Updated June 22, 2016
While we love living in the tropics, there are challenges, especially during the rainy season, when we get over 100 inches of rain each year. While the moisture in the air is great for our skin, it can lead to mold and mildew in our home. Because we love having our doors and windows wide open, and because we want to minimize our usage of electricity, we’ve chosen not to run a dehumidifier, though others do. To use a dehumidifier, you would need to keep the doors and windows closed and we really love the fresh air. Instead, here are some of the actions we’ve taken to minimize the problem in our house.
- Paint the walls with an anti-fungal paint. When we lived at the Cabinas, we picked the colors and bought the paint, and Cesar, the manager of the cabinas, painted all of the interior walls of our cabina with “anti-hongo” (anti-fungus) paint. The result was a brighter cabina that’s more resistant to mold and mildew.
- Improve drainage and coat the foundation and tiles with a sealant. Our cabina was at the bottom of a hill, so when heavy rains would fall, water would seep in through the foundation. The property manager here at the cabinas improved the drainage and applied a sealant to both the outside and inside of the back of our cabina where we were having the problem. Since then, no water seepage and a drier cabina.
- Increase air flow. We keep our doors and windows open most of the day for good cross-ventilation (and because we like it!) Of course, once the rain starts coming down heavy or the fog starts to roll in, it’s time to close the windows to keep additional moisture from coming in the house. You can also run fans to increase air flow. We benefit by the smart design of the folks who built our rental house — they even thought of windows or other openings in the closets to increase air flow!
- Buy anti-mildew mattress and pillow covers. This was important for us because we were both breaking out in hives due to mildew when we lived at 4,000 ft. elevation. I found a great source online at National Allergy Supply.
- Install lights in your closets. We bought a few inexpensive lights and either put them directly into our closets or clamped them on the closet doors. This small step, surprisingly, goes a long way to prevent mildew from taking hold on your clothes.
- Hang out your clothes on sunny mornings. The combo of sun and gentle breezes combine to stop mildew in its tracks before it becomes a problem. Otherwise, you have no other choice but to launder them.
- Keep a supply of white vinegar on hand in a spray bottle. If you see the beginnings of mold on leather chairs, belts, and other surfaces, spray them with straight white vinegar and wipe them down with a soft cloth or paper towels. Once you’ve removed all the mold, treat leather surfaces with a leather conditioner. We do this at least once a year with our Costa Rica rocking chairs.
- To minimize waste, buy items like flour, salt, sugar, spices, etc. in small packages and, as much as possible, store them in your refrigerator. Don’t store items in cardboard boxes (pasta, oatmeal, etc.) in your cupboards for long periods, even if they are in plastic zipper bags. It’s amazing how easily moisture can get into sealed plastic containers.
There has been a lot written about fighting mold and mildew as well as dealing with allergic reactions. Here are some links that we found helpful: