Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Book Review: "Dream in Color", by Loretta and Linda Sanchez

Sierra Club

When I was growing up, one of my dad's favorite sayings was "Don't let anybody ever tell you you're a dumb Mexican."

Our mom definitely taught us that there are times when we must stand up for our convictions and not back down.

Loretta Sanchez became my hero when she defeated the disgusting right wing extremist Bob Dornan in an upset victory in Orange County, California. Several years later, her sister Linda Sanchez was elected to a nearby district and they became the first ever sisters to serve in Congress.

As the children of Mexican immigrants, their story is obviously one of overcoming great odds and prejudice. But they have overcome those odds with grace, intelligence and great skill.

In 2008 Loretta and Linda (along with Richard Buskin) published their story, a book called Dream in Color.

I love the title as much as I love the Sanchez sisters. And I always meant to buy the book. But I tend to read either ancient history or pure escapist science fiction or fantasy. The stupid turn to the discredited and failed right wing Republican agenda in the 2010 midterm election was what made me finally buy the book, because I knew it would be an inspiring story, and I needed an inspiring story. And I was not wrong in my expectation.

Many people work hard to conceal their background, conforming or projecting themselves in ways that are deemed socially acceptable, politically correct, physically desirable, or otherwise in vogue. And women and minorities are often more prone to this, partly because they're taught to aspire to some mythical ideal. Not us.

Growing up in a traditional Mexican family, we learned about the rich cultural values of our heritage, and as Latinas in Congress we draw daily strength from the lessons that our parents instilled in us. One of the strongest examples of such a lesson is the way Mom stood her ground when told by one of our grade school teachers that we should speak only English at home. She knew that being bilingual was an asset, and we have both repeatedly reaped the benefits of her foresight...

In most of the world being bi-, tri- or multi-lingual is not just an asset, it is a requirement. In Europe most people speak three or more languages. In Japan and India at least two. These are the countries America COMPETES with and our failure to recognize the need to speak multiple languages is one of several reasons (all fueled by right wing stupidity) that America is slowly, but surely, losing its competitive edge.

As for hiding one's ethnic identity, currently living in NYC where almost every ethic group has its own parade it amazes me that America would EVER want to abandon or deny its rich, amazing ethnic and immigrant past and present. America is an immigrant nation and has been from day one. And that has been one of our greatest strengths. Yet Republican America wants to DENY that strong, amazing, idealistic immigrant past. I am descended from German refugees from economic and political problems in the wake of the 1848 Revolutions. And I am descended from Jewish refugees from pogroms. I am interested in, shaped by and proud of those roots. Why would I expect Mexican-Americans to be any less interested in, shaped by or proud of THEIR roots?

Dream in Color is the story of these daughters of Mexican immigrants (that word, "immigrant" that is supposed to be so horrible, but in reality describes all of our ancestries unless you happen to be pure Native American) who rose from tough, though not poverty, circumstances to become Congresswomen. What most right wingers could never, NEVER admit, is that in many ways this book is the ultimate story of the American Dream. The American Dream was, is and always will be the story of the immigrant family that came to America with nothing but dreamed big, worked hard, and achieved great things. THAT is the American dream and the Honorable Sanchez sisters are a perfect example of that dream.

I grew up in California and always found it somewhat amusing and disturbing that people saw my state as so liberal. I lived in Los Angeles where the stereotype largely held, but neighboring Orange County was one of the most conservative districts in the nation and was represented by right wing crazies like Bob Dornan, who wound up so batshit crazy even Newt Gingrich hesitated to openly support him for awhile.

So when, in 1996, a young woman named Loretta Sanchez had the huevos to run against Bob Dornan, I eagerly donated to her campaign, though I had little hope she could pull it off. But that donation was one of my most enthusiastic donations.

Loretta's reason for running, which I didn't know until reading Dream in Color, was basically because when she was pushing hard for improved education in her district, her Congressman Bob Dornan blew her off.

