You may keep a clean house but it doesn’t take a lot for mold to grow in your home. All it needs to thrive is a damp surface usually away from light and there are plenty of places like that in anybody’s house. Not to mention the fact that there are particular areas in a house where moisture is unavoidably produced such as in the bathroom, the laundry area and the kitchen, which have the ideal conditions for mold growth.
Not all homes, however, have mold problems. If you just moved into a new house and you or anybody in your household suddenly experiences difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath, headaches, coughing or any respiratory problem and allergy symptoms like sneezing and eye irritation, then you may have a mold problem in the house.
What you really want to avoid and get rid of is the black mold, which is the most hazardous because it emits harmful toxins that are dangerous to one’s health. This type of mold grows on cellulose-based surfaces like walls, wallpaper, panels, floors, and kitchen cupboards. Black mold spores travel by air from the parent and these airborne contaminants trigger illnesses. Inhaling these spores can lead to allergic reactions, asthma and respiratory problems as well as heart diseases and even brain damage.
Unfortunately, it’s only when these health problems manifest do most newly moved homeowners become concerned with mold damage. Testing for mold is a must when you’re in the market for a house to avoid the health problems it may cause, not to mention the trouble of cleaning it up.
In a professional mold damage inspection, the specialist may perform different tests such as a swabbing, which is simply taking a sample of the area with the use of a cotton swab. Mold samples can also be taken by using adhesive tapes to lift a sample from a suspected contaminated area, which will then be brought to a lab for identification.
A more high-tech method is air sampling, which makes use of a device to collect a specific amount of air in the home, which traps airborne contaminants like mold spores in the process. Bulk sampling is another method, which is favored by most mold experts, because it only involves taking a piece of the suspected contaminated item or material like a ceiling tile or a piece of wallpaper to the lab for immediate testing.
If you think you have a mold problem in your home, begin investigating right away. Don’t wait for mold-related health problems too occur before you start inspecting your house for molds. You can have a mold expert do a test on your house but a cheaper way to find out is to do the investigation yourself.
Your sight and sense of smell are your best equipment to detect mold growth. Take note that the appearance of mold varies simply because there are different kinds of mold, not just the black kind. In terms of texture, some molds appear smooth or cottony, while there are formations that are coarse or leathery. The color of mold differs, too, from black to green, brown, gray, yellow and white.
Keep in mind that mold usually grows in hidden or dark areas so they are hard to spot. Mold is very likely to develop in a poorly-ventilated house that has experienced flooding or any water damage like pipe leaks. Look for visible signs like watermarks or discoloration on ceilings, floors, walls, woodwork and carpets. Areas with excessive dampness or that were affected by water damage are top candidates for mold breeding ground.
Some areas that are likely grounds for mold formation are under carpets and carpet padding; the back of wallpaper and wall panels; the top of ceiling tiles and in the roofing materials above these tiles; on the walls at the back of furniture; inside the ductwork; and inside wall structures near pipes.
Needless to say, if there are obvious indications already like there’s a smell of mold in one area of the house or you see a tiny patch of mold in one corner, then you should rather focus on mold cleanup. The cleanup process may require some dismantling to allow you to check hollow spaces like those behind walls where mold could be forming.
If you found no indications of mold after a thorough inspection of the house, professional mold testing may not be necessary. Generally, this process is recommended when you are buying a house, there are health issues, there is ongoing litigation or when there are signs of mold but it is not clear what is causing it.
So, you found mold. Here’s what you should do next:
If you have determined that you do have mold in your home, the first thing you need to do is to identify where the moisture is coming from. Remember, molds will not thrive without moisture so stopping the water source is the first step to eliminating mold.
Once you’ve taken care of the moisture or water source, you need to dry out everything prior to starting the cleanup. You can use a fan or dehumidifier to shorten the drying time. However, fans should not be used if there is visible mold to prevent the spread of mold spores.
After everything has dried, you are now ready to start the actual cleanup. Discard any moldy object or material. Any porous or absorbent item that is moldy must be thrown away such as carpets, carpet pads, plaster, plasterboards, insulation, ceiling tiles, some types of wood, and paper products. You don’t have to dispose everything on the affected area, just those with visible mold.
Don’t forget to put the moldy items in bags before you take them through the house to be thrown out. Moreover, make sure that you are wearing protective gear when you are cleaning molds. Put on rubber gloves, a long sleeved top, a filter dust mask and eye goggles. Before you leave the infested area, take off your clothes and bag them as well before disposing of them or bringing them to the cleaners.
For moldy items or materials that are not porous or just slightly porous, it is possible to clean them up. Such materials include solid wood, metal, glass, hard plastic and concrete. To start, eliminate as much mold contamination as you can with the use of a high-efficiency vacuum. If you will be using an ordinary household vacuum, it will work only if it has a high-quality filter.
If a high-efficiency vacuum is not available, you can try a simple cleanup process. Take a damp cloth and use it to wipe the contaminated item, rinsing the cloth several times. After wiping the item, discard the cloth. After removing as much of the mold growth as you possibly can using either a cloth or vacuum, give the contaminated item a thorough scrub.
All you need for the scrubbing part is warm water, a stiff scrub brush, commercial mold cleaner or non-ammonia soap. Any excess water during this step should be collected either by using a sponge or a wet/dry vacuum. After scrubbing, rinse and dry the item thoroughly. It is ideal that the item is dried quickly.
A good follow-up step to the cleanup is sanitizing the surfaces of the contaminated items or materials to destroy any trace of mold. Prepare a solution of half a cup of bleach mixed with a gallon of water. Apply this disinfectant to all the surfaces that were affected with mold. Leave the solution on the surface to air dry. Any overspill should be collected using a sponge or wet/dry vacuum.
After you have successfully removed the contamination, you need to be watchful from now on for any signs of new mold formation or moisture buildup in the affected areas. The fact is it’s typical for mold to return even after a successful cleanup.
If mold does return and you are certain that there is no moisture problem in the area, your option would be to either subject the contaminated surface or item to another cleanup using a more powerful disinfectant or call for a professional mold damage specialist. There may be cases, however – and this will depend on the value of the contaminated object – when it is much easier to just dispose of the object.
Taking action promptly to address a suspected mold problem is the best way to combat this problem. Of course, the best defense against mold contamination is prevention and there are very simple preventive ways to ensure you are doing what you can to stop molds from growing in your home.
For instance, have an exhaust fan installed in the kitchen and bathroom so the moisture and steam is brought outside. Also, consider installing storm windows to prevent condensation build up inside windows during wintertime. Remove carpeting and consider putting a dehumidifier in areas that are constantly damp.
If signs of mold are present, remember investigate first to determine not only if your house has mold growth but also the extent of possible contamination. In most cases, homeowners can fix mold problems by themselves. Remember that you should consider hiring professional mold testing services as a last option.
When it comes to cleaning up mold contamination, calling professional mold damage cleanup and restoration services is recommended if there is extensive damage but this is an option that is open to you if you want a hassle-free or convenient way to deal with any mold damage, big or small.