting boards and furniture
  • Backpacks, suitcases, and purses
  • Washers, dryers, refrigerators, air purifiers, and other appliances with fans, coils, and other difficult-to-clean parts
  • Window AC units, space heaters, air purifiers, and dehumidifiers
  • Fans, hairdryers, and anything vented
  • Electric shavers
  • Rubber items
  • Foam
  • Wool, hemp, and fur items
  • TV and computer
  • Video game consoles with motors
  • Lamps
  • Anything made of cloth you cannot wash on high heat
  • Area rugs
  • Ironing boards
  • Pillows and comforters
  • Stuffed animals
  • Mattresses
  • Wood and stringed instruments and pianos
  • Non-leather furniture
  • Paintings and wall art
  • Any antiques

How to Decide What to Keep

I recommend setting up a staging area in your garage or another covered outside area. Bring out your belongings and go through them to decide what to save and what to toss, using this list above.

Purchase some large plastic bins with lids where you can keep your belongings airtight without risking future cross-contamination. This can help you keep some items around until you are ready to decide what to do with them or you are ready to keep them. If you are moving, you can keep them in a storage facility.


woman about to clean up mold

How to Remove Mold

So now you are ready to address mold issues with your belongings and in your home. Let’s get started.

Note on products to use:

Many of my colleagues recommend EC3 cleaning products for mold. This product didn’t really work for us, and it bothered my husband. Many folks find it helpful, however, so I will mention their products in the article. If it doesn’t work for you, you can also use vinegar, vodka and dish detergent, and water mix .

You may also try some wet wipes. We initially used some commercial wet wipes but these were kind of toxic also, and I don’t think that is a great idea. In hindsight, a borax water wet wipe  and then dry with a soft reusable cloth would’ve been a better idea and this is what I recommend.

Get a HEPA Vacuum, Sanitizer Fogger, and Mold Solution

To address any mold issues in your home, you will need a HEPA vacuum with a hose, upholstery attachments, and a handheld steamer. These can be really helpful for cleaning furniture, curtains, rugs, and other items in your home.

I also recommend using a Sanitizer Fogger with an EC3 Mold Solution Concentrate or other mold solution. If you want to take care of mold remediation yourself, it is a must. Though it doesn’t replace professional mold remediation, fogging may help to create a temporary safe environment in mold-affected homes. It may be a helpful strategy even during routine cleaning, especially if you have mold sensitivities. Begin the fogging procedure before setting up the staging area.  The cleaning and fogging really should occur AFTER the mold remediation has been completed and the bulk of the contaminated materials have been removed.

Take Care of Your Belongings

Sunlight is your best friend! Sunlight helps to inactivate and allow  mycotoxins to dissipate and may be the best way to save certain belongings. Leave your furniture and other items outside in the sun to help with reducing mold mycotoxins. If you have to keep any books, papers, pictures, or other items that are hard to clean otherwise, drying them in the sun is the best idea.  Recent research shows that only gamma radiation will destroy mycotoxins, so remember the dilution mantra!

Launder your clothes and linens well. Use Borax, EC3 Laundry Additive enzymes, and laundry detergent and wash everything on high heat, then run them through your dryer. Wash any stuffed animals and pillows you must keep, in the same way. Wash your dishes, utensils, and kitchenware as normal.

Wipe the household items you’re going to keep, including lamps, clocks, or furniture, with hydrogen peroxide and EC3 Laundry Additive enzyme-based cleaners. Remove any non-porous furniture from your home and wipe it down with an EC3 Mold Solution Concentrate or other mold solution, then let the sun do some magic too. I also recommend using a HEPA vacuum first on any furniture, especially upholstered furniture.  Check your local area for specialists who can help salvage fabrics,  depending on your level of sensitiviy, you may be able to save more of your belongings, eventually.

Try an Ozone Generator

You may also try an ozone generator, especially for items you really can’t toss. They are designed to produce the gas ozone. Ozone is often used for water purification. Ozone may also work for air purification, but it has to reach high levels to take care of air pollutants.

We had some luck with this approach. We used an ozone generator on some of our most important documents, like birth certificates and passports, that you really can’t throw out. Furthermore, we also placed them in plastic bags to prevent the spread of the mycotoxins and then into plastic sealable containers.  We also tried this with some of our daughter’s artwork and some paintings but for the most part, we weren’t successful, except a couple of items that we were tolerate 6 months after cleaning and begin in storage.

Hire Professional Mold Remediation Help

Though these strategies can help you to address mold issues on your own, the safest option is to hire a professional mold inspector and then separately a remediator. The inspector can test your home for mold and they write the treatment plan for the remediator to follow.  The remediation company then removes the contaminated material from your home safely without risking your health. This can be done without your participation, reducing your risk of re-exposure.  Then the inspector should perform post remediation testing.  A plumber may be needed to identify source of water intrusion and a gneral contractor to rebuild the removed sections of the home.

How to Address Underlying Mold Issues to Prevent Future Mold Growth

Whether you are moving to a new mold-free place or moving back to your home, preventing future mold growth is critical. Here is what I recommend:

  • Address any moisture leaks.
  • Fix water damage issues.
  • Avoid water collection on surfaces.
  • Wipe down wet tiles of your shower, bathroom, and kitchen right away.
  • If you are hang-drying your clothes, do it outdoors, if possible.
  • Avoid too much indoor humidity in your residence; aim for 30-50%.
  • Use a high-quality HEPA air filtration system to remove mold spores from your indoor air.
  • Make sure that there is good ventilation in your home. Open your windows to air the space out if possible.
  • Clean and repair your roof gutters.
  • Direct sprinklers, rainwater and melted snow away from your home. Drainage away from the home is key!
  • Be aware of mold in the soil of your indoor plants.
  • Clean your home regularly and thoroughly. Undiluted vinegar or one teaspoon of baking soda mixed with 2 cups of water may be great options for keeping mold away.
  • Check for signs of mold and water damage regularly. If you notice any signs of mold, address them right away. You can purchase a siple moisture meter and regularly check dry wall and wooden structures for moisture discrepancies.


Seek Support for Mold Toxicity

I recommend checking out this article about mold illness and what to do about it. In this article, you will find some actionable solutions to tackle mold illness naturally. If you are able, I recommend working with a functional medicine practitioner to get tested for mold illness, uncover co-existing health issues, find the root causes of your health issues, and receive personalized recommendations to improve your health. I invite you to learn about becoming a patient at my medical practice, the Spring Center, here.


Healthy woman with avocado

Next Steps

If you want to learn more about what to do with mold, the International Society for Environmentally Acquired Illness (ISEAI) has resources for practitioners, indoor environmental professions (IEPs – mold inspectors) and testing.  Check out their site and resources here. I also recommend checking out this article about mold illness and what to do about it.

Are you dealing with symptoms of chronic mold exposure, mold illness, or other chronic health issues? We can help. If you want to improve your health, I welcome you to schedule a functional nutrition consultation with my nutritionist, Sarah. Visit our store for products.

And stay tuned for more information to help you uncover the root cause of your health issues, improve your nutrition, repair your body, and regain your health naturally.

You can learn more about enrolling as a patient at the Spring Center here. You can schedule a nutrition consultation with Sarah here.