Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. She’ll be here every week helping to answer your filthiest questions. Are you dirty? Check the Squalor Archive for assistance. Are you still dirty? Email her.
There are mushrooms growing out of my bathroom wall near my shower: They are orange and not very big. However, this is by far the most vile thing that I have ever seen or can think of. Any time that I remove them, they come back. Can you please help me get rid of them and make sure that they don’t come back?
I can help you get rid of them, yes. But you are going to need someone more powerful than me to ensure that they don’t come back.
Here’s the deal. If you’ve got a mushroom repeatedly sprouting in your home—and it’s not an uncommon thing, if my inbox is to be believed, generally occurring in bathrooms and basements, or around window encasements—it’s a pretty clear sign that something structurally not good is happening. If you’re a renter, this is the type of thing that you must call your landlord or management company about; make sure they deal with it in a timely fashion. If that isn’t happening, it’s time to familiarize yourself with your state’s tenant rights. If you’re a homeowner, give your contractor or your brother-in-law’s handy pal Sully a jingle-jangle.
The not good that’s happening is that you’ve almost certainly got water and wood rot going on behind the bathroom walls. Which means a few things are probably occurring. The first is that, in addition to the fungus that’s leading to the mushroom growth, there’s likely a whole bunch of mold growing back there, and that’s a no-no, health-wise, since prolonged exposure to mold can cause all manner of allergic and respiratory issues. The other big thing you need to worry about is the wood rot, because, you know, eventually the walls could just fall down around you.
So right, call in some professionals to help you deal with the larger structural issues that are causing those mushrooms to grow out of your home.
In the short term, since yes, I absolutely get that this is an extra-vile thing to have to live with, you can kill the surface growth by cutting the mushroom out (a tool like an X-Acto Knife would be good for that job), and then blasting the area with either bleach or a disinfectant like Lysol. Keeping the bathroom dry will also help to discourage mushroom growth, since they thrive in damp, dark environments. Just be aware that doing so is only Band-Aid-ing the problem—unless the underlying moisture and fungal growth is addressed, those ‘shrooms are going to keep coming back. And unlike our old pal Serratia marcescens, it’s not a recurrent problem that you should learn to live with. Structural mushroom growth is really and truly A Bad Thing.
Well, shit. This has been pretty much a huge bummer, hasn’t it? Wanna talk about cat hair, instead? Or rather, wanna hear me talk about cat hair? Because that, along with human hair, was the subject of last week’s Ask a Clean Person: The Podcast. Give it a listen, won’t you?
Jolie Kerr is the author of the book My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag … And Other Things You Can’t Ask Martha (Plume); more of her cleaning-obsessed natterings can be found onTwitter, Kinja, and Tumblr.
Illustration by Sam Woolley.
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