Houston is one of the most humid cities in America. If you’re moving to Houston, living with this much humidity is likely to be a new experience for you. We’ve already posted hair and makeup tips for our humid climate. Humidity control is important to keep you, your family, and your pets healthy, since humidity contributes to heat-related illnesses and allergies. A humid home is also more likely to grow mold and mildew, which create musty, unpleasant, “old apartment” smells, make unsightly stains on ceilings, walls, and fabrics, and cause allergic reactions and other respiratory problems. Here are some tips to control mold and mildew growth in your Houston apartment:

Mold and mildew prevention

Use a hygrometer and a dehumidifier. To find out what the humidity level is in your Houston apartment, you can buy a hygrometer (a humidity sensing device) at a hardware store for $10 to $50. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend keeping indoor humidity below 50 percent in order to prevent mold-related illnesses. If your apartment’s humidity level is higher, consider buying a dehumidifier to pull moisture out of the air.

Use your air conditioner. Air conditioners pull moisture out of the air, so they’re excellent for humidity control as well as cooling.

Report any leaks or condensation to your apartment’s management. Your landlord or apartment manager is responsible for repairing pipes, ceiling leaks, and other problems that lead to extra moisture in your apartment. Report any problems as soon as you notice them, and make sure your landlord gets repairs done quickly.

Use charcoal. Charcoal is a natural air purifier, and it absorbs moisture from the air, too. You can buy activated charcoal in many forms, like these easy-to-hang air-purifying bags of charcoal, or these beautiful Japanese charcoal sticks, online or in specialty home stores. Simple charcoal briquettes, sold for use in barbecue grills, also work well. Make sure you buy pure charcoal, not charcoal pre-soaked with lighter fluid. You can make fabric pouches full of briquettes and hang them in closets, or keep baskets or trays of charcoal around your apartment.

Use the exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathroom. The fan in the bathroom and the fan in the hood over your stove are designed to move that moist air out of your apartment. Don’t forget to turn on these fans after showers and while you cook. If you don’t have an exhaust fan in your bathroom or kitchen, open windows and doors to let air circulate.

Let the bathroom dry after showers. Spread towels out on towel racks, to open up more surface area for faster drying. Spread out shower curtains, too, making sure there are no bunched up spots that can hold moisture in. Wiping or squeegeeing shower walls after you bathe can also help control indoor humidity.

Let the sun shine in. Sunlight kills mold spores in the air and on surfaces in your home, so open your windows and blinds and let the light in whenever possible.


Mold and mildew removal

Work with your manager or landlord if you have or suspect you have a serious problem with mold. The Environmental Protection Agency explains that landlords are ultimately responsible for repairing leaks and other water problems, and for removing major mold growth in rental units. If you’ve reported this kind of problem and it hasn’t been addressed, you can also contact the Texas state health department.

Be very careful about mixing cleaning agents. Both chlorine bleach and ammonia are useful for killing mold, mildew, and other microorganisms, but if bleach and ammonia are mixed together, they form toxic fumes that are extremely dangerous, and can be fatal. Never mix ammonia and bleach, and make sure you know what is in detergents and other cleaning agents before you mix them.

Follow these cleaning tips. This article on the Better Homes and Gardens web site explains how to clean mold and mildew off hard surfaces, fabrics, and wood furniture.