Mold. It’s the thing that all great horror movies are made of, striking equal parts fear and confusion into the heart of homeowners everywhere. It’s never a pleasant thing to see, but the quicker you can identify it and rid your house of it, the easier the process will be.

But what are some steps you can take to alleviate it in the future? In short, control your moisture levels. Mold grows, spreads, and thrives based on the proliferation of moisture in your house, and can cause numerous health issues, such as asthma, pneumonia, and more severe allergies.

The easiest way to keep allergies at bay is to install some fans, open up the airways in your house, and remove any standing water that may be pooling indoors or outdoors (such as outdoor toys, dishes, etc). Inspect any dark areas of your house and check that there’s no standing water there as well, and whatever you do, don’t put off even the most minor of leaks and plumbing repairs. Catching a small problem now will help stave off a huge problem later.

One of the biggest problem areas in your house is the bathroom; in some cultures, it’s literally called the “water closet,” so you know it’s a prime location for mold to grow. It’s also one of the most frequented rooms and sits nearby many bedrooms, which means the more mold you allow to grow there, the more it can affect your family.

  1. Circulate Air – You don’t have to create a wind tunnel in your house, but most exhaust fans that are installed by homebuilders are underpowered, and if you have an older home, it may not even be installed at all. Pull out your old science books and find the total volume of your bathroom. Divide that number by 7.5 to get the CFM (cubic feet per minute) you need to maximize airflow, and buy a fan to match. Run the fan for at least 15 minutes after every shower to help drive the excess water out.

  2. Improve Your Filters – HVAC filters work wonders. Not only do they remove pollutants from your air, but they can also trap airborne allergens such as mold and mildew, keeping them from latching on and growing to your house. Look for HEPA filters that specifically protect against mold protection, and change them at least every three months, if not more frequently.

  3. Clean Regularly – Cleaning your bathroom the right way involves more than just disinfecting the toilet and wiping down the counters. While those are necessary, try to cycle in a regular bleach wash on your tile and surfaces; if you can’t stand the smell of bleach, use vinegar instead. Wipe down your exhaust fans to keep those operating at peak efficiency, and invest in a good squeegee to clean the shower walls after every use.

  4. Change Up Decor – Mold not only grows best in damp environments, but also on fabric as well. Whenever possible, use stainless steel fixtures, rubber bath toys, and plastic accouterments to limit the number of possible landing spots for mold. And if you absolutely have to hang those decorative towels that you received as a wedding present, at least wash them every so often, even if they’re not used.

There may come a time when you will need to do a full mold abatement in your house, but taking a few small steps consistently will help to minimize and delay that event as much as possible. Most are regular common sense – if you see standing water, just get rid of it. Dry damp areas and get your leaks fixed in a reasonable period of time, and you should be better protected than most people.