Mold releases spores that are used for reproduction. These spores are microscopic, and so light that they float on the air. When they land in a comfortable location, such as a damp, dark corner of a basement, they create new mold colonies, which in turn release their own spores.
These spores can be inhaled by unsuspecting people, trigging a range of health concerns, including the potential for asthma attacks, allergy outbreaks, and the triggering of respiratory issues.
Mold in the home needs to be handled properly. Not only should it be removed quickly and effectively, but, once removed, you need to take proactive measures to ensure it never returns on high numbers.
Let’s explore ways that you can eliminate, prevent and reduce mold in your home. With these tips, you’ll have cleaner air for yourself and your family. But first, let’s take a step back and look at why mold is so harmful in the first place. With this knowledge, you’ll be motivated to eliminate all traces of mold from your home.
The Harmful Effects of Mold in the HomeBy itself, mold is an unpleasant fungus; just the thought of it in a home can make someone’s skin crawl. However, when you learn about the potential health impact of mold in your home, you’ll see that it’s a problem that needs to be dealt with immediately.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, exposure to mold can cause a wide range of health issues, but the severity of these symptoms will vary. For some people, especially asthmatics and allergy sufferers, mold is a particularly dangerous issue, while others many not be affected by the fungus at all.
Health symptoms caused by mold run the gamut of light problems to issues worthy of hospitalization. Mold can cause stuffed noses, coughing, wheezing and throat irritation. People who are allergic to mold spores will likely experience itchy or irritated eyes and skin.
There are numerous studies that make a connection between damp, moldy conditions and the prevalence of asthma.
For example, a study out of Harvard found that dampness in a home can predict symptoms of respiratory issues and other illnesses among children ranging from 8 to 12 years old. Using a questionnaire, researchers gathered information on roughly 4,600 children, asking questions that covered the prevalence of mold and dampness in a home, as well as the child’s respiratory functions. The study discovered that if mold and dampness were reported, there was a rise in the probability of respiratory issues.
Another study focused on children who were even younger. This study, conducted by researchers from Finland, used a random mail-order questionnaire to parents in a suburban area near Helsinki. The study gathered information on a child’s health, as well as numerous household factors, including pets, parental age and education, tobacco use in the home, and cooking methods. The results showed that the strongest predictor for poor childhood respiratory function was the presence of dampness and mold.
It appears that the impacts of asthma can be found in children as young as infants. Another study from Finland took a more active approach to gathering data, with a focus on childhood asthma and children under the age of six years, including children as young as 12 months. Instead of relying on questionnaires, which have certain flaws as a research tool, the scientists used professionally-conducted home inspections to gather data on mold. They only researched homes with children clinically diagnoses with asthma. They found that the risk of asthma during early childhood increased when the severity of mold in the home was higher.
Mold at home or at work can even cause issues for adults, including the development of asthma well into adult life. Again, a study from Finland found that adults can develop asthma caused by mold exposure at work.
Mold also has the unfortunate side effect of potentially causing more insects in the home. Mold can be a food for many pests in the home, and these pests, such as mold beetles, grain beetles, and mold mites, can cause their own set of health complications.
Signs That You Have Mold in the HouseUnderstanding if you have mold, or if your home has an increased chance of mold, is crucial.
Recent Water DamageWhile you can get through water damage without significant mold, recent dampness, flooding, or water leaks are leading causes of mold. If your home has experienced any of these issues, your chance of mold growth is higher, so you need to be on the watch for mold, and you’ll want to clean thoroughly and take preventative measures.
A Musty Smell in the HomeThe most common way that people detect mold growing in a home is though the smell. Mold has a damp, musty smell that has been compared to the same smell you notice when opening an old book. The smell, however, can differ depending on the type of mold you have growing in your home. It will also change based on what surfaces the mold is growing on, as well as the mold’s available source of moisture.
The smell of mold is caused by microbial compounds, a substance that is naturally created by the fungus. This compound can give you a nasal clue to the presence of mold.
You See MoldMold can take many different shapes and sizes, and there are actually thousands of types of mold, so the appearance can vary. Like the smell, the visual appearance can also change depending on where they are growing and available water and nutrients.
The most common molds you find in a home are usually black, grey, or dark green. Look for a greenish-black growth on fiberboard, paper, damp walls, floors, and underneath sinks. Even if you have no reason to believe mold is growing in your home, it never hurts to keep a steady watch for mold by inspecting high-likelihood areas, such as kitchens, bathrooms, and basements.
Moisture or Humidity in the HomeAnother sign of potential mold growth is moisture in the home. While mold and moisture are two separate issues, they are connected by the basic fact that high moisture and humidity lead to mold. Therefore, if you have moisture, you chances of having mold are enhanced significantly.
You can spot moisture in many ways. One way that moisture can be noticed is condensation on windows. Moisture can also come from leaky pipes or seepage in the foundation.
Mold is an incredibly resourceful fungus, and it can extract the moisture it needs to survive from the air. High humidity contributes to mold growth, so you may need to test the air for humidity to ensure the levels are not too high.
Testing for MoldIf you have noticed mold and mildew in the home, or have good reason to believe mold could be present, you may want to conduct testing for the fungus. There are mold test kits that you can use to test the air, or you can take surface samples that are tested for mold. These tests provide reliable, detailed information, helping you target mold in your home with greater effectiveness.
Mold tests can take many different forms, including air testing, surface testing, and bulk testing.
