Cleaning a Washing Machine: The Important Reasons Why You Might Have To

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When was the last time you cleaned your washing machine? To most people that sounds like a rather silly question. It’s a washing machine, it’s cleaned every time you use it right? With all of that water and detergent swishing about how can it possibly be dirty? Well, in actual fact it’s not that unusual for a washing machine to br horribly dirty in some spots and even harboring mould. Really.

How do you know if your washing machine needs a good clean? It’s easy. Open the door when it’s empty and take a good smell. Does it smell like fresh flowers or more like dirty socks? All too often the answer is the latter and that means yes, you really do need to clean your washer.

Step #1: Clean the Seals and Nooks and Crannies

Note: This is a must for front loading washing machines!

We hate to be the bearers of rather gross bad news but that slightly unpleasant smell is most likely coming from mould and mildew and the seals are the very first place you should look for it. Because they are assembled with a great deal of rubber around the door mechanism – to prevent water from escaping – this is a real problem with front loaders. The fact is that it is very easy for soapy water to seep into the spaces between the seals and as the area really never gets to dry out properly in an oft used washing machine and the perfect breeding ground for mould is created.

So, let’s approach cleaning these areas with the assumption that mould is there, even if it isn’t (there will still be plenty of nasty gunk anyway unfortunately) What you need to arm yourself with are several rags, gloves and a spray bottle filled with a solution of one part bleach to ten parts water.

Open the washer door and feel your way around the big rubber seal around the door. On some models you may just be able to flip it rather easily but on others you’ll have to use your fingers into the pockets it creates. This is the reason for the gloves.There’s a good chance that your fingertips are going to encounter a patch of slimy mold, and if you are gloved it will be at least slightly less gross.

Now it’s time to clean. Wipe all around the seal with a dry rag to begin with and you may find that much of the gunk comes right off then. Next, spray your cleaning solution on the seal, or, if that’s too tricky, directly onto a rag and then wipe again. Finally take a new, clean dry rag and wipe again to make sure that the seal is not left damp for the problem to start again.

If yours is a top loading washer the mould may be hiding under the lid, in the corners where the detergents go, and in the gaps between the drum and the machine itself (those can get very nasty)  so you would have to perform a similar cleaning procedure in those areas.

Step #2: Clean the Washing Machine Basin and Hoses

If you have already found a bit of mould there’s a good chance it’s growing somewhere else in your washer too. To clean the whole washer, you can spend a small fortune on a ‘specialist’ washing machine cleaner product, or you can rely on the bleach solution again which will be every bit as effective just a whole lot cheaper. If you choose to use bleach, ensure your washer is completely empty (don’t want to chance bleaching any clothes by accident) and then fill the detergent compartment with the solution. Set the washer to run a longer hotter cycle and in addition add an extra hot rinse at the end. By the time the bleach solution and hot water are done, that mould won’t know what hit it!

Step #3: Prevention

Once you have everything nice and clean and fresh smelling again to keep it that way should not be too hard. After each wash is finished leave the door or lid open for a while to give everything a chance to dry out properly after wiping the machine down with a lint free dry cloth. This should eliminate the mould attracting moisture and help ensure that your machine stays as clean as it was supposed to.
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The Problem with Attic Leaks: What You Need to Know

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For many homeowners their attic is little more than the place they head to store the summer linens (better than the basement that might be damp right?) or the holiday decorations (or, if you are like us untold boxes of stuff from the last move that, at some point, we will get around to sorting out.) Therefore they give very little thought to the space unless they actually need to go up there for some reason.

Attics can be more of a problem than you realize though (until it’s too late.) Good example? The average attic can fall victim to two kinds of leaks that can cause all kinds of problems; air and water.

The signs that you have a water leak issue in the attic are usually more obvious as telltale signs usually begin to pop up; dark water stains and little patches of mould on the ceiling are usually quite the red flags. The signs of an air leak are less obvious to spot and can be easily overlooked. The problem is just as serious though, as water damage can occur from excess unwanted airbourne moisture entering the attic and you could also be costing yourself a fortune in wasted energy.

Finding the Leaks

Before you can begin tackling an attic leak of either the water or air variety you actually have to track it down. Finding a water leak can be rather tough, especially since your insulation may be obscuring it. Trace the source by looking for stains on the insulation and remember that water will always travel downwards.

Commonly both air and water leaks occur near those features that are actually penetrating the roof such as chimneys, plumbing vents and even less obvious things like holes that have been drilled through for cable wiring installation etc (which may be on the walls of the attic rather than the ceiling so you can begin your hunt there..

Solving Water Leaks

Methods for repairing water leaks depend on where and what is causing the leak. Water leaks occur through basic roof failure (missing shingles etc) ice dams, clogged gutters and water condensation or frost build-up inside an attic. Some of this is a relatively straightforward fix but you may still want to consult with a pro if the repair will involve more than cleaning a clogged gutter or running a dehumifiier to remove excess moisture as roofs are not a very safe place to play around…

Solving Air Leaks

Attic condensation is almost always caused by moist, humid air leaking or vented into the attic. To avoid this kind of issue if it is at all possible vent humid air from kitchens and bathrooms to the outside instead of the attic and if not make a mental (and physical) note to check on things regularly.

Areas where you do find air leaks can benefit from additional insulation. Professionals can add spray foam insulation to get into hard-to-reach areas if you need them to and you should caulk areas around wires and cables to further reduce airflow.

The Importance of a Visual Inspection

Attic leaks develop slowly over time. A simple visual inspection can go a long way to heading off these problems. Check your roof monthly for deteriorating shingles and missing or broken flashing and inside your attic for mold and rotted sheathing. If you still have a feeling there is a leak you are missing though don’t be afraid to enlist professional help in tracking it down as the expense of that visit could be far less than the repair needed to fix the consequences of an attic leak that goes undetected and unaddressed.

 

DIY Corner: How to Fix a Leaky Faucet

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If you have to pay for the water that flows into your home (and most of us have to in one way or another) how would you like to save up to 10% on that bill, while also doing a nice thing for the environment? Well there is one rather simple thing you can do; fix that leaky faucet that you’ve been trying your hardest to ignore for the last few months.

Believe it or not a single leaky faucet can result in up to 10,000 gallons of wasted water every year. And yet with some basic tools, and a little bit of know how you can fix that leaky faucet in just an hour or so, cutting your expenses, preventing potential water damage and finally silencing that annoying drip, drip, drip that’s been driving you nuts for ages.

Fixing your Leaky Faucet

Before you begin you really do need to shut off the water, that is unless you want to end up looking like a character in a corny comic book when you get a surprise face full of water half way through the job. You should also close the sink drain and cover it with a rag to ensure any accidentally falling parts do not end up going down the drain. Finally tape the jaws of your wrench to avoid scratching your fixtures. Now you are ready to get

There are four commonly utilized different types of faucets: compression, cartridge (sleeve), ceramic disk, and ball type. Here is a quick guide to fixing a leak in them all

Fixing a Leaky Faucet: Compression Faucets

Pry off the decorative cap on the handle.
Remove the screw.
Pull off the handle.
Use a crescent wrench to unscrew the packaging nut.
Remove and replace the seat washer, which is held in place by a brass screw,
Coat the washer in a nontoxic, heat-proof plumber’s grease.
Pop the stem out of the packaging nut.
Replace the O-ring.
Coat the new O-ring with the plumber’s grease.
Reassemble the faucet.
Tighten the packing nut.

Fixing a Leaky Faucet: Ball-type Faucets

Because these faucets are complicated and it is tough to pinpoint the cause of a leak, it is often best to replace all the parts.

