Rain, Humidity, and Mold

This is the rainy season in the tropics, and we have had SO much rain! According to this article in La Prensa, we have broken the record for the most rain in 30 years. David usually gets 179 mm (7 inches) in the first half of November, and this year we got 325 mm (12.8 inches). Other parts of the country have similar statistics. There was even heavier rain in the second half of the month as Otto came though.

With humidity comes mold. This year, especially in the mountains, it has been really bad. Boquete friends told me they have mold growing on everything including walls and ceilings, and there is thick fog that comes though for a few hours every day.

Come and live in Paradise, in the land of flowers and eternal spring…. rainbows… unicorns… they forget to mention some of the real challenges you will face, especially in those beautiful mountain areas. If you have health conditions that don’t do well in wet climates, you may be really unhappy here.

The subject of mold was brought up on a Facebook group today (Expats in Panama). Suggestions have been to remove humidity by AC or dehumidifier. Try to increase ventilation by fans and open windows/doors for air flow. Some recommend cleaning with bleach, but others say this only makes things look better and doesn’t kill the mold. Others recommend vinegar, and someone said tea tree oil works well mixed with water and vinegar. I might try that one. Someone is selling Concrobium Mold Control at this website. I might try that too.

Thankfully we haven’t had too much trouble. We have some things we do – squeegee the shower walls, remove any wet towels or other items to dry outdoors, do not return any worn clothing to the closet (which is the other half of the bathroom, nice idea except for moisture control), and Joel put a small fan above the closet that vents air to above. Anything we don’t wear or use gets cleaned, dried in the sun, and then stored in a plastic bin.

We don’t have much mold, but things do get musty smelling – clothes we haven’t worn for a while, the suitcase in the back of the closet, Joel’s speakers that have wooden cabinets… pretty much anything made of wood and leather? Forget it. Mold loves leather. The dry season isn’t my favorite but at least the dryness has the benefit of discouraging mold for us. In the mountains though even though it doesn’t rain, they still get moist foggy air rolling through.

But, on a positive note, we have had three good days! Tuesday I went biking and made it home just as the rain started. Yesterday I went out again and it was one of those days where a single cloud comes through and rains on everything below. I got wet once but the rest of the ride was wonderful. Today, it didn’t rain until after 5PM! I did errands and even worked in the yard a bit. You can imagine how badly that is needed after all this rain and no care.

It is predicted that we will continue to see rain until the end of the month instead of the usual middle of December. If I can enjoy the mornings and get in some yard cleanup time I’m fine with that.

mold2

Even mold has its uses. Look at the great pattern it made on the underside of a plastic chair!

 

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About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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26 Responses to Rain, Humidity, and Mold

  1. Robert&Helen says:

    Not much problem here in Jardines de Boquete (Alto de Boquete). We always have the 2 doors open and the ceiling fans on in the living and bedroom with the doors open. We did the same when living in the Caribbean. Salt, mixed with vinegar and water on the tiles of your bathroom. We have an electrical cloth dryer, but you have to install 220 volts, which is easy.

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    • I’m glad to hear you have been spared. I’m sure you are experienced with control measures too from living in the Caribbean. Salt and vinegar? I’ll keep that in mind but thankfully we haven’t had mold on the tiles.

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  2. Robert&Helen says:

    Another recommendation. Put salt on your concrete driveway and spray it with water.

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  3. Hi Kris,
    Keep the good days coming. I am so positive it won’t be raining there, I’m not even bringing a rain jacket. 4 sleeps and I’m there. Excited…who me?

    Nick

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    • LOL You will learn… you may not need the jacket but there is a reason they sell umbrellas all over town. You aren’t restricted on design though. Our veggie guy showed up the other day with a pink umbrella with flowers 😀

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  4. tombseekers says:

    The mold this year is awful. We leave everything open and the ceiling fans on – but even our fan blades even got covered with mold. Bedspreads, shoes, behind furniture and it seems, everything else. It does’t help that a thick fog enters our house every day for an hour or two It’s so thick that we can’t see the back gate.. T he kitchen drawers reek but I took them all out and found nothing. Stinking green mold. But the rain will soon stop and we will be begging for just a few drops.