I next tried to make an appointment to see my Congress member, Bob Dornan, but he refused to meet with me. If I had wanted to meet with him about a defense project, he would have been all over it, but as far as I could tell, education held no interest for him. So, at that point, I went home and said, "I'm going to run for Congress..."

The first person I called was mu mom. When I told her what I wanted to do, she said, "Okay, we can do that..."

The fight was hard and Bob Dornan, a truely miserable human being in my opinion, was as nasty as could be, demonstrating just what true Republican "values" are these days.

When I won the one even knew who I was...I'd appeared out of nowhere to beat the candidates and now I was the opponent to Bob Dornan. Well, when he found out who I was he described me as a dream candidate to run against. "She can't beat me," he told the Orange County newspaper, the OC Weekly. "Bob Dornan [I guess like Bob Dole Dornan refers to himself in the third person] is a father of five, grandfather of ten, military man, been married forty-one years. She has no kids, no military, no track record. I win."


Dismissing me resulted in his defeat. And when we had a rematch two years later, Dornan turned extremely nasty.

To my utter astonishment, moderate Democrat (former moderate Republican) Loretta Sanchez beat right wing extremist Bob Dornan. Bob Dornan, who would make today's Teabaggers (remember, THEY came up with that term!) like Carl Paladino seem reasonable, was ousted by an upstart Latina. Dornan spent the next year showing up to Congress anyway, claiming Loretta hadn't really won. He demanded a rematch two years later and was soundly defeated by the now incumbent Loretta Sanchez. I vaguely remember getting drunk in celebration of Loretta's second, absolutely definitive, win. I was immensely proud to have donated to Loretta's first two runs for Congress. The only reason I have not donated since is because she doesn't need my money and other great candidates do.

Within her first year in Congress, Loretta Sanchez proved her worth, despite being resented by many Republicans and despite being a freshman, in the passage of changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (that book that features so prominently in the movie "A Few Good Men) to address the problem of rape of women in military service. In many ways the Uniform Code of Military Justice had failed to keep up with changes in civilian law regarding rape and so wound up protecting rapists and victimizing rape victims. Loretta Sanchez saw this problem for women in the military and sought to change it. She was, of course, solidly opposed by the good-old-boys network of the military and initially by the good-old-boys network of Congress. But she refused to let what was clearly an important issue get pushed aside, and to give credit where credit is due, she was helped by a Republican, John McHugh. Now I never really liked McHugh, but in this case he did the right thing, even to the point, according to Loretta Sanchez, of standing up to fellow Republican Duncan Hunter who wanted to let Loretta's bill die. John McHugh decided Loretta's bill was worth supporting and he went the extra mile for it. Together Sanchez and McHugh, against the inertia of the military, revised the military law codes to better handle rape cases. This all happened, from start to finish, within Loretta's first two years in Congress while Bob Dornan was still showing up and claiming he still represented the district.

I think this experience shaped Loretta Sachez's entire approach towards Congress. Loretta Sanchez is a Blue Dog Dem, which usually means bad things in my book, but Loretta represents a relatively conservative district and, though a Blue Dog, votes well and stands up on fights few other Dems stand up on. So I have always liked her. And her unconventional image, drawn from her Hispanic, hard working, immigrant background, has always endeared her to me.

As a Blue Dog, Loretta tends to be one of those compromisers in Congress that many progressives hate. But in judging Loretta one has to take into account her district (which is conservative) and her experience with Republican John McHugh, where through patience and determination she was able to find common ground and compromise and so pass a much needed bill. She learned the lesson then and there that compromise was possible and could accomplish important things. I think she has stuck to that view, though she has also never been one of the more conservative members of the Blue Dogs. I feel she remains true to progressive ideals though she also maintains a cooperative stance with conservatives. If all Blue Dogs were like Loretta Sanchez, we'd be much better off both as a party and as a country.

