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We are newbie sailors looking to buy a used boat (34'-40') for coastal cruising in New England with friends who have sailed more in warmer climates. One of us has asthma and all the boats we have seen (all in colder months) have had mold and mildew in the cabin. I was wondering if there are sailors out there who have asthma and can comment on dealing with mold on a sailboat that is used about once every 1-2 weeks. Are there things that can be done to minimize the problem or manage it? I've called a cleaning/detailing company and they said they can clean the cabin for $600-$800 and if needed remove any ductwork and clean it for about $1600-$1800. Do you think this would deal with the problem? Would it come right back? Thanks for any advice!
 

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Ventilation is the key to keep the moisture and thus the mold/mildew under control. Add a couple of solar vents like the Nicra, set one to pull and one to push at opposite ends of the boat. Prop up cushions and open lockers when you leave. And keep your bilge dry.

I have mold / mildew allergies and those things are enough for me to have avoided problems so far.
 

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I have asthma and had to thoroughly de-mold all areas of the inside cabin and outside on the deck as you'll bring in mold spores inside with Lysol/vinegar. I removed all cushions that had any mold spores and made either new cushions/covers or sterilized any cushions I did not buy new... I then reupholstered all fabric coverings... clean, clean clean is what you need to do... it may have smelled like a hospital but I never had a problem sleeping on the boat. Dehumidifiers work great and I used a fan to run air out of the cabin and get cabin air flow thru. When out of the boat for over a week I took all the cushions and stood them upright with a gap between them to allow air flow (fan still on)... molds love moisture and dark humid places.
 

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Mold and funguses are best removed by using 'caustics' which dissolve the cells. Chlorine, clorox, vinegar only kills/stuns these cells and leaves these cells to become the nutrient sources for future species of fungal microorganisms. Lye soap, lye, or 'strong' alkaline soaps and detergents including TriSodiumPhosphate-TSP or sodium silicate based detergents are 'dissolvers' of fungal cells.
Funguses spread by the release into the atmosphere their spores; dead or removed funguses generate no spores.

Mechanically you have to 'scrub' more than visible surfaces; you must remove all the growing fungals from all the 'hidden' spaces: under the sole, under the 'pan liner', bilge, the WATER TANK VENT HOSE, etc.
Once all the interior spaces are 'thoroughly cleaned', then consider to 'spritz' (not on painted or varnished surfaces) one of the sodium silicate detergents (Roll-ON™ or Tuff-eNuff™) or 3M Marine Mildew Block (16.9 fl-Ounce) : Amazon.com : [email protected]@[email protected]@http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/[email protected]@[email protected]@31PswfXL5OL ... and simply let dry - dont wipe off !!!! This will be a modern equivalent of 'white-washing' - a sure-fire method of mold/mildew prevention discovered by our far distant ancestors - caustics !!!, which deactivates mold/mildew/fungal spores !!!!!!! .... and no matter what the internal 'humidity or air-flow' inside your boat.

If you are sensitive and/or reactive to molds/mildews/funguses, be SURE to wear a RESPIRATOR, goggles, etc. when cleaning. NEVER EVER 'clean' mold/mildew/fungus when it's 'dry' as you will only release and spread the spores into the atmosphere; before cleaning always wet it down (water, clorox, sodium silicate, etc.) to prevent/lessen the spread of the SPORES and prevent you from aspirating them deeply into your lungs --- advice for even 'healthy' folks.

If your 'sensitivity' to mold, etc. is high, consider to hire a 'dairyman' or someone from a 'dairy maintenance' company to do the bulk of the cleaning and disinfection for you (but dont allow them to 'treat' any painted or varnished surfaces - you do this as for sure theyre going to be using 'strong caustics'.).

For long term storage/closure of your boat, consider to use "Para-formaldehyde" crystals .... put a measure of crystals in a plastic pan, as you hold your breath as you QUICKLY close up the boat without breathing. When returning, open the boat to 'air out' for a long time before reentering. Obviously para-formaldehyde crystals wont be available in states that prohibit the use of common 'chemicals' by consumers. Para-F is deadly to mold/mildew, and human lung tissue too.