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    • I’m so sorry you have been having such a bad time of it! When mold grows on the fan blades that are in motion, that is definitely over the top. I hope dry season comes for you soon and any rain we get can happen at night down here.

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  5. Gary Moore says:

    Hello Kris, I really encourage you to try Concrobium, it works. Moises at the “Inside Panama Real Estate” office is distributing it in Boquete for us. We have had 100% satisfaction from customers in Panama. It’s a Canadian made product sold in Home Depot and Ace Hardware up north.

    I am Canadian and learned about it a few years ago. Started the two year process to get the approval by Panama Ministeria de Salud. Its is Health Canada approved and the US EPA verified its effectiveness and approved. There is no other product like this I have seen with these credentials. So definitely a safe and effective product. For those that have spare time, there is loads of information from all sorts of sources about mold and mold control on our web site.

    Mold spores are a naturally occurring thing, Open the door and they are there. Ideal conditions for mold are warmth and humidity above 60%. Welcome to Panama. Ventilation, A/C, de-humidifiers will help reduce mold growth but turn your back and its back. Concorbium kills the mold spores as it dries by crushing the mold. It has no chlorides or formaldahyde, you could literally drink the stuff. That is why there is no warning label.

    I pretty pleased to be the distributor for this product in Panama. I have used in my apartment for three years now on leather couches, shoes, belts, shirts, pillows… anything and everything. I see nothing but positive comments on the web. The factory in canada gives us great support. all our customers are happy, whether they use the spray of fog into large spaces.

    Gary Moore
    Panama City

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    • I read the website and it looks worth a try. I’m in David though. Can you get it down here?

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    • jim and nena says:

      I don’t recommend drinking or breathing the stuff. It looks mainly like antifreeze and peroxide solution, neither of which are good for animals.
      https://householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/household/brands?tbl=brands&id=19044001
      Department of Health and Human Services website.

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      • Gary Moore says:

        Hello Jim, not sure where you got your information… but Concrobium DEFINITELY contains no harsh chemicals like antifreeze or peroxide. Or chlorides. Or any harsh chemicals.
        Here is the product sheet http://bit.ly/2fvbFrf
        and if you are real technical here is the manufacturers “Material Data Safety Sheet” http://bit.ly/2fP8JpJ

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        • Thanks. I was curious about what’s in it too. Inorganic salts and water. Another comment on here suggested salt. It sounds like you are thinking along the same lines. I’m glad to see the MSDS confirms that it is harmless for us.

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        • jim and nena says:

          The information is from the link I posted, independent government study. The link you posted is the maker’s report and contains this disclaimer:

          The information set forth herein is believed to be accurate. Siamons International Inc. makes no warranty, expressed or implied, regarding
          the accuracy of the data or the results to be obtained from the use thereof. The information is supplied solely for your information and
          consideration, and Siamons International Inc. assumes no responsibility for use or reliance thereon. It is the responsibility of the user of
          Siamons International Inc. products to comply with all applicable federal, state and local laws and regulations.

          I usually don’t rely on the research posted by the people depending on a profit.

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  6. jim and nena says:

    Hola Kris,
    Mold and mildew are everywhere in the tropics. The practice of pouring concrete slabs on bare ground with no vapor barrier and stacking hollow concrete blocks guarantees moisture in the house. Even with no cracks in the concrete slab, water “wicks” through the slab and up the concrete blocks.

    Areas like Alto don’t have ground water so less fungal growth (plus the hurricane force winds keep the air moving). Valleys like Bajo Boquete are sponges so lots of fungal growth there year around. The only solution is no moisture or at least preventing the moisture from reaching the surface. Some paint products can prevent the moisture from seeping out, for a few years. Regular scrubbing and reapplication are needed every few years.