Remove the handle set screw.
Lift off handle.
Using adjustable pliers, remove the cap and collar.
Loosen the faucet cam and lift it, the cam washer, and rotating ball out.
Using needle-nose pliers, remove the inlet seals and springs in the faucet body.
Cut off the O-rings.
Coat the new O-rings in a nontoxic, heat-proof plumber’s grease.
Roll on the new O-rings.
Install new springs, valve seats, and cam washers.
Reassemble the faucet.

Fixing a Leaky Faucet: Cartridge Faucets

Pry off the decorative cap on the handle.
Remove the handle screw.
Pull off the handle (first tilt it backwards).
Using needle-nose pliers, remove the retaining clip holding the cartridge in place.
Remove the spout.
Cut off old O-rings.
Coat the new O-rings in a nontoxic, heat-proof plumber’s grease.
Reassemble the faucet.

Fixing a Leaky Faucet: Ceramic-Disk Faucets

Push the faucet handle back to access the set screw.
Remove the set screw.
Lift off the handle.
Remove the escutcheon cap.
Unscrew the disk cylinder mounting screws.
Lift out the cylinder.
Using a screwdriver, lift out the neoprene seals from the cylinder. Replace if damaged.
Clean the cylinder openings using distilled white vinegar and a plastic scouring pad.
Rinse.
Replace the seals.
Reassemble the faucet.

Although these are all fairly straightforward DIY jobs if you don’t feel confident in your abilities don’t try it, call in a professional instead, as the water damage caused by a bad repair job could end up costing far more than a visit from a plumber.

Mould 101 – Just What is Lurking in Your Home?

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Mould is mould right? Nasty stuff for sure but pretty much just a collection of spores attracted to moisture. Well, yes and no. Mould comes in many different ‘varieties’, each of which has a different preference for where it ‘sets up shop’ in a home and different damaging – and sometimes even health threatening – properties.

If you discover larger amounts of any mould in your home the first thing you should really do is call in a mould remediation expert to ‘diagnose’ and then solve your mould problem. Poking and prodding at mould only helps it spread and sorry, contrary to popular myth, household bleach won’t solve the problem either, just wash some of it away temporarily. It’ll be right back and, in some cases, nicely bolstered by that tasty shot of bleach you were kind enough to give it!

However, with that in mind we know you are all curious folks and may want to know more about just what kinds of mould might come to lurk – or already be lurking – in your home. So here’s a round up of information about the most commonly types of mould we encounter on a daily basis, along with some pictures so you can ‘ID’ it.

Alternaria

Alternia

 

This is a mould that loves the outdoors as a general rule but it will come indoors if it can find a nice damp spot. Leaky showers and underneath sinks are some of its favorite spots and it is also particularly partial to taking up residence in homes that have been flooded or suffered other water damage.

Alternaria is an excellent mover and can spread very easily and quickly from one area of the home to another. And unfortunately exposure to alternaria can cause allergic reactions and asthma attacks.

Aspergillus

 5409637

Speaking of allergies this type of mould, which really loves the indoors and warm, damp spots (like the shower, or better still the wall behind the shower) can cause a number of nasty allergic reactions, respiratory infections, and a condition called hypersensitivity pneumonitis, which causes inflammation of the lungs.

Aureobasidium

 bathroom wall mold photo

This mould is often referred to as pink mould, because, well, it is, and it loves bathrooms. If you have wallpaper, wooden cabinets and/or window frames and some nice grimy caulk it will be more than happy to move in on a permanent basis and quickly spread its striking self all over the space. In addition to looking dreadful though it is also a mould that most people are at least a little allergic to.

Botrytis

images

Botrytis craves a lot of warmth more than anything else so it grows in areas with high levels of humidity, such as bathrooms with poor ventilation. It can cause allergic reactions and asthma and is far from pretty to look at so won’t enhance your bathroom decor in any way!

Chaetomium

black-mold

This is the mould type that gives off that characteristic musty odor you encounter in damp basements and even rooms that have been closed up for a while. It’s one of the first moulds to take advantage of the conditions left behind after a water damage incident and it is very hard to shift on your own without expert help.

