Think Fungus: Kitchen Gadgets

Moulds love warmth and moisture and will grow on almost anything if they have those two things. For proof of that we only have to look outside our homes in the spring and autumn and see the numbers of mushrooms and fungi growing on and around rotting tree’s. Mushrooms are made by several species of fungi as a means to distribute their spores which are tiny seed-like particles that can grow to form a new mushroom.

Not all fungi produce mushrooms, some like to grow on warm damp surfaces, the higher up the better before releasing their spores, but these fungi are much more difficult for us to see as they are so small and are hidden on wood or stone surfaces. They usually go unnoticed and go by the collective name ‘moulds’.

Moulds (e.g. Aspergillus) are usually much easier to see when they set up home in our houses! Once we carefully cover the walls of our homes with wallpaper and paint we create a lovely brightly coloured surface on which the slightest mark will show up easily. If that wall becomes damp enough for long enough then moulds will often start to grow. We will start to notice them when they start to produce spores as they are often darkly coloured – it looks like a dirty mark on our lovely wall. The Mould has, in fact, turned your wall into a mushroom! Once growth the moulds will start to release spores and odours that can irritate our lungs, eyes, and sinuses especially if we are prone to allergies. They can also be a route through which immunocompromised people can be infected.

The best way to prevent harm to health is to prevent the wall getting damp. In most cases the damp is caused when the amount of moisture in the air of our homes is very high due to a combination of the air becoming very warm and lots of moisture being released into the air. If that moist air hits a cold surface it will condense and wet the wall – this often happens as the room cools down at night coupled with insufficient ventilation to remove the moist air from your home during the day.

There are many sources of moisture in the average home, especially the bathroom (e.g. showers & baths) and the kitchen (e.g. dishwashers, cooking, cleaning, boiling kettles) which all add to the amount of moisture in the air and increase the threat of condensation. It is important that we all ventilate these two rooms well after each use to ensure all the damp air have been removed.

It is also important to minimise the amount of fungi growing in our homes. Most of these are obvious including emptying our bins and removing any food that is too old from our refrigerators& cupboards. However some mould growth may not be so obvious.

A research study in 2011 demonstrated that coffeemakers are frequently contaminated in mould. The water reservoir and filter compartment are often heavily contaminated by fungi and should be frequently cleaned. The authors of the original article provided the following guidelines for ensuring your machine is clean:

  1. Fill the coffee maker’s water chamber with equal parts white vinegar and water. Using a paper filter, allow to brew until half the chamber is empty.

  2. Turn the coffee maker off and let it sit for 30 minutes, then finish brewing.

  3. Rinse the machine by using a new paper filter to brew a pot of clear water. Do this twice.

  4. Fill the carafe with warm, sudsy water and some rice as a gentle abrasive. Swirl the mixture in the pot, then use a scrubber sponge to remove any gunk. Rinse and dry.

  5. Wipe the outside of the machine with a damp cloth (but remember, this and the previous step should really happen every day).

Keep your home free of moulds and moisture and all will be well! #ThinkFungus

Editor-in-Chief , National Aspergillosis Centre

Editor-in-Chief, Research Associate for the National Aspergillosis Centre and PPI Lead for Respiratory Section of the Manchester Biomedical Research Centre