    If there is a spot area of mildew, it can be scrubbed, dried, and shellac applied followed by paint. Shellac is the only sealing product to keep the mildew from reappearing. With daily humidity in the 80-90% range, there is no way to prevent all mold/mildew. Humidifiers work well in air-tight dwellings; Panama doesn’t have those.

    Mold and mildew are different. These guys have a good discussion on it:
    https://www.ahs.com/home-matters/quick-tips/mildew-vs-mold

    PS, there is no mention of mold or mildew in Eden but probably they had it. LOL

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    • Good article. It looks like it is mildew that makes things smell musty, and we have very little mold, mainly outside on our plastic chairs.
      I have locally made wooden tables that never have a problem. They must have shellacked them well.
      Thanks for the info 🙂

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  7. Ken Kimsey says:

    Kris, one of the reasons I appreciate your blog so much is that you present “the good, the bad and the ugly” about Panama, and you manage to do so in a way that still portrays the country in a favorable light. This posting on mold and mildew brought back memories of growing up in Miami. My Dad accepted a transfer from Atlanta to Miami. As we adapted to life in the semi-tropical environment, I remember my Mom going on the war path against mold and mildew. My brothers and I thought it was very funny, at least until our leather shoes or my brothers’ baseball gloves were affected. Then, it was just “gross.” But we learned to adapt, and it never really felt like a trade-off, because Miami was such a great place to be a kid.
    As my enthusiasm for living in Panama continues to rise, I appreciate your little doses of reality. No doubt, I’ll appreciate this even more when I’m settling into my new home somewhere in Panama.

    Thanks!
    Ken – Atlanta, GA, USA (for the time being)

    P.S. – I also appreciated your words and pictures during Otto’s evolution. It brought back memories of tracking hurricanes in my youth, hoping for Hurricane days off from school.

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    • I really love this country and its people so it’s hard to get down on Panama, but it’s good to know the challenges you will face if you live here. No place is free of problems. We lived in Sarasota for 17 years before coming here so I understand about the FL climate. But, we used AC a lot so I’m sure we didn’t have the problems that your mom did in Miami.
      I learned to hate the hurricanes in FL! As a home health nurse I was responsible for a lot of elderly people, many of whom had to go to shelters when a hurricane threatened. And, the huge rate increases for home insurance hit everyone. Hopefully we won’t have another come through here for another 174 years 😀

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  8. raj484 says:

    Great post. The month and a half we spent in Boquete felt damp but this sounds much worse. We live in Gorgona and mostly keep everything opened and have not had a problem. We run the a/c on the “dry”setting on occasion but not frequently. Sorry your mold has been a struggle this year. Hopefully he worst of the rainy season is over!!
    Suzi

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    • We’ve been fine in David this year, no more problems than usual. I think certain areas of Boquete have had to deal with not only the huge amounts of rain, but thick fog so it’s almost impossible not to get moldy with all that. It seems to be getting better now. Today was the 4th dry morning in a row, a gorgeous day! If it’s sunny in the morning then you can dry your laundry and anything else that got damp the evening before.

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  9. Robert Gambetti says:

    I love your blog and follow it religiously 😊 my daughter and I moved to panama in 2012, left in 2014 and will be returning this June after school is out for summer. She is 15 and will be 16 in march. We ran the hostel Veraguas in Santiago before moving to Santa Fe. Then up to volcan. We plan on opening our own b&b hostel w our Panamanian friends upon our return. I think very near the playa as all tourists gravitate toward the beaches and ocean. Robert and Maddy G.

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    • Thank you so much!
      What a great experience for your daughter to be able to spend time here. Best of luck in your future endeavors. Keep and touch and let me know where you land, and maybe we can plan a beach getaway at your place.

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