Loretta also, like Arianna Huffington, left the Republican party because of the realization that the Republicans did NOT represent her true values...didn't even represent the values they claimed to represent. Loretta Sanchez grew up in a family where one parent was a Democrat and one a Republican, so the choice between the two seemed a reasonable first:

Whereas Mom was a compassionate Democrat, Dad ended up running his own business and reading the libertarian Orange County Register, so he was very antitax and pro-Republican. Neither of them voted back then...they didn't become US citizens until [1996]. By then, like me, Dad had converted from Republican to Democrat...

I remained registered as a Republican and never really thought about it much. That was, until one night when I was flicking through the TV channels at home and just happened to catch Pat Buchanan making an inflammatory speech, calling for an end to immigrants coming to America. I was so angry that a high-profile Republican was allowed to spew that kind of hatred on national television, the very next day I registered as a Democrat.

When Loretta's younger sister, Linda, ran for Congress in 2003, I considered it a given I would donate. If she was HALF as kick ass as Loretta, it was worth supporting her. And she won, making Loretta and Linda Sanchez not only rare in Congress as Latinas (I personally know and like Nydia Velasquez, one of the other rare Latinas in Congress), but literally unique as being the first and so far ONLY sisters to serve in Congress.

Linda Sanchez, partly because she represents a solidly Democratic district and partly because of her own personality, is a more liberal Democrat than her sister. Linda, in fact, is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus while Loretta is a member of the Blue Dog Caucus. Loretta grew up with more to prove, as an older sibling, and I think it is reflected in her more conservative attitude, shaped by a greater need for financial security than social activism. They both make clear that the older siblings had a rougher time and were raised with a more traditional philosophy, but by the time Linda was growing up this was somewhat relaxed and Linda, from an early age, recognized that there were inequities in the world and that becoming a lawyer was a path towards solving those inequities. She was encouraged to become a lawyer by her older sister, but Loretta had imagined Linda using her law degree more practically, getting a higher paying job. Instead, Linda went into labor law and became a union organizer. And she was kick ass in pushing for labor reforms. When a new Congressional district was created in Southern California, Linda decided to run for it...and won. She started as the longshot, as a young Latina, but when she proved so effective that she rapidly became the frontrunner, she became the target for attacks by all the other campaigns in the primary. I get the feeling from her description in the book that this may have been one of the toughest things she had faced: a concerted attack from several other fellow Democrats.

And yet she won. I think this shows the strength of the Sanchez family, that they could turn not just one, but TWO long-shot runs for office into wins.

Like Loretta, Linda Sanchez also proved her worth within the first year, though in a more locally focused way.

One of the smaller cities I represent desperately needed funding to renovate and repave its major street, which was old and falling into disrepair. For ten years the city had been begging its former congressman to try to help get federal funds for the roadwork, but he never secured any real funding for the project. Well, when the time came, and [Congressman] Obey asked for projects, that was one of the projects I submitted. It made it into the omnibus bill, and the omnibus bill passed. That meant that after being in Congress for only six weeks I had gotten it the funding! And wheras before the city had been skeptical, I now had a victory to show them, and it was grateful.

And then, of course, Linda had to face the same obstacles that Loretta had to face as a rare Latina in Congress as well as a freshman. She relates how she frequently felt like asking people (I assume she never actually did!):

Excuse me, but did you just blow me off because I'm a woman, because I'm Hispanic, or because I'm young? Could you let me know?

Linda Sanchez has some of the best lines in the book, the lines that make me think, "YES! That is how I always wanted to say it!" For example:

Sometimes I've encountered Republicans who seem to believe that people are poor because they choose to be poor, and that this wouldn't be the case if they just worked harder. Well, that isn't true. A lot of people start with advantages that they don't even consider to be advantages and I always point this out when I get into fights...

I believe there are two kinds of people in this life. There are those who succeed and attribute all the success to themselves--"I've got mine, you guys have to get yours." And then there are those who succeed and not only credit the teachers who cared, the mentors who helped them, the bosses who took them under their wing, and the parents who pushed them to do well, but also the resolve to help the next group of people who are struggling. For the life of me, I don't understand those who fall into the former category, because the belief that they did it all on their own is just nonsense.