;-)
 

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RK, my wife has asthma. We did some basic things that made an immediate difference, and some larger jobs that made a big difference long term.

When we first got the boat I steam cleaned all the cushions and we did a general cleanup inside to get rid of any obvious mold and mildew.

Next I scrubbed out the bilge. This helped with any odors. She was OK that first summer.

Longer term I got the Nicro fan in the v-berth working. Nicro makes solar powered fans that run/charge during the day and then run on the charged batteries at night. We also have dorade vents that allow air into the boat. Air comes in through the dorades and is exhausted out by the Nicro fan so there is always air movement on the boat when we're not there.

Next I replaced the shaft packing with a dripless shaft seal. This means the bilge is always dry. No dampness means no mildew.

Finally we keep Kanberra Gel in the cabin and head which is surprisingly effective.

Since making these changes we no longer have any "boat smell".

Best of luck,
Jim
 

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ozone generator, solar powered vents, 20yrs liveaboard never a single spec of mold
The US EPA disagrees with you, as does every other health authority, it seems.

Table 1. Ozone Heath Effects and Standards
Health Effects Risk Factors Health Standards*
Potential risk of experiencing:

Decreases in lung function

Aggravation of asthma

Throat irritation and cough

Chest pain and shortness of breath

Inflammation of lung tissue

Higher susceptibility to respiratory infection Factors expected to increase risk and severity of health effects are:

Increase in ozone air concentration

Greater duration of exposure for some health effects

Activities that raise the breathing rate (e.g., exercise)

Certain pre-existing lung diseases (e.g., asthma)
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires ozone output of indoor medical devices to be no more than 0.05 ppm.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that workers not be exposed to an average concentration of more than 0.10 ppm for 8 hours.

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends an upper limit of 0.10 ppm, not to be exceeded at any time.

EPA's National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ozone is a maximum 8 hour average outdoor concentration of 0.08 ppm (see - the Clean Air Act - Title I | Clean Air Act | US EPA)
 

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The US EPA disagrees with you, as does every other health authority, it seems.

Table 1. Ozone Heath Effects and Standards
Health Effects Risk Factors Health Standards*
Potential risk of experiencing:

Decreases in lung function

Aggravation of asthma

Throat irritation and cough

Chest pain and shortness of breath

Inflammation of lung tissue

Higher susceptibility to respiratory infection Factors expected to increase risk and severity of health effects are:

Increase in ozone air concentration

Greater duration of exposure for some health effects

Activities that raise the breathing rate (e.g., exercise)

Certain pre-existing lung diseases (e.g., asthma)
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires ozone output of indoor medical devices to be no more than 0.05 ppm.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that workers not be exposed to an average concentration of more than 0.10 ppm for 8 hours.

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends an upper limit of 0.10 ppm, not to be exceeded at any time.

EPA's National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ozone is a maximum 8 hour average outdoor concentration of 0.08 ppm (see - the Clean Air Act - Title I | Clean Air Act | US EPA)
No they don't disagree with me if you use it properly. Our Heavenfresh 300C air purifier with HEPA filter, UV filter, charcoal filter, ion generator and ozone generator ran 24hrs/day except for the ozone which was only engaged while not on board.
 

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This sounds permanant and lethal. Sounds like it will work fine though.

Mold and funguses are best removed by using 'caustics' which dissolve the cells. Chlorine, clorox, vinegar only kills/stuns these cells and leaves these cells to become the nutrient sources for future species of fungal microorganisms. Lye soap, lye, or 'strong' alkaline soaps and detergents including TriSodiumPhosphate-TSP or sodium silicate based detergents are 'dissolvers' of fungal cells.
Funguses spread by the release into the atmosphere their spores; dead or removed funguses generate no spores.

