It’s mold season in the San Francisco bay area. In winter, we get the ideal conditions for mold: rain, high humidity, cold, and overcast skies. There are a lot of myths about mold. Here are the myths that I hear most often.
Black mold is toxic. I don’t know how many times I have heard this one, but it isn’t true. Admittedly, black mold looks scarier than lighter colored mold, but there is absolutely no way to tell if mold is a health hazard based on its color.
Mold needs to be tested. Testing mold is virtually useless. Mold testing gives you an idea of the amount and type of mold you have, but that really isn’t important. There are over 100,000 types of mold, and there are no safety standards for mold levels, so testing doesn’t give you much useful information. All mold should be removed regardless of type.
The best product for killing mold is bleach. That isn’t true. Bleach will kill mold, but it’s not very effective, and it’s hard on your lungs when used in a confined space like a bathroom. Bleach can also damage your walls, clothes, and bath linen. Tilex and Lysol mold remover are far more effective than bleach in removing mold, and they will keep mold from returning longer than bleach. If you want a bottle of mold remover, you can pick one up free in my chocolate room. My grandmother believed that medicine had to taste bad in order to work, but as any doctor can tell you, that isn’t true. The same thing applies to bleach. Just because bleach smells a lot more unpleasant than mold remover doesn’t mean that it is more effective.
Listerine. Have you ever tasted Listerine mouthwash? It tastes awful. Nobody likes the taste of it, and that’s intentional. It’s part of the company’s marketing strategy. A lot of people believe that because Listerine tastes terrible that it is more effective in killing germs than pleasant tasting mouthwash. Listerine makes a pleasant tasting mouthwash, Cool Mint Listerine, but it doesn’t sell anywhere nearly as well as the bad tasting stuff.
Ramsdell’s Sulphur Cream. When I was a boy, my father used to regularly and vigorously rub Ramsdell’s Sulphur Cream into my hair and scalp. I had dandruff. There were other products on the market for the treatment of dandruff, but Ramsdell’s Sulphur Cream smelled like rotten eggs, which is why my father bought it. He believed that something that smelled that awful had to more effective than products that were odorless or had a pleasant smell to them. Ramsdell’s Sulphur Cream was a waste of time and money.  It had absolutely no effect on my dandruff. My dandruff went away by itself when I became a teenager. On school days, I would wait for my father to leave the house to go to work and then go to the bathroom and wash the sulfur cream out of my hair. I didn’t want to go to school with hair that smelled like rotten eggs. That was one of my many boyhood secrets that I never told anyone about. They still make sulfur cream for the treatment of dandruff, and people still buy it for the same reason my father did – it smells so awful that people assume it must be good stuff.
Sulphur vs. sulfur. When I was a kid, sulfur was usually spelled ‘sulphur’, but not anymore, at least in the U.S. They still spell it ‘sulphur’ in England. The spelling of a lot of words has changed in my lifetime. Halloween used to have an apostrophe in it. We used to spell it Hallowe’en when I was a kid. I still don’t know if barbecue or barbeque is the right spelling. A lot of restaurants put ‘BBQ’ on their outdoor signs, which should stand for barbeque, with a ‘q’, but on their menus they spell it ‘barbecue.’ My sister once said to me: “If you are worrying about things like this, you have too much time on your hands.”
But I digress. (I do that a lot)….About mold…The most important thing to remember about mold is that mold lives on humidity. Moisture is essential for mold. Almost all the reports that I get about mold are in bathrooms. Work on keeping the humidity in your bathroom down in winter. Leave your bathroom door open after a steamy shower. If its a cold day, close the door to the bathroom and open the window or turn on the exhaust fan if you have one. Don’t leave wet clothes or really wet towels in the bathroom. All of my units have free-operation clothes dryers, why not use it to dry out your wet towels?
Also read my previous article about: Mold.


Mold is a very common problem here in the San Francisco Bay Area, especially in the rainy season. Mold is not dirt. It is a living organism. Mold produces stains on walls and makes clothes smelly musty There are a lot of myths about mold. First of all, there is no such thing as a ‘mold-free’ apartment. Mold is everywhere. It is in every room in your house. It is in your car, it is in your clothes, it is in your drawers. There is mold in every restaurant, coffee shop, and doctor’s office that you have ever visited. If you have cheese in your refrigerator, then there is mold in your refrigerator because adding mold to milk is how they make cheese.