With air testing, samples are taken from the air and examined under a microscope, which is beneficial if you think you have a problem with mold but can’t find the source.
Surface testing takes samples from surfaces, such as walls or tables. Samples are collected by swabbing surfaces, tape extraction, and other methods. These results vary, as mold concentrations are not evenly spread across the entire home. However, it can help you identify the presence of mold.
Bulk testing is more intense, and requires the extraction of material, such as lumber or sheetrock from your home. The material is then sent to a lab for thorough scientific examination. This is the most effective way to determine the concentration of mold in your home.
Eliminating Mold in Your HomeIf you have mold in your home, there are many steps you can take to remove the fungus. These techniques vary in difficulty and effectiveness, but you’ll generally find that mold removal can be done by most people.
First of all, if you are dealing with lots of mold, it may be wise to take protective measures. Gloves, breathing masks, and other protection many be needed to ensure you are able to remove the mold in a clean and safe manner. If the amount of mold is particularly severe, or if you have significant respiratory issues, you may want to have a professional eliminate the mold in your home, but results can also vary.
Cleaning Mold with Household MaterialsTo clean mold, you can use a variety of different substances, including household products. A light, easy-to-use cleaning product that most people have is vinegar, preferably white vinegar. Using a spray bottle, dampen mold with vinegar and let it sit for roughly an hour. Use a wet cloth to wipe the area, then let it dry. Repeat the process as needed and you will steadily remove the mold without using harsh and potentially harmful chemicals.
Bleach is another household item that can be used to destroy mold, but you will only want to use this cleaning chemical on non-porous surfaces, such as bathtubs, glass, and certain countertops and tile. (If you’re not sure if your house materials are non-porous, choose a different cleaning method.) Use a diluted solution of bleach and water (roughly one cup of bleach for every gallon of water) and spray directly on mold and mildew to kill the fungi. You can wipe down the surface after letting the bleach solution soak into the mold for a few minutes to an hour. If using bleach, don’t use the solution on decorative surfaces to avoid discoloration.
Like bleach, Borax can be used to clean surfaces that have mold, although this is also best for nonporous surfaces. Use a scrub brush to work a Borax solution into the mold and dislodge and kill the household fungus. You can then wipe away the mold with a rag to thoroughly clean the area of mold and mildew.
Other household materials that can be used to kill mold include:
- Baking soda
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Baking soda
- Ammonia (never mix ammonia with bleach products.)
Using Mold CleanersThere are also products made specifically for cleaning mold. They can usually be purchased in spray bottles, making them more convenient, and because they are specifically made for mold removal, you’ll have greater confidence in their ability to kill the fungus. There are many products available, and they can be purchased at most grocery stores, big-box stores, and hardware stores.
Mold Growth on Wood and DrywallIf mold has grown on porous surfaces and structural building materials, you may have no choice but to remove and replace the material. For example, mold can grow on and in wood. Lumber is a porous material and it’s possible for mold to grow inside the wood; removing this embedded mold is virtually impossible, as cleaning solutions, even when left on the material for hours, barely penetrate the surface. If you have significant mold growth on wood or drywall, replacement is often the best choice.
Mold on fabrics, including carpet and drapes, is a different situation. With carpet, assuming the mold growth is not significant, you can shampoo the fabrics. However, water-damaged carpet is almost impossible to dry and clean completely, so you will likely prefer simply replacing the carpet. Replacing the carpet will also give you the chance to thoroughly clean underlaying surface.
Preventing Future Mold OutbreaksNow that you have removed all known mold from your home, we can start to take measures that will prevent mold from ever coming back. Most of them center around preventing moisture, but one in particular helps destroy and remove mold spores, reducing the chances of future mold colonies.
While they take diligence and consistency, most of the steps are easy and require minimal effort or time on your part.
Inspect Pipes, Foundation for LeaksA large portion of preventing mold is reducing household moisture, which means you need to constantly be on the watch for leaks and seepage. Routinely inspect pipes and foundation walls for leaks. You don’t have to spend hours thoroughly testing each pipe; a quick glance at pipes and the foundation is enough.
Increase VentilationWeak ventilation in your home is a common source of poor indoor air quality and mold. With ventilation, you allow mold spores, as well as moisture, to be removed through vents and windows. When possible, open windows to allow fresh air into the home, and let the bathroom fans run so they pull moisture from the home.
Use a Dehumidifier During Time of High HumidityMany people rely on dehumidifiers to control humidity in the home, especially in basements and crawl spaces. Your goal should be to keep the relative humidity below 50%.
By removing moisture from the living area and crawl space, you take away one of the top resources for mold, which can extract the water it needs from the air. If you notice condensation or water in the home, a dehumidifier can help control the problem and reduce the chances of mold and mildew growth in the crawl space, living area, and attic.
Use an Air PurifierAs we discussed earlier, mold releases spores in the air, which are used to create new mold colonies. By using an air purifier, you will capture a large portion of the spores from the air, effectively reducing the chances of mold to reproduce. There are also technologies in certain air purifiers that eliminate mold spores, rendering them completely ineffective.
Top Choice for Mold Removal: mod+ Air PurifierThe mod+ air purifier has a strong quality motor and a high efficiency air filter making it a perfect filtration system to catch airborne mold spores.
Enhance Your Home’s Air Quality with OransiYou can prevent and reduce mold in your home, while eliminating other harmful airborne contaminants. With air purifiers from Oransi, you’ll have advanced technology that helps remove a vast majority of the most microscopic air pollutants.
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