And right there a major FALSE Republican talking point falls by the wayside.

Dream in Color is interesting on several levels. It may not be high literature in style, but it is a very readable, straightforward description of what life is like for Latinas in America and what people can accomplish if they work REALLY hard and take calculated risks. It also provides very interesting perspectives on how Congress works...and doesn't always work. It also provides a much needed counterpoint to the hostile and nasty Republican anti-immigrant rhetoric we hear all too much, instilling a respect for hard working immigrants of ALL ethnicities.

Overall Dream in Color is a quick read, and, though perhaps not immensely profound, is very inspiring, particularly now when Democrats seem a tad demoralized.

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Monday, August 29, 2011

What about those Bed Bugs!

Best bed bug mattress cover for bedbug infestation

About 5 years ago I wrote an article about a relatively new but spreading problem: bed bugs. Since I wrote that the problem has gotten bad enough that it has sparked a whole industry of detection and extermination of bed bugs and has led to hundreds of articles all over the mainstream media reporting on this growing problem. But this has led to misunderstandings and some shady businesses as well. This article is designed to help you avoid bedbugs if possible and get rid of them if you do get them.

Last summer the building I live in had a bed bug scare. Turns out only one apartment ever had them, but had the building's managing board not acted rapidly it would have spread. As it was the managing board spent tens of thousands of dollars to pinpoint possibly affected apartments and proactively treat them. During that time we became quite informed about the pests. The bad news is the problem continues to spread and a lot of what is being done about it is the wrong approach. The good news is there are some very simple things you can do that will prevent them from coming into your living space.

From the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene website:

Bed bugs are small insects that feed on the blood of mammals and birds. Adult bed bugs are oval, wingless and rusty red colored, and have flat bodies, antennae and small eyes. They are visible to the naked eye, but often hide in cracks and crevices. When bed bugs feed, their bodies swell and become a brighter red. In homes, bed bugs feed primarily on the blood of humans, usually at night when people are sleeping...

Typically, the bite is painless and rarely awakens a sleeping person. However, it can produce large, itchy welts on the skin. Welts from bed bug bites do not have a red spot in the center--those welts are more characteristic of flea bites...

Although bed bugs may be a nuisance to people, they are not known to spread disease.

That is also good news. Bed bugs are not disease vectors like mosquitoes. They are just irritating in the extreme...and they can really infest an apartment if not properly addressed.


The problem first became wide spread in NYC in 2005...after a lull of about 60 years where there were few or no reportings of bed bugs in NYC, one of the current epicenters. Since then the epidemic has taken off. Now I have heard from one professional that one out of every eleven buildings in NYC has bed bugs. Let me emphasize that I was sounding the alarm early on this one!

Why the sudden epidemic? There are several possible reasons. Some have tried to blame it on immigrants. That is almost certainly not true since here in NYC we have a pretty constant influx of immigrants and the influx of bed bugs has never correlated with influx of immigrants. If this was going to be a major source of spread, there would not have been a 60 year lull. NYC has always been a major immigrant hub (I know my ancestors came through here) but the upswing in bed bugs seems to have only started around 2005 for NYC. But elsewhere in the country the upswing started more like 2000, according to a an article from Time Magazine back when I first looked into this.

One aspect of the sudden rise of the bed bugs is simple evolution. I have often reported on how the misuse and overuse of antibiotics, particularly in animal feed, has led to a huge emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria. This has been a huge problem and is one reason why I now only buy meat and chicken raised without antibiotics. Well the same thing happens with insects. Overuse and misuse of pesticides in America has led to bed bugs that are resistant to most pesticides. For the record, same goes with lice. Those horribly toxic shampoos are mostly useless by now because the lice have evolved resistance against them. And many treatments for bed bugs are ineffective for the same reason.

