10 October 2011

Welcome to Mold Haven

When we came home from our summer vacation after Labor Day weekend we were greeted by a house full of mold. We had no idea we should have left all our air conditioners running full blast for three weeks while we were out of the house. We left all the ceiling fans on and we left the air conditioner on in our bedroom just low enough to keep one room comfortable for the cat. We were saving electricity. In a house with faulty wiring and a generator that continuously goes on and off, we thought that was the right thing to do.

But the monsoon season won. Mold. Not so much in the walls and ceilings as far as we can tell, but individual objects in random places. My vegetable ivory jewelry that was stored in one place, but not the vegetable ivory that was stored in another. Mike's dress shoes but not mine. One coat out of a closet full of them. None of the clothing drawers, except for the one filled with my bras. One drawer in my bedside table but not the other drawer.

We've had some of the mold tested. It's toxic in large quantities. We don't think we have large enough quantities and we cleaned it up as soon as we started finding it. We think we're okay, but we're not experts.

Maintenance hasn't been too worried. First they tried to tell us it was dust from the construction going on next door. Then they said it was "Just fungus." I'm sorry, just fungus? They tried to tell us the air purifier was a dehumidifier before admitting they had no idea what a dehumidifier was.

That's when we had to start laughing. Dehumidifiers should be handed out upon arrival at the airport here, along with your entry stamp and a cup of chai. But the maintenance guys had no idea what we were talking about. We went to several appliance stores who gave us blank stares and Mike said to one sales guy "If you don't know what I'm asking for, then you probably don't have it." The guy laughed and agreed. A friend tipped us off to apparently the one store in town that carries them. They know they are the one store in town that carries them and can charge quite a bit, but we bought one. They were out of stock and we had to wait twenty-four hours for delivery. When it arrived, our housekeeper was amazed that such a machine even existed. She thinks India would be a better place if more people knew of this technology.

We have washed everything in white vinegar. Most of Sophie's stuffed animals were saved by a spin in a super-hot washing machine cycle followed by a thorough drying. What's odd is that the shelves I keep my fabrics on had mold, but only one of the fabrics actually did. I ran them all through the washer to freshen up, anyway. We removed the carpet from our bedroom; the mold was the worst in there. Luckily Sophie's room was one of the least affected areas of the house; I cleaned up all of her stuffed animals the day we arrived home, threw out some of the clothing that was beyond saving, and the mold has not returned to her room.

The dehumidifier is running day and night. When the power goes out and shuts it down, it only takes an hour or two for the mold smell to come back into our bedroom. Between air purifiers, air conditioners, and the dehumidifier, after several weeks it feels like we have finally gained on the mold. There doesn't appear to be new growth in any of the places we've cleaned up. We are anxiously awaiting an order of silica gel desiccants, those little white "Do Not Eat" packs, to keep in our drawers and suitcases.

Now that we know the mold is toxic, however, we are trying to see what this country can produce in the way of a qualified inspector. No luck so far. We are just trying to stay ahead of the mold until the dry season starts up in a few months.


Sunny said...

When we went on R&R from Manila the same thing happened to us. We left and came back to a very large mold problem in the living room. When we complained the embassy was like, "what you didn't leave your air con on for six weeks?"

Good luck fighting the never ending mold problem.

Sunny said...

When we were in Manila we left for R&R for six weeks. Like you we turned off the AC and sure enough there was a mold problem and a large water stain from the AC pipes not working.

When we called the embassy maintenance folks they were like, "why didn't you leave it on for six weeks?" And we were kind like, "because it costs like $1000 and that is crazy-town."

In the end we got rid of the mold but when we left that place the water stain was still there. Good luck with your mold problem.


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