In 2011, a fungus named Spongiforma Squarepantsii was named after the cartoon character Sponge Bob Squarepants. www.sotruefacts.com
Anyone that lives in humid environments can attest to the fact that mold and mildew are insanely pervasive. For those of us that are very allergic to mold and mildew this is a real problem but for those of us that live on “leaky tiki’s” it’s even worse. So let’s start a discussion on mold remediation.
In my post Top 10 things you can do to your boat to improve comfort at the dock I listed “Make a habit of keeping everything clean and tidy! Kill off all that mold/mildew [M&M]” as the #1 thing you can do to increase your comfort at the dock but the truth is that anytime you get rid of mold and mildew, at the dock, at sea, in our home, wherever… you improve you life and extend out the lifespan and resale value of whatever it is your cleaning.
Tiki Trek never really had a REAL problem with M&M [like a lot of boats do] but in a few isolated places where we do have leaks or where in the winter the boat would get moisture condensation and we get some mold developing. One of those spots it right above where Lisa and I sleep in the bunk. We get another in the engine room/locker area.
The first step we took was to understand – really understand – what M&M is and do a lot of research on where M&M comes from and how to control it.
What is Mold?
Mold is an airborne fungus and is green. Mildew is an airborne fungus and is white and fuzzy. So the stuff growing on your boat is probably mold and this is the stuff we are going to focus on killing.
Just kidding… I know nothing scientific about mold because I’m not a biologist! If you want to know more about mold there are tons of resources online to find out that information. All I know is that I want it dead!
Boat Dampness Survey
The first step to rid your boat of mold is to examine all areas on the boat for leaks. Its very important to complete this survey for areas that you can and cannot see after a heavy downpour. Simply spraying your deck with a hose won’t do it. In my opinion, outside of heavy weather sailing, a heavy downpour is the most effective method of revealing deck and hull leaks. You may need to remove some paneling, some teak strips, whatever… but it’s crucial to peer into the most inaccessible areas on days when it pours rain. This is because a lot of leaks will not be readily apparent unless its raining really hard. They may be hidden behind a bulkhead, behind a liner, etc… If you have a boat that is new to you and have any concern whatsoever that there may be leaks… finding those leaks is the first thing you must do to kill off mold.
Now, you could use a high pressure hose to do that survey but I would suggest using that method to check your leak fixes.
It pays to have the right tools to inspect your boat as well. Cruisers are cheap so we recommend inspection mirrors but Lisa and I use an inspection camera (they have SO many uses on the boat) when we can’t directly see into an area. New to the market are cheap thermal imaging cameras for the iphone. We don’t have one of those but they have so many uses on the boat I can see lots of reason to have one and only the cost as a factor against owning one.
BTW – since you are ducking your head into these hard to see areas, it’s a good time to put out some preventative insect traps or killer.
You have to know what your starting humidity is… Why is it important to know the starting humidity? Why not just get an AC unit and be done with it?
I’ll tell you why..
Because you cannot be sure that it is the humidity in the air alone is creating the right environment for growth and if you don’t keep track of it you will not know how effective your efforts are. Other contributors are a wet deck core, wet ropes, dirty laundry, stale air, etc… any kind of surface that is wet, moist, or potentially moist will grow mold and mildew – you don’t need to have humid air for this to happen! If you are new to boating, cruising, or being a liveaboard, you may not yet fathom how utterly easy it is to get things wet. Especially for very innocuous reasons.
Certainly – getting humidity out of the air is a good thing, as it will slow the growth but I think most of you know that mold can grow in the dry air of antarctica! Simply drying the air and making the boat cold want fix the problem.
In fact you want to prevent the air from getting TOO dry.
Dry air causes its own health problems – skin issues, bloody noses, allergies, etc. So, you need to strike a balance between the temperature and humidity of the air.
In addition, not ALL air conditioners are good at removing moisture from the air. It is possible to buy a cheap window AC unit from Home Depot that does not have a specific feature to remove humidity.
Mold will have a real hard time growing anywhere the relative humidity is less than 70% (according to the EPA). There are lots of ways to reduce humidity but if you don’t know what your humidity is in the first place then you can’t really know if you have achieved your goal!
With that said, we keep a weather station on board that shows the relative humidity inside and outside the boat. In addition to providing that information, it also acts a back up wind sensor (we have had at least one go bad), a ship clock, etc… its useful when we don’t have the instruments operating.
Well… that’s it for today. In my next blog post, I’ll continue to discuss what is needed to get rid of mold on your boat once and for all.