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How To Deal With... a mouldy student house

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The new year is here and with it brings a new semester. During the remainder of the winter months, you could end up sharing your student pad with something unexpected... mould mites.

As the name suggests, they can survive anywhere where there’s mould: in the bathroom, on expired food or even in damp material. Mould mites have a very short lifespan and can therefore breed quickly – meaning it can get out of hand if left untreated. They are very small and can be difficult to spot – usually found in places where condensation builds up. However, it is simple to get rid of them; throw away any mouldy food and clean any areas where there may be an infestation. The easiest way to clear your house of these pests is to clean the infected area; however, vacuuming, brushing or scrubbing the area breaks up mould patches and disturbs spores which can cause serious health issues.

Household bleach can be effective; it’s recommended to dilute bleach as one part to 10 parts of water. However, it may not completely kill off the fungus, meaning it just keeps growing back. On top of that, bleach is corrosive, dangerous if mixed with ammonia and can stain surfaces or be completely ineffective on porous materials such as wood. There are safer alternatives to use including borax and tea tree - unfortunately this means spending an already squeezed budget on fungicidal products to completely get rid of the problem.

Drying clothes outdoors can be near impossible this time of year, however hanging them up in the bathroom with the extractor fan on and the door shut will draw out the moisture and stop the rest of the house from getting musty. Low temperature washes (30oc and below) will clean your clothes but won’t kill any bacteria or mould that's harbouring in them – turning up the heat will solve this; towels can usually be washed at 60oc but other types of clothing will vary.

The causes of mould and the effect it has on health can be found here – whilst a dehumidifier is handy, they’re also expensive. The key to prevention is through ventilation and heating; it is far more common during the cold winter months to see damp patches due to the build-up of condensation. However, there are a few easy (and free) steps to maintain a well-ventilated house; simply open a window when using the bathroom or the kitchen and don’t block air vents. It’s also recommended to keep the heating on a low setting all day regardless of whether anyone is home or if all the rooms are used.

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