Another aspect that I suspect is going on is global warming. Simple fact is that most insects prefer warmer temperatures. I want to emphasize that this is speculation. The evolution of pesticide resistance is not speculative. But global warming HAS been shown to be the cause for the spread of many pests, and it almost certainly will eventually be shown to play a role for many more. So I am betting that rising temperatures have helped the bed bug infestation spread.

So what can you do? I'm going to work backwards, from treatment to detection to prevention. Why? Because if I give you an idea about how awful the treatment and expensive and potentially inaccurate the detection, prevention will sound much better to you. And honestly the more we all work to keep these things under control the more likely it will be we can limit them. Remember that if your neighbors get them, you will probably get them too if you aren't actively trying to prevent them.


There seem to be three main treatments. All three are horrible to go through and hugely expensive. They are basically heating, freezing, and poisoning. I guess there is a fourth which you can use for any items that can't stand up to the other treatments: bag everything for 2 years. That is about how long it takes to kill bed bugs by starvation. I did notice that the more convinced exterminators were that we didn't actually have them, the more they backed off that number. Eventually they seemed to settle on 6 months. But there has been research that showed even after a year sealed in a bag with no food or water, they could still find bed bugs not just living, but actually reproducing! They are tough SOBs.

Treatment usually involves bagging almost everything you own for months to years, punching about 1 inch diameter holes in many of your walls, then either getting poison all over everything including inside your walls (and it takes MONTHS to fully clean up) or raising the temperature in the whole apartment above what they can tolerate or lowering the temperature to below what they can tolerate. All of these horribly inconvenient, expensive and disruptive. Best to avoid them!


Detection has issues as well. Usually what is first obvious is the itching. Then people will notice the bugs' very dark droppings (basically like dried up flakes of blood...yeah...your blood if you've got itching bites). By the time you are noticing them, it is likely that you have a pretty bad infestation. People won't always see them because they mostly come out at night, but a really bad infestation they will be everywhere, day and night.

There are two expert methods of identifying them: trained people and trained dogs. The dogs have been getting a lot of press these days, and they CAN be very effective. The dog's nose is an amazing thing, and they really can be trained to sniff out anything and tell you about it. There are bomb sniffing dogs, drug sniffing dogs, and now bed bug sniffing dogs. The flaws are that they are extremely expensive and, though potentially extremely accurate, are in practice sometimes very inaccurate. Dogs basically want food and attention. They don't care about accuracy...they just want to be rewarded, so they are easily distracted. We are pretty sure that our building had many false alarms because of a dog. I am not saying it is a scam or the dog was poorly trained. It just has a built in inaccuracy which has to be kept in mind.

But so does the human detection system. People will miss the very beginning of an infestation that a dog could catch, but they do the inspection in a smarter manner and so can be more accurate overall once an infestation has gotten going beyond the first stages. Dogs are potentially more accurate but sometimes people do the inspection in a smarter way. So it's a toss up which to hire.

But the bottom line is if either a dog or a person with training in detection tells you you have them, it is really hard not to say yes to the treatment because far, far better safe than sorry. The earlier you catch it the easier it is to stop, so if you want to wait and see if the dog or person is right, you may find yourself with an out of control infestation which will be even harder and more expensive to deal with.


Oh, and is now a good time to mention bed bugs are ALL OVER THE CITY? Hotels. In the UN building. In places of work. In movie theaters. The good news is that they don't really move around so much except at night, so they aren't jumping from person to person much. The main vector is bringing into your apartment items that have already got them living inside, books, etc. But one exterminator I talked to believed people's shoes are a major vector. So they aren't spread so much directly from one person to another but by bringing infested things into your building.

So what can you do to prevent them from coming into your living space?

First be really, really careful scrounging anything, particularly furniture. Now I have scrounged a lot of stuff in my time...still do from time to time, but now I am highly careful. If a book has bed bugs, it is pretty easy to detect...if you look. You will see the black specs that are their droppings. Furniture can be harder, but there are treatments if you really want to bring a scrounged piece of furniture into your apartment. Heating (if you can) or diatomaceaous earth (see below). But my wife figures the safest is to not scrounge at all.