Mechanically you have to 'scrub' more than visible surfaces; you must remove all the growing fungals from all the 'hidden' spaces: under the sole, under the 'pan liner', bilge, the WATER TANK VENT HOSE, etc.
Once all the interior spaces are 'thoroughly cleaned', then consider to 'spritz' (not on painted or varnished surfaces) one of the sodium silicate detergents (Roll-ON™ or Tuff-eNuff™) or
3M Marine Mildew Block (16.9 fl-Ounce) : Amazon.com : Automotive 3M Marine Mildew Block (16.9 fl-Ounce) : Amazon.com : Automotive

3M Marine Mildew Block (16.9 fl-Ounce) : Amazon.com : Automotive
3M Marine Mildew Block (16.9 fl-Ounce) : Amazon.com : Automotive

... and simply let dry - dont wipe off !!!! This will be a modern equivalent of 'white-washing' - a sure-fire method of mold/mildew prevention discovered by our far distant ancestors - caustics !!!, which deactivates mold/mildew/fungal spores !!!!!!! .... and no matter what the internal 'humidity or air-flow' inside your boat.

If you are sensitive and/or reactive to molds/mildews/funguses, be SURE to wear a RESPIRATOR, goggles, etc. when cleaning. NEVER EVER 'clean' mold/mildew/fungus when it's 'dry' as you will only release and spread the spores into the atmosphere; before cleaning always wet it down (water, clorox, sodium silicate, etc.) to prevent/lessen the spread of the SPORES and prevent you from aspirating them deeply into your lungs --- advice for even 'healthy' folks.

If your 'sensitivity' to mold, etc. is high, consider to hire a 'dairyman' or someone from a 'dairy maintenance' company to do the bulk of the cleaning and disinfection for you (but dont allow them to 'treat' any painted or varnished surfaces - you do this as for sure theyre going to be using 'strong caustics'.).

For long term storage/closure of your boat, consider to use "Para-formaldehyde" crystals .... put a measure of crystals in a plastic pan, as you hold your breath as you QUICKLY close up the boat without breathing. When returning, open the boat to 'air out' for a long time before reentering. Obviously para-formaldehyde crystals wont be available in states that prohibit the use of common 'chemicals' by consumers. Para-F is deadly to mold/mildew, and human lung tissue too.
 

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My solution to the smell of mildew was to make the boat smell like diesel. I like the smell of diesel, my wife hates it. For awhile, this was a problem but then became a feature as I realized I liked single handing.
Seriously, I once made a real effort to get rid of boat smell by wiping down everything with Clorox and then cleaning the bilge but the old cushions could never be de-molded. In FL, humidity and mildew are just facts of life.
 

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My method for 'killing' mold in cushions:
1. remove and wash the upholstery fabric

2. Foam cleaning
a. Roll up and put the foam into a large thick film plastic trash bag
b. Put a few tablespoons of ParaFormaldehyde (MildewGaz, etc.) into and wrapped into a paper towel. Insert the Para-F into the 'middle' of the foam 'wad'
c. Take the bag and foam OUTSIDE into the fresh air; close the trash bag around the vacuum hose of a 'shop vac' and pump all the air out of the foam inside the bag. Twist the bag to close off the shop vac hose and tie it securely closed. Remove the vacuum hose.
d. Let the evacuated bag sit for several days, re-evacuating when necessary - the bag still 'outside'.
e. after several days, remove the remnants of the paraformaldehyde, reclose the bag and pump down several times to remove the Para-F gas inside the foam.
f. Let the foam fully 'air-out' for a day or two before putting it in any living space.

2a. Foam only lasts a few years before breaking down and becomes 'softer' anyway; so, when you replace it, buy your foam with mildew retardant already included in the foam .... more expensive but certainly worth it.
 

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Try as you might you can't wipe the mildew/mold spores off foam...

My method and you can read it in a prior post somewhere... for the cushions I did not replace I took the covers off and inserted the foam into a large bin with a cover and added Clorox/Lysol, full strength vinegar, and water to cover the foam entirely for 5 days (less days if you need the cushions sooner). After this I wringed the foam with fresh water several times and allowed to dry in the sun as that too will kill any leftover molds (UV sterilization)... I then used the old covers patterns for the new covers... the entire effort made the boat's interior smell fresh and new... it has yet to have a mildew/boat smell... adding the extra fans/humidifier has helped immensely to keep the cabin dry and smelling great. I also insure any condensation or water intrusion from outside sources are thoroughly dried up and disposed of.
 
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