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A mould epidemic is making people sick. Here's how you can mould-proof your home.

On the weekend, I had to say goodbye to a pair of summer suede shoes, which were never worn and will never be worn again.

The culprit: mould.

Although I live in a modern apartment block and I have a clean home, my flat is part of a current mould outbreak and it’s a worry when I live with two asthmatics.

“There is a mould epidemic in Melbourne and Sydney,” The Mould Doctor Managing Director, John Liddell, told Mamamia.

Do you have mould growing near a window? Image via Getty.

"We've had a massive spike in enquires and in treatment and inspections we're doing."

Mr Liddell -  who says he has seen "houses of horror" with black carpeted mould on walls and ceilings -  helps people battle spores in properties across New South Wales and Victoria.

"In extreme cases, people can die from mould infestation - they're extreme. In non-extreme cases people can get pretty sick," said Mr Liddell.

"Those that are particularly vulnerable are asthmatics, little kids, anybody with an existing respiratory ailment and the elderly," he added.

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The mould expert says over-heated, poorly-ventilated properties become a breeding ground for mould  - which thrives in environments with humidity at above 60 per cent.

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Why bags and shoes?

Mould is typically found in the warmest, driest place in the room and that's why you find it in wardrobes, behind bedheads or under dressing tables. It also loves shoe racks and stored-away clothes.

"Mould needs moisture, oxygen and an organic surface, and that can be a bag or a nice pair of shoes. The good news is, that can be treated," he said.

Mr Liddell has restored loved leather jackets and says he could save a Prada bag if needed.

Not just old homes

It's not just in run-down homes, mould is proving to be a problem in many modern apartments designed for energy efficiency.

"In the old days there used to be gaps under the doors, there used to be vents in the walls and it's almost like [modern apartments] are wrapped up in plastic. They don't breathe," says Mr Liddell.

The manager says the problem will continue until building codes are changed.  He says modern flats need air-exchange systems, but many are without.

"To fix the cause is often prohibitive and often costly, so therefore you're dealing with the symptom - so we put in a lot of dehumidifiers."

Mr Liddell advises to get expert help and warns if you try and treat a mould problem alone, use gloves and a mask.

The National Asthma council of Australia has a list of measures that may reduce mould exposure, which include treating rising damp as soon as it is detected.

How can I prevent mould?

Many of us are creating the perfect conditions for mould, without even realising.

Cranking up our heaters and hanging out wet washing indoors can contribute to a perfect mould-growing environment.

And when the air temperature is cooler outside, condensation builds up inside. Simply opening windows to create ventilation in the house for an extended period can make a big difference.

Using a dehumidifier in the house can help get rid of moisture, and drawing curtains and blinds so that rooms are exposed to sunlight, which is another effective preventer of mould.

In your wardrobe, moisture absorbing buckets filled with crystals soak up the damp, which you can find at supermarkets.

Ensuring clothes are completely dry before putting them away is also essential.

How can I clean mould?

According to the Western Australia Department of Health, these are the best ways to treat mould:

  • Do not dry brush the mould. This could release spores into the air, which can spread it and cause an allergic reaction in some people.
  • Use Tea Tree Oil: two teaspoons in a spray bottle with two cups of water
  • Use an 80 per cent white vinegar solution (available from supermarkets) for surfaces. Leave it for at least 20 minutes and then lightly sponge with clean water
  • Make sure you remove the mould physically. (Killing, but not removing the mould may allow it to grow back)
  • Don’t rely on bleach. Depending on the product, bleach can just bleach the colour out of the mouldy area without killing it. Vinegar and alcohol are more effective.
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