Bed Bug Kit Banner

Mattresses and pillows can be sealed up. This costs some money, but if you get good mattress and pillow covers, even if you have an infested mattress or bed you can just leave it in the cover and they will eventually die and you keep the bed from being their favorite habitat. These covers are the most recommended action you can take. When exterminators heard we already had them, they were 90% sure we couldn't have a problem. So covering your mattresses and pillows with high end versions of these covers will really protect you. This is a cost you probably don't want to skimp on.

But shoes are an issue as well. One exterminator said you should always take your shoes off when you come in and if possible place them in a container with diatomaceous earth (again...see below). He believes that (scrounging an infested bed aside) this would prevent almost all spread of bed bugs. Not sure if that is true, but it certainly would help.

Now we come to some amazing stuff that I was dubious about but have seen in action. Diatoms are tiny animals that live in the ocean and create a silica shell. These shells are beautiful (if you have a microscope to look at them with), elaborate, and very sharp. These animals die, fall to the bottom of the sea, and form thick beds of diatom skeletons. When plate tectonics (earthquakes and continental drift) brings these deposits up above sea level, they can be mined. These deposits of tiny silica skeletons of long dead diatoms is called diatomaceous earth. It is a white powder of very tiny sharp skeletons. To us the sharpness, at worst, will irritate our skin a bit. Can't really harm us. But to something small like an insect, it is like the death of a thousand cuts. The coating around an insect that helps keep in moisture gets pierced and they dry out and die.

You can get diatomaceous earth online or in a hardware store. It isn't that expensive. If you even get so-called "food grade" it is considered so completely harmless that you can eat it if you want...though there is no reason you would and I suspect it would kind of irritate your digestive system. But it can be used in a kitchen.

We got diatomaceous earth and I basically spread it around the entire perimeter of every room in our apartment, making sure to get it into every crevice. The problem is this stuff gets everywhere. I found it irritating to my lungs at first, but once most of it settled and we vacuumed up anything not around the edges of a room (this is also good for making sure your vacuum isn't infested!) that went away. For months afterwards the diatomaceous earth was still visible in the crevices and corners around many of the rooms but isn't a problem.

And the effectiveness? Within one day of spreading it around every single crawling insect, including ants, confused flour beetles, and cockroaches, just disappeared. And they didn't come back for about a year.

This year we started seeing some ants again and I spread diatomaceous earth next to the sliding glass door and our basement windows. And again all crawling insects just disappeared. I still see plenty of ants outside, but none have come inside. And no cockroaches for a year now! In NYC...almost unheard of.

So if most of NYC put their mattresses and pillows into bed bug covers, took off their shoes and put them in containers of diatomaceous earth when they got home, and spread diatomaceous earth around the edges of their apartment, I am betting they would find many pests would be greatly reduced from their apartments. Bed bugs, ants and flour beetles are hard to get rid of. Diatomaceous earth does it. And it isn't the kind of thing that is easy to evolve a resistance to so it won't lose its effectiveness over the years.

So there you go. Together we can all fight bed bugs. Hope this helps!

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Dealing with Mold and Mildew in Your Home

This is particularly critical after Hurricane Irene, as I can attest with added moisture in my apartment.

My apartment building, including my own apartment, has had ongoing moisture problems, including leaks, floods, and general humidity. This brings mold and mildew...we have even had areas with that deadly black mold that can ruin a home if you don't catch it early enough.

I also want to draw your attention to my earlier article regarding the role of mold and mildew in the allergy and asthma epidemic. Keeping your home free of mold and mildew can reduce (not eliminate) your allergy, asthma and other respiratory problems. I know I used to get a respiratory infection every cold season that wouldn't go away. Once my building solved the leak and moisture problems and I got on top of cleaning and preventing mold, my respiratory problems largely went away.

