Your Christmas tree could be covered in mold
What's really lurking in those branches?
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There are few things more festive this time of year than a beautifully decorated Christmas tree. But according to experts, your tree could be bringing more than just joy into your home—it could also be bringing mold.
It's something that allergists have dubbed "Christmas tree syndrome," and it's something that most people are totally unaware of yet can cause sneezing and sniffling. Here's what you need to know about the mold that could be growing in your tree and how to stay safe this holiday when it comes to your evergreen.
What causes mold on Christmas trees
Many live trees have mold spores on the pine needles. When those are brought into your warm home, the heat plus any condensation in the air creates the perfect environment for those spores to grow into full-blown mold. And it isn't just live trees, either. Artificial trees that sit in a humid attic year-round collect dust and then, when that dust is exposed to moisture, it turns into mold.
One study analyzed 23 bark and pine needle samples and discovered 53 different types of mold spores, including aspergillus and penicillium, both of which can cause allergic reactions. And during another study, researchers measured 800 mold spores per cubic meter when a tree was first brought inside—and then compared it to the number of mold spores two weeks later, which had grown to 5,000 (!!) spores per cubic meter.
How to prevent your Christmas tree from getting moldy
For live trees, experts recommend rinsing it with a vinegar and water solution before bringing it inside or blowing it off with a leaf blower. You can also wipe down the trunk with the same vinegar solution or diluted bleach. Once your Christmas tree in your home, a good rule of thumb—according to allergists—is to only leave it up for about a week. This reduces the risk of mold growing on the branches.
When it comes to an artificial tree, always shake it out or dust it off before putting it up. It's also best to store your tree (and any other Christmas decor) in a temperature- and humidity-controlled area to prevent mold growth.
Other Christmas tree safety tips
Before you even bring your tree into your home, check it for bugs, recommends our senior lab testing technician, Jonathan Chan. "People forget that Christmas trees grow outside and can carry tons of spiders, ants, and other creepy crawlies," he explains. "One year we got a tree in and it was covered in slugs!" And not only is a bug-infested tree digusting, it's also dangerous. "Being surprised by insects can startle you and cause you to knock the tree over," Jonathan warns.
To prevent tipping your tree (which can cause damage or, worse, start a fire), Jonathan suggests investing in a sturdy tree stand. Of all the stands we've tested, we like the Krinner Tree Genie Deluxe L the best. It can safely hold a tree up to 8 feet tall and withstood the most pressure before knocking over.
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