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I have a 31' steel sailboat. The last months I have noticed that my eczema has become worse when spending time on the boat/sailing. I have attempted to live on the boat in the winter, but that has worsened my health conditions. I already had the skin on my hands getting worse (probably due to wind and handling to wet lines), but after I spend time on the boat my whole body itches.

I think that the worsening in health is caused by mold in the boat. Some time ago I washed the cushions and let them dry out - after returning to the boat one month later, there was mold growing on the cushions.

I have tried removing the mold with vinegar. However, since the smell of vinegar isn't exactly pleasant, I am planning to try covering everything with ethanol.

I was curious to hear your feedback on two things:
  • Sailors with eczema (atopic dermatitis) or similar skin conditions: does your skin get worse from spending time on boats? What do you think causes that? How do you deal with it?
  • Do any of you have advice on cleaning mold out of textiles that cannot be taken off and washed (part of my upholstry is fixed to the interior). I was considering buying ethanol (95% ethanol, 5% methanol), but I'm not sure about the fumes.
 

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Second on the ozone generator. Open every possible thing inside the boat and prop things up to allow the most airflow around parts. Then seal up the outside of the boat as best as possible. After a good 48 hours it will have killed everything inside the boat.
 

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I don't have exema. Would a daily dunk in the salt water help? I don't know where you are, so temps may not be practical. Personally, I find stuff heals much better on my skin, when exposed to salt water. Although, I'm thinking of injuries and your condition is more auto immune, I believe.

If you can see mold, you definitely have it where you can't see it. Ozone generators are not good for some things aboard, but may be a one and done approach. Another would be a chlorine dioxide bomb. Then you need to be sure you keep it dry and well ventilated, so it doesn't happen again.
 

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Several people have allergies to stainless steel watch backings. I only mention this as something to research, as you have a steel boat.

I also have issues with eczema, particularly aggravated by sweating and drinking alcohol, two things I suspect one might do when spending weekends on a pleasure cruiser. On the other hand, it appears to be alleviated by exposure to UV, something one is usually guaranteed on-board. I also suspect it would be helped by exposure to salt water, but have had only very limited opportunities to test that theory, since my affliction really took hold two years ago.
 

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I think you are going to have to replace all cushions and wash every portion of the inside you can reach if you want to stop the mold. It's above the headliner, under the floorboards (and on the back of them) and behind the ceiling if you have it.
As I'm sure you are aware, some molds are not a joke and if any aggravate your present conditions, I'd be pretty hesitant to spend a lot of time there 'til you've cleaned it up.
 

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1) I'm not a doctor.
2) This is not medical advice
3) I don't have eczema
4) don't blame me if you misinterpret the below or don't research it yourself.
5) Mice are different from humans.

There's interesting new research on humans showing high fat dietry intake coupled with low carbohydrate intake is reducing the severity and occurrence of skin cancers.
Recent research on mice show the opposite.

The mechanism appears to be higher fat in the skin.

There has been discussion (not between the mice) that high fat may help eczema in the sun, too, but the research didn't include it specifically.

As it's not an area of personal interest I have not kept the links.
Try googling new research into skin cancer, ketosis, all cause mortality.

As for mild... Bleach us your friend, wear gloves, don't drink it.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thanks for all your responses!

I've rented an ozone generator, and I will run it tomorrow with a fan in the boat. The rental company advised me to run it for about 4 hours on half power. I know it might not be good for the steel, but I'm assuming that such a short time won't hurt the boat too much. Hopefully this will take care of the problem. I might buy ethanol and spray the boat off on the inside another time!

Would you suggest taping off the electronics panel to prevent damage? Or is this amount of ozon negligible?

I don't have exema. Would a daily dunk in the salt water help? I don't know where you are, so temps may not be practical. Personally, I find stuff heals much better on my skin, when exposed to salt water. Although, I'm thinking of injuries and your condition is more auto immune, I believe.

If you can see mold, you definitely have it where you can't see it. Ozone generators are not good for some things aboard, but may be a one and done approach. Another would be a chlorine dioxide bomb. Then you need to be sure you keep it dry and well ventilated, so it doesn't happen again.
Minnewaska, unfortunately the boat is in fresh water. What would you suggest to keep mold away? The humidity here is very high, and I feel like the mold grew exactly because the boat was not shut off in the winter. The heads on the boat had a small ventilation opening and there were numerous black spots from the mold. Meanwhile, the parts where no airflow was present, seemed to not contain any mold.

I have the feeling that when I leave the boat for a long time, I should isolate all holes and put moisture absorbers (silica gel). Possibly, putting a ventilator or so in the boat would be a good idea, but I don't have access to shore power, so that doesn't seem like an easy option.
 

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The best method is to run a dehumidifier, but without access to shore power, that's out.

I don't know where you are to know how humid it is generally. Ventilation can help, but not so much, if in the tropics, for example.
 

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I have had eczema. We live in a motor home, and we have been fighting mold for years. I don't know if the mold contributed or not. My doctor prescribed some creme (prescription strength) and it cleared it up. Took a while. Now I use an over the counter creme called Eucerin Eczema Relief. The stuff works great.

For the mold, we used Damp Rid to keep the moisture down. We have six of the Damp Rid pots and a couple of the hanging bags scattered around, mostly in closets and drawers, and my wife sterilizes/sanitizes everything. It seems to keep the mold down. Of course, it gets worse in the winter. We are in the Puget Sound area and it is always very damp in the winter.
 

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I have eczema on my hands. For me it is essential to wear gloves and not damage the skin. Once the skin is damaged, it takes a very long time to heal. Also regular using a hydration hand creme, as opposed to high fat creme, helps a lot. Mold could be a problem because that stuff will try to invade your skin cracks.
 

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I was curious to hear your feedback on two things:
  • Sailors with eczema (atopic dermatitis) or similar skin conditions: does your skin get worse from spending time on boats? What do you think causes that? How do you deal with it?
  • Do any of you have advice on cleaning mold out of textiles that cannot be taken off and washed (part of my upholstry is fixed to the interior). I was considering buying ethanol (95% ethanol, 5% methanol), but I'm not sure about the fumes.
Eugene, I spent a lot of time chasing mold because my wife has asthma. This worked for us, but as someone else said your location may be a factor.

- Replace the shaft seal with a dripless seal to keep the bilge dry. Moisture in the bilge means moisture in the whole boat.

- Once the bilge is dry, clean it with dawn and hot soapy water, then clean down the engine.

- Look into the kinds of cleaners you're using. Some cleaners may remove surface mold, but actually promote mold growth.

- Add one or more solar fans to promote airflow. Mold likes stagnant air. On our 30 footer one fan in the v-berth was enough to keep the air flowing. You might consider a second fan on a larger boat - one pulling outside air in and one venting out to move air through the boat.

- Replace your cushions. This made a big difference for us. I tried multiple ways to wash our original cushions but could never get rid of that mildew smell. I'm not sure what to tell you about textiles fixed or glued into the boat.

- Kanberra Gel. The stuff is pretty amazing at killing mold. We put one in the galley, one in the salon and small containers in the head and v-berth. You can buy refill bags to keep the containers full as it evaporates. We'd open the boat up after two weeks away and there would be no boat smell.

Hope that helps,
Jim
 
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