By Jackie Eager
I have an enemy in Solomon Islands. Just one. Well, one that I am aware of anyway. It’s a tricky creature, one day invisible and then the next day – wham! It has taken hold of my Calvin Klein black pants and intends to devour them without mercy. Worse than a younger sister with an eye on your wardrobe, mould can take your most fabulous fabrics and destroy without discretion (although it does have a passion for leather). Nothing is safe. As well as your clothes, your shoes, bags, belts and linen are potentially at risk too.
Mould is a growth of fungi that forms on vegetable or animal matter. It loves damp and poorly ventilated areas and can grow quickly if left unchecked. Areas suffering from mould often have a musty or damp smell.
While ruining my fabric items is of course a reason for action, there are also health concerns to consider. Breathing in mould spores can cause cold or flu like symptoms, sinus congestion, skin rashes and headaches. As doctors always seem to say, prevention is better than cure and so there are a few things you can do to prevent mould occurring. Over dinners and general ranting sessions, I have learnt a few tips from others about keeping mould at bay in Honiara.
- Firstly, and this seems to be the big one, allow for a flow of air around the items you wish to protect. Some people achieve this by taking the doors off their wardrobes, keeping windows open for the breeze (if you are lucky enough to be able to catch one) or leaving fans on. I personally have chosen to go with the breeze option as it’s natural and not a burden on resources.
- Fix any leaky plumbing to make sure your environment is dry. Avoiding dampness in the clothing itself is also very important. Make sure your clothes are completely dry before you put them away as a pile of damp clothing can create a perfect habitat for mould to grow. If you have been sweating all day, try airing your clothes before you put them in your laundry hamper.
- I find absorber packs very handy to throw in draws and hang in cupboards where airflow is difficult to achieve. I have bought some reusable SunSacks from the Pacific Environment shop (located at the Heritage Park Hotel, next to Haus of Nails). These bags cost me $140 each and sit like little sponges, soaking up the moisture in my cupboard. When they are full, they turn from blue to pink letting you know that they need to be heated in the microwave for five minutes, or left to dry in the sun, before being popped back on duty.
But what if mould has already started to infiltrate your clothes before you had time to read this article? One thing you can try is washing the mould out of the fabric using a handy kitchen item: vinegar. Dilute a small amount of vinegar in a bucket of water and then soak your tainted item for an hour or so before washing as normal. This has worked for me on quite a few sturdy items so far but I have not tested any delicates.
And so my battle continues but perhaps now, with a bit more knowledge, it is a fairer fight. While mould is a frustrating and disappointing experience, it is also a very small price to pay for living in such a lovely climate.