So over the years I have spent a fair amount of time battling mold and mildew. I would like to pass along the more successful treatments I have found.


Mold and mildew grows where moisture collects. Areas that get damp are likely to get mold. Areas where dampness is chronic, mold will take strong hold and may be hard to get rid of. These are the conditions, particularly within walls, that can cause the deadly black mold that has closed down entire buildings in worst case scenarios.

If you see wet areas, look for leaks and get them fixed. Particularly near walls because moisture within walls are the hardest to deal with and the most common source of mold infestations. If there is a wet area, treat it for mold ASAP...see below for ways to kill and prevent mold. Apply where you can when you see a damp area. Note that bleach is what I list below as the most effective mold careful using this on carpets or fabric since it can damage the color and the fabric.

Dehumidifiers can be useful when moisture has built up. Sometimes, particularly in humid weather, moisture just stays put for days or weeks, which is a guaranteed mold environment. A dehumidifier can help. These are noisy, energy hogs, generate tons of heat, and need frequent emptying. But sometimes they are what you need to do the job. We have only had to use them when there was like a foot of water in our apartment, ruining our floors, during humid weather. But my building uses them in a common carpeted area to deal with moisture and they definitely help. Here's one that is Energy Star Rated, so that would limit the energy use, something you will appreciate if you need to use it for any length of time:

Deal with leaks and dry out damp spots...these are the first line of defense against mold and mildew. But you can also reduce the chances of mold growing by one simple treatment.


There is a safe, simple product that helps prevent mold and mildew. Many products make this claim, but this is the ONLY one I have found that seems to actually help. It is based on sodium carbonate, a simple compound not to be confused with sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) which is a related but different compound. Sodium Carbonate (probably the carbonate itself) keeps the mold from being able to germinate and grow. If not washed off it can be effective for weeks. But even if used on shower surfaces it helps reduce mildew growth when used after some bleach treatment (see below under killing mold).

If you can get sodium carbonate itself, you can mix your own solution (see how on

But I found a product I find very effective where everything is pre-mixed: Concrobium Mold Control. Of course this is a more pricey option than mixing your own as described in the link above, but it is easier and I know it works.

Apply this from time to time anywhere that is damp or where you have seen mold before. When mold grows this won't work well alone. Use it AFTER you kill mold as indicated below.


X-14 Professional Instant Mildew Stain Remover is the most effective treatment for killing mold and mildew that has gotten established. This is nasty, bleach-based stuff. But it works!

Generally when I see any mold or mildew on a surface, I hit it with this, let it sit a few minutes, then wipe it off. In general this single treatment gets rid of it. Sometimes a second, longer treatment is needed. NO OTHER CLEANER I have tried works as well as this one for killing mold.

On a more routine level, when the weather is hot and humid and I know of surfaces that we get mold or mildew on, I do a preventative treatment with a plain bleach solution. Take regular laundry bleach, dilute around 1:5 to 1:10 in a spray bottle (be careful what you not reuse a spray bottle that had previously held a non-bleach based cleaner!). Then just spray this on a site you are concerned about, let sit a few minutes, then wipe off. This is far cheaper than the X-14 Professional Instant Mildew Stain Remover. It doesn't work as well once mold or mildew gets established, but it can help prevent mold or clean up the very first growth. Usually I use a more gentle cleaner, like are available through Seventh Generation/, Inc

These gentler cleaners do basic cleaning on all surfaces, get grease, smell better and are safer for kids and pets.

But when it comes to getting mold and mildew, I break out the bleach or the X-14 Professional Instant Mildew Stain Remover because they work!

After you have used one of these treatments to kill mold or mildew and have washed it away, you can increase the time before mold or mildew comes back by applying Concrobium Mold Control or homemade sodium carbonate solutions (not as effective, I think, but cheaper) and letting it sit. Together these treatments are very effective. You still have to repeat from time to time (at least once a year when things get hot and humid, often every month or so in humid weather), but in combination these work better than anything else.


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