The most important thing to remember is that mold needs moisture. That is why there is a lot more mold here in the bay area during the winter rainy season than in the summer.  To reduce or kill mold, you must address the conditions that allow mildew to grow.

AIR. Mold likes moist, stagnant air. Let in fresh air, particularly in high humidity areas, such as the bathroom and kitchen.  Keep a window ajar or use an exhaust fan, if there is one, to allow the air  to circulate. Mold and mildew can grow quickly in wet clothes and towels. Don’t let wet clothes or towels sit on the floor or in a pile. Wash and dry wet clothes and towels frequently.

LIGHT. Mold grows in dark places. Let in sunlight. Don’t keep your window shades closed all the time.  There are many unhealthy micro-organisms in addition to mold that thrive in dark places that are killed by sunlight. This explains why green mold grows on the north side of trees but not on the south side. Living in a perpetually dark room is very unhealthy. That is why it is illegal in California to use a room without a window or skylight as a bedroom.

HEAT. Mold likes heat. Don’t overheat your house.

tilex2Mold Remover.  There are many mold removal products sold in supermarkets and drug stores. Make sure that the product says that it disinfects. Be sure that you are not buying soap scum remover, which is often placed next to the mold remover in stores and often comes in very similar containers. If you want a free bottle of mold killer, you can pick one up in my chocolate room! I always keep it in stock. Read the label. To remove mold on a bathroom ceiling,  use a sponge mop on a stick. That way, you can clean the ceiling without getting on a ladder.

Bleach. Don’t use bleach to remove mold or mildew. While bleach will kill mold, it is much less effective in preventing mold from returning than mold remover. Bleach may damage your walls, and your room will smell like an over-chlorinated swimming pool when you are done.

Street Furniture

Please, please do not bring home furniture that you find on the street! At the end of the school year, there is always a lot of furniture dumped on sidewalks and left at street corners in college towns. Bringing home furniture that you find on the street is dangerous! You don’t know where this stuff came from or what might be hiding inside. There are a lot of nasty things inside furniture left on the street, including bedbugs, fleas, lice, ticks, and mold. I know that most college students have very little money to spend on home furnishings, but bringing home furniture that you find on the street is not a money saver. You are endangering your health and the health of all your roommates by bringing home furniture that you find on the street. Don’t do it!


Mildew is a very common problem here in the San Francisco Bay area, especially in the rainy season, and this year’s rainy season has been very rainy.  In fact, we have had more rain in the past 90 days than we had in the previous 3 years combined.

Mildew is not dirt. It is a living organism. It produces stains on walls and has an unpleasant musty odor.  Mildew is unhealthy, as mildew gets into the air we breathe. There are 3 conditions that promote the growth of mildew and mold: humidity, heat, and stagnant air. To reduce or eliminate these conditions:1.  Let in fresh air, particularly in high humidity areas, especially the bathroom.  Keep a window ajar or use the exhaust fan, if there is one, to allow air  to circulate.

2. Let in sunlight. Don’t keep window shades closed all the time. There are many micro-organisms that thrive in dark rooms that are killed by sunlight. I have tenants who keep the window shades in their bedrooms closed all the time. Sunlight never gets in. I tell them that this is very unhealthy, but I can’t make them open their shades. It is illegal in California under the state health code to use a room as a bedroom that does not have a window or skylight to let in natural sunlight. When was the last time you opened the window shades in your bedroom to let in sunlight?

3. Don’t overheat the house. Contrary to a widely held misconception, furnaces do not put out more heat the higher the thermostat is set.  All a thermostat does is turn the furnace on and off.  It does not regulate or control the height or size of the flame.

4. Don’t let damp clothes or towels sit on the floor or piled up. A house full of clutter is far more likely to have mildew and mold than a clean, tidy house.

Mildew Removal.  There are many mildew removal products sold in supermarkets.  Read the label before use. Some of these products cannot be used on walls, only tile.

Bleach. It is a myth that the most effective way to remove mildew is with laundry bleach. While bleach will remove mildew, it is much less effective in removing mildew or preventing its return than Tilex or Lysol Mildew Remover. They sell these products at Walgreen’s and Safeway. A big bottle costs around $5.

Remember, mildew is not only unattractive and smelly, it is also a health hazard, one that you can  easily and cheaply control!