Environmental Issue & Sick Building Syndrome Blog

February 25, 2017 - By Clara W. Scott

           Technically speaking, your washer should be one of the cleanest places in your home, but frighteningly enough, this appliance can also act as a hospitable environment for bacteria, germs, and unpleasant odors. Here are some ways to help you ensure that your clothes are truly as clean as can be.

           Let’s start off with a worst case situation. I’ll just come right out and say the dread word . . .


           Yes, it is possible for mold to start growing in your washer, and the scariest part is that it is not always visible or obvious. In fact, Lieff Cabraser, a New Jersey based attorney, just helped push through a federal class action lawsuit against Whirlpool, Kenwood, and Maytag in regards to their front loading washers.

         It seems that front loading washers are more susceptible to mold damage, so if you own one, it’s important that you pay close attention to the tell-tale signs of mold infestation, like musty smells and small black stains on your clothes or the washer walls. If you’re at all suspicious of your washer’s cleaning capabilities, call a professional to take a look at it right away.

Wash that underwear BY ITSELF

          We’re going to make a sudden downward shift to a topic that most of us would blush when talking about: FECAL MATTER. It’s gross, but no matter how clean of a person you are, that bacteria will always end up on your unmentionables

         In fact, Charles Gerba, who is a professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona, says, “There’s about a tenth a gram of poop in the average pair of underwear.” Yeah, I can’t quite make an accurate visualization of a “tenth of a gram of poop,” either, but no matter how small it may be, it doesn’t sound good!

         These 100 million E. Coli can transfer to other clothing, so it is best to wash your undies separately from your jeans and shirts.

Opt for a Hang-Dry

          Did you know that a cold or even warm wash cycle doesn’t clean some of the worst germs? In actuality, a washer needs to get to at least 140 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit for all of that nasty bacteria that clings onto clothes to be eradicated. That’s why, if you prefer to wash on cold, it’s best to always follow up in a warm environment like a dryer.

          If you have clothes that need to be laundered delicately, then stick with the cold water hand wash cycle, then hang dry in the sun. Not only is this better for the environment, it’s also better for your health. Philip Tierno, a professor of microbiology says that the sun is the way to go. “The ultraviolet radiation kills germs. It’s just as effective as bleach.”

Posted in:Home safety and tagged: MoldLaundrysick
Posted by Dan Howard on February 25th, 2017 8:55 PM

            It was this time of year more than 20 years ago. I saw an amazing site out of the corner of my eye. It was a house for sale in a beautiful rural area. It was a FRIGID COLD day. It was ‘wrap your scarf tight” and tuck it in under your coat collar and wear a hat even though it would give you “hat air” at an important meeting type of COLD.  

            There was not any snow on the ground ……….BUT,… as I was driving, there was a driveway, a steep driveway on the high side of the road. The driveway had a thick, wide almost glacier like ribbon of ice running down the hill with its frozen shoulders of thick ice edging down and across the main road.

           The furnace had failed, and the water pipes had burst. If you are to believe the over $1,000.00 water bill these homeowners later received, tens of thousands of gallons of water had passed through the house and out from under the garage doors.   

            I pulled over and called the Realtor, whose phone number was displayed on the sign now at the edge of this newly formed Pennsylvania version of a glacier.    

           There is always a lesson in tragedy. It is less painful when someone else has the tragedy and we are just doing the learning. In the spirit of you learning without suffering the loss, here are the lessons in that tragedy.   

No matter what, in cold weather areas, disconnect exterior water hoses before cold weather arrives. Exterior spigots easily freeze when they hold water.

When you are going to be away from the home for an extended time in severe cold weather:

  • Turn off the water at the main shutoff for municipal water
  • Turn off the power to the pump for homes with water well systems
  • If possible, drain the pipes by opening all of the spigots in the home after the main valve is off.
  • Once drained, you can turn those spigots back off, or do so when you return home.
  • Install a temperature monitor in the home that will call your cell phone if the temperature goes below 45 degrees. There are a number of these systems available at a reasonable cost.
  • Dump a little RV type (non-toxic) antifreeze in each trap in your plumbing fixtures.

When it is just plain bitter cold, even when you are home:

  • You need to protect pipes that are exposed on outside walls, exposed in ceilings and attics, near crawlspaces and garages.
  • If possible, shut off the water valves off at a minimum and drain the water from pipes in those areas.
  • Wrap pipes in those areas with heat tape and cover with pipe insulation. Use heat tape that warms based upon a thermostat reading.
  • An alternative strategy is to let water drip through the pipes in a cold area so that the water can’t be standing long enough to freeze.
  • Open doors to sinks and closed up closest that contain water pipes in order to allow additional warm air to those areas.
  • Make sure that when you add insulation, the insulation is not located so as to reduce the flow of heat to an area where there are hidden pipes.

If you are living in an area with warm weather, ignore the blog and invite a northern friend to come visit a while ….after they winterize their home.   

Posted by Dan Howard on January 18th, 2017 3:45 PM



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