Mold and Mildew Inside Home

Problem: High humidity levels re-suit in mildew growth, which causes damage and potential allergic reaction.

Background: Mold growths that develop under favorable conditions are often seen as a discoloration, ranging in color from white to orange, and from green to brown to black. If mold can’t be seen, it may be recognized as a musty odor. Mold growth can cause soiling and deterioration of appliances and other items in a home. The build-up of mold in air cooling and humidifying units, plumbing fixtures, condensation trays, and drains can cause serious and often costly mechanical problems. Mold can discolor paint, weaken fabrics, and degrade food stuffs. It can also lead to odor problems.

What to do: Relative humidity levels above 70% are optimal for indoor mold build-up. Controlling the problem in a home usually involves three steps 1) eliminating moisture from inside and outside sources; 2) re moving mold colonies and spores, and 3) installing a mechanical ventilation system. One method of deter mining whether your home has a potential problem is to measure the relative humidity inside your house.

Optimal levels are 15% if outside temperature is -20°F, 20% if -10°F, 25% if +0°F, 30% if +10°F, and 35% to 40% if +20°F. Also visually inspect for mold colonies, including areas of stagnant water, and room corners.
Regularly clean appliances that have water pans or use moisture. Other steps to reduce humidity include turning humidifiers down or off, using range and bath exhaust fans while cooking or bathing, cooking with covered pans, installing a fresh-air intake duct to bring in drier outside air, venting dryers to the outside, sealing cracks in house or vapor retarders, and not using un vented kerosene or gas heaters.

Special advice: To remove existing mold, clean affected areas with a homemade solution of cup cleanser (such as Ajax or Comet), ½ cup no phosphate detergent, I quart 5% sodium hypocblorite (such as Clorox or Hilex), and 3 quarts warm water. Brush solution onto affected area with a medium-sized soft brush. After cleaning, rinse thoroughly with fresh water and, if possible, paint area with a mold- resistant paint.

Helpful hint: If a member of your household is allergic to mold, adding an air cleaner can help remove mold spores present. (Heating ducts need to be cleaned before adding an air cleaner.) If carpet, upholstery, ceiling tiles, or other porous furnishings are contaminated, it is best to discard them rather than attempting disinfection because mold spores are likely to remain.

Insects Inside Home

Problem: Insects are causing problems within the home.

Background: A long list of chemicals is available for controlling in sects that invade the home. However, with the growing concern for the environment and the move away from chemicals, the following are alternative, no chemical methods of pre venting or treating household pests.
In most all cases, it’s helpful to re pair or seal cracks, holes, and other potential points of entry around the home, including foundation, walls, and screens. If the suggestions below don’t seem to work, contact your local extension service office or an experienced nursery person.

What to do: For ants, use a bait made of 2 parts boric acid in 98 parts food attractant. Select the food attractant by offering ants various materials, such as grease, jelly or peanut butter, and choose the material most frequently selected. For carpenter ants, repair moisture-damaged wood. Do not store fire wood on the ground, especially near the home. Also keep stored lumber dry. For carpet beetles and clothes moths, dry clean or launder clothing before storing. Freeze, dry clean or iron infested articles of clothing. Use mothballs when storing susceptible clothing.
For centipedes, eliminate their prey, which is primarily sow bugs. Dry damp areas with a fan or dehumidifier. When found in the home, eliminate with a broom or swatter. For clover mites, wipe them up with a damp cloth; they are generally found around windows. Keep 18 inches to 24 inches of soil bordering the home’s foundation loose and free of grass.
For crickets, keep the lawn well mowed and maintain a weed-free area around the home. If using outdoor lights near the home, use a non-attracting yellow light. For fleas, keep pets and pet living areas clean; thoroughly vacuum infested rooms (see Fleas Inside Home).
For flies, keep kitchen and other household areas clean. Pour boiling water down drains to eliminate drain-infesting flies. Store garbage in tightly covered receptacles. For ground beetles, keep firewood and debris away from the home. When found in the home, remove by hand or by vacuum. For sow bugs, reduce moisture through dehumidification. Remove decaying vegetation, such as lawn clippings or fallen leaves, from around the foundation. For spiders, keep household areas clean. Eliminate their hiding places and prey (such as sow bugs). When found in the home, kill them using a broom or swatter.

Special advice: For pantry insects, dispose of infested food products. Store uninfested food in tightly sealed glass, metal, or plastic containers. Clean shelves thoroughly, removing crumbs and debris from cracks and crevices. Treat foods more than 60 days old: Foods such as cake mixes and spices in original containers can be cold-treated by ex posing them to 0°F (in a freezer) or lower temperatures for 3 to 7 days, depending on the size of package. Dried fruits can be heat-treated by placing them in a cheesecloth bag and dipping them in boiling water for about 6 seconds.

Helpful hint: For boxelder bugs, try spraying clustered insects on your home or other buildings with a solution of ½ cup laundry detergent to 1 gallon of water. (Test on an inconspicuous area because detergents discolor some siding.) Vacuum bugs found in the home (properly disposing of the used vacuum bag) or re move them by hand.

Fleas Inside Home

Problem: Fleas in home are infesting pets or biting people.

Background: Fleas are tiny brown wingless insects, about the size of a common pinhead. They can jump more than a foot horizontally and their hard bodies are almost impossible to crush. All adult fleas are parasitic and must feed on the blood of an animal, such as a dog or cat, to live and reproduce. Small populations may not be noticed, but when numbers increase they may leave the animal and bite humans. Annoying flea infestations may also occur 1 to 3 weeks after a pet has been re moved from the home (fleas turn to humans as a food source), after a pet and owner have been away, when an infested pet develops a high temperature (fleas leave the animal), or when fleas from a neighbor’s pet collect on your animal.

What to do: People have differing reactions to flea bites; women and preteen children seem most affected. Flea bites, which are rarely felt, will occur in clusters, particularly where clothing fits tightly on the body. Hard, red, itchy spots may surround the bite and persist for about a week. To locate where adult fleas are, walk through suspected areas wearing white socks. The dark-colored fleas will show up against the socks as they jump from the floor.
Eradication includes sanitation and control using insecticides. Persistent infestations, however, are best handled by a pest-control specialist. Clean pet living areas regularly and thoroughly, removing manure, debris, lint, and hair. Destroy old bedding material and keep pets clean and well groomed. Thoroughly vacuum infested areas and along baseboards, carpet edges, around heat registers, and under and within furniture. Destroy vacuum- bag contents and apply an approved insecticide. Insecticides are available for use indoors, outside, and on pets. (Check with your local extension service for recommendations.) Treat both cats and dogs at the same time, and concentrate applications at the base of the tail between the rear legs. If the infestation is heavy, remove rugs, overstuffed furniture and mattresses from rooms, and air them outdoors in a dry, sunny place. Remove pillow slips or covers and hang affected soft goods from a clothesline for a few hours.

Special advice: Treating pets will not always end a flea problem; a thorough cleanup and treatment of the bed or resting sites is usually required to prevent future outbreaks. Plea larvae feed on animal matter where the host animal normally sleeps. This may be a bed box in the home, a doghouse, or under the front porch. Adult fleas can survive several months without a blood meal from an animal or human.

Helpful hint: Combinations of herbs, brewer’s yeast, vitamin B, garlic, ultrasonic collars, herbal shampoos, and herbal collars have not been proven effective in control ling fleas. Flea collars are slow to kill fleas, and don’t control fleas on all areas of a pet’s body, including near the tail and the back legs where most fleas are found.

Fire Inside Home

Problem: Smoke alarms sound, or five is discovered in home.

Background: In case of a fire emergency, don’t panic; stay calm. Your safe escape may depend on clear thinking. Get out of the house as quickly as possible, following any previously planned escape route. Don’t stop to collect anything or to get dressed. Feel the doors to see if they are hot. If they are not, open them carefully. If they are hot, don’t open them and use an alternate escape route. Stay close to the floor because smoke and hot gases rise. Cover your nose and mouth with a cloth (wet if possible) and take short, shallow breaths. Keep doors and windows closed, opening them only if necessary for escape. Call the fire department as soon as possible from outside your house. Never go back inside a burning building.

What to do: If fire does not appear to be present, check entry 2. It’s smart to develop a family escape plan and practice it with your entire family, including small children. Draw a floor plan of your home, and find two ways to exit from every room. There should be one way to get out of each bedroom without opening the door. Explain to children what smoke detector alarms mean, and teach them how to leave the home by themselves if necessary. Show them how to check doors to deter mine whether they are hot before opening them, how to stay close to the floor and crawl if necessary, and how to use an alternate exit if the door is hot and should not be opened.
Decide on a meeting place a safe distance from your home, and make sure your children understand they should wait for you there if a fire occurs. Hold fire drills at least every 6 months and know where to go to call the fire department from outside your home. Keep emergency equipment, such as fire extinguishers, in the house and teach your family how to use them properly.

Special advice: In addition to in stalling smoke detectors, providing fire extinguishers, and developing an escape plan, follow good fire prevention practices. Use smoking materials properly and never smoke in bed. Keep matches and cigarette lighters from children. Store flammable materials in proper containers and never use them near open flames or sparks. Keep electrical appliances in good condition and don’t overload electrical circuits. Also keep stoves, fireplaces, chimneys and barbecue grills free of grease, and make sure they are used properly, away from combustible materials. Make certain portable heaters and open flames, such as candles, are not used near combustible materials. Do not allow rubbish to accumulate.

Helpful hint: Contact your local fire department for more ideas about how to make your home safer from fires, and how to plan your family’s escape.

Cockroaches Inside Home

Problem: Cockroaches are found scavenging inside the home.

Background: Cockroaches, persistent household pests, generally breed in warm, moist, and narrow locations. As scavengers, they will eat almost any food, as well as backing glue, leather, bookbinding’s, even television wiring. They are nocturnal, hiding during the day and becoming active at night. The cockroaches seen running for cover when the lights are turned on will represent only a small part of the total population; a few seen can indicate a larger population that should be controlled.
Types of cockroaches include the German cockroach, which generally inhabits kitchens or places where food is easily accessible; the Oriental cockroach, which favors warm, humid places, particularly basements; the brown-banded cock roach, which can be found any where; the American cockroach, which is found in warm, moist places where food is available; and the wood roach which does not breed indoors, but will invade homes, cabins, and other buildings in or near wooded areas.

What to do: Cockroaches can be carried into homes in bags, boxes, and luggage. Corrugated cardboard boxes can be a source of infestation (see below). To reduce chances of infestation, don’t leave food in easily accessible areas, such as pet food in an open bag, or food left in a dish overnight. Keep garbage picked up and stored in closed plastic bags. Fix leaky pipes or faucets. Rinse bottles and store properly. Do not allow boxes, old newspapers, or anything else to clutter rooms and give cock roaches hiding places. Leave spaces between stored packages.
Once an infestation occurs, an insecticide is usually required, along with good sanitation. Several house hold insecticides available have a long residual effect; apply them where roaches hide or run, such as along baseboards, behind stoves, and along cracks and crevices. It is not necessary to treat flat surfaces, such as countertops or floor surfaces. An infestation in multiple-unit dwellings will probably require the treatment of several units. Cock roaches move along common pipes, electric conduits, and heating ducts. Plug space around these openings to prevent infestation from other units.

Special advice: To avoid moving cockroaches with you, use boxes and packing material from a place un infested with cockroaches. When packing, watch for cockroaches and their egg capsules, which are dark colored and about the size and shape of a kidney bean. If found, re move and destroy. If boxes are stored overnight in infested buildings, keep them off the floor and away from the walls by placing them on chairs or tables. During the winter, 2 days at 0°F will kill cock roaches at all stages; at 20°F 4 to 5 days may be required, especially for well-insulated boxes.

Helpful hint: When using insecticides, don’t spray near food, dishes, or utensils, and don’t allow children or pets near treated surfaces until spray has dried. Household aerosol bombs don’t deliver enough insecticide to have residual effectiveness against cockroaches. However, pyrethrum aerosols help flush them out and can increase effectiveness of residual pesticides. The use of ultra sonic pest-control devices is not recommended because they have not proven effective.

Bats Inside Home

Problem: Bats become problem around or inside the home.

Background: Bats are the only true flying mammals that also have fur, jaws with teeth, and bear live young. Normally they do not attack humans or fly into their hair. Bats can carry rabies, though few fatalities have occurred due to bites from rabid bats. Another disease problem, histoplasmosis, is associated with some bat colonies. It is caused by inhaling spores or fragments of the naturally occurring soil fungus Histoplasma capsulatum. The fungus is most often found in soil enriched by excretions from bats and birds, such as pigeons and starlings. Some infections produce flulike symptoms, though many produce no symptoms or distress.

What to do: Some bat species congregate in colonies. In a building or a home the accumulated odors, droppings, mites, and lice may cause problems. Though persistent, bats have little capacity to chew or scratch through modern building materials. Excluding bats by locating and blocking all entry or exit points is the most cost-effective method of control. Bats enter buildings through various locations, including unprotected vents, broken windows, split siding, chimneys, or other openings. The smallest bats can crawl through openings ¾-inch wide (or through holes the size of a dime). Locate openings by brightly lighting the inside of potential rest areas at night and observing them from the outside. If this is not possible, observe from the inside on a bright day. Block larger openings with sheet metal or ¼-inch hard ware cloth. Plug narrow cracks with steel wool, oakum, or other packing or insulating material, then seal with an exterior caulk.

Special advice: Be sure all bats are out of the area being bat-proofed be fore the work is completed. Usually the entire colony will depart from the roosts within 20 or 30 minutes once the first exits, but this may not happen if the bats have been disturbed or harassed. Leave 1 or more well-used exits temporarily open; close after a few days after all bats have departed for the evening. Watch the building at dusk for several days to see if some openings were overlooked.

Helpful hint: There are no effective poison baits for bats because they primarily feed on flying insects. Chemicals may be used to kill bats where all other alternatives fail, though it is expensive and will not provide long-term control.