Fusarium

Cladosporium-mold

 

This mould is the opposite of Chaetomium, as it loves to be cool and so can grow and spread quickly at lower temperatures. It’s often found on water-damaged carpets and other fabrics. It causes allergic reactions, asthma, and respiratory infections. and people with already compromised immune systems are especially vulnerable to infections due to fusarium exposure.

Penicillium

mold-on-wood_beam_photo_3

This mould kind of looks like the mould you see in blue cheese and that is because it is very similar stuff. It loves water damaged walls and is excellent at worming its way behind them so it can grow and thrive in peace. It’s especially known to cause sinus infections.

Stachybotrys chartarum

03-mosby-mold-black-spots

This is the proper name for the stuff that is so often referred to as “black mold” due to its slimy black appearance. It’s also sometimes referred to as “toxic mold,” although the mold itself is not toxic.What are toxic are the compounds it creates and then gives off, nasty things called mycotoxins, which cause health problems when people come in contact with them. It can cause allergic reactions, breathing problems, chronic sinus infections, asthma attacks, fatigue, and depression.

Stachybotrys chartarum has a rather musty odor and usually hides and grows in places that usually remain damp all the time, like in air conditioning ducts where there is a lot of condensation or around leaky pipes.

Trichoderma

Trichoderma_(Hypocrea)_3305

This mould is often found growing on the underside of damp carpet, wallpaper, and other damp surfaces and spaces like under sinks. Once it begins to grow it produces mycotoxins similar to those produced by stachybotrys chatarum, and it can cause similar health problems.

Ulocladium

school-mold-photo-4

This type of mould requires a lot of water to thrive, so it frequently grows in areas with extensive water damage, including homes that have been flooded. It’s often found growing on wet walls. Many people are allergic to ulocladium.

 

Household Hide and Seek: Tracking Down Hidden Mould in Your Home

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Most of the time most homeowners believe that should mould begin to become a problem in their home they will be able to spot it and take steps to deal with it long before it can do any real damage. If only that were the case though. Many of the mould remediation cases we deal with actually involve a much peskier problem; hidden mould.

Hidden mould takes many forms and ranges from a nuisance that is easy for the average homeowner to deal with on their own to far more serious growths that require professional mould remediation. Wondering if mould may be lurking in your house, and if so, what you should do about it? Here are some pointers to help you win the game of hide and seek with hidden mould in your home:

The Transmission Problem – Mould exists as airbourne spores that waft in the air until they find a nice, damp resting spot where they can really settle in and take hold. And what many people do not realise is that they may actually be helping mould do just that on a daily basis.

Mould spores can lurk in used kitchen sponges, vacuum cleaner bags and in the insides of air conditioners and humidifiers and so unless these things are kept clean and in good shape then every time they are used they could be spreading mould spores around your home faster and more efficiently than the pesky particles could ever manage to do on their own!

Make sure that you change kitchen sponges and vacuum cleaner bags on a regular basis and clean the filters on any fans, air conditioners or humidifiers in your home. If mould has already taken hold in any of these appliances clean it off with a solution of water and white vinegar and consider replacing the filter altogether.

Faulty Flooring

Often, unfortunately, homeowners are actually walking on the mould they can’t quite track down. The underside of carpeting, the carpet padding itself, tile and even hardwood flooring are all susceptible to mould if they are exposed to even a small amount of moisture that is allowed to sit for even a short time.

How ‘big’ a fix a flooring mould problem is varies greatly and it really is best to consult a professional, as often the mould has permeated the joists that surround it and if left to its own devices can actually undermine the structure of the floor – and conversely the home – itself.

Wall Woes

Have you ever walked into a room and smelled mould but not actually been able to see any anywhere? In these cases all too often there is mould present but it is lurking behind the walls, especially drywall, where it can be smelled but not seen.

Treating this kind of mould is not really a job for anyone but a mould remediation specialist. Once the mould has been located the repairs and remediations can be quite complicated to complete efficiently and safely so should never be considered a DIY job.