Mold is a form of fungus and this tiny organism is present all
throughout the year and can be found practically anywhere, whether indoors or
outdoors. It can grow on food or other organic material like plants, soil or
decaying matter. Mold has a thousand species and they come in different colors
from white to black or green and even orange. Usually, mold produces a musty or
It may surprise you to know that mold actually has a benefit to
the environment because it is necessary in the process of decomposition. Like
other fungi, molds have microscopic particles known as spores. Because they are
small and lightweight, it is very easy for mold spores to float and travel
through the air. These spores are just like plant seeds, they form new mold
colonies as long as the conditions are right.
A warm and humid condition is ideal for mold development,
although molds can also grow in cold weather. Most type of surfaces in a
building contains enough material to encourage mold growth. Molds can start to
grow as easy as when a spore settles on a damp material or objects, for
instance, walls, floors, or carpets. When there is large mold growth in a
building, the occupants can suffer from allergic reactions similar to those
triggered by plant pollens.
Mold requires very little nourishment to grow. All it needs is a
spot where it can multiply, an organic food source like paper or dirt and
moisture. In a house, there are plenty of things that can produce a good amount
of moisture such as leaky roofs and pipes, a damp basement, flooding,
humidifiers, and clothes dryers that are not vented outside.
You may be wondering how you can be exposed to mold. The truth
is everyone is exposed to this organism every day. Usually, we either get into
skin contact with it or we eat it or inhale it. When there is mold in your home
or your workplace, you can easily breathe in the spores that may have been let
loose into the air. If you inhale or ingest a significant number of mold
spores, the effect to your health may be adverse.
Being exposed to any kind of mold under certain conditions could
lead to several health effects, the most common of which are allergic symptoms
which could be any number of things like sneezing, coughing, runny nose, watery
eyes, itching, and difficulty in breathing. Sometimes, though, the same large
amount of mold being inhaled could cause adverse health effects on one person
but may not have any effect in another.
This is because there are some people who unfortunately have a
higher sensitivity to molds than others. Those most at risk are persons who already have existing allergies,
asthma and other respiratory ailments as well as people with immune deficiencies
such as patients with HIV or cancer. Babies, children and the elderly are also
more sensitive to molds.
Because of the fact that airborne mold spores can indeed cause
the abovementioned negative effects to one’s health and well-being, it is
perfectly understandable why you should be concerned about mold growth in your
home. In addition, being exposed to a high level of mold spores can cause not
only allergies but also structural damage to your house.
You can have your home tested for molds but be aware that mold
testing is not a simple task and is also expensive because you would need to
hire a mold inspector to test your house. If you are keen on this, then you
should have a very good reason for doing so. Even if you have mold testing done
though the process will not be able to identify for certain whether adverse
health effects will indeed occur because there are currently no existing
standards as to what amount of mold can be considered acceptable inside a
After mold testing, what usually happens is the inspector
compares the types of mold spores found indoors with those present outside,
including their levels. Normally, however, you will find molds outside and
their count changes from one day to another depending on what the season is so
making a good comparison is difficult. Due to the lack of certainty in mold
testing procedures, it is usually not recommended.
You can actually do the mold investigation yourself. First, look
for signs of water damage and any visible manifestation of mold. If you suspect
mold in your home because you smell it or it’s right there before your eyes,
then you really don’t need to perform any more tests. Instead, focus your
attention and resources in cleaning up the sources of mold to get rid of it.
Cleaning Mold-Contaminated Surfaces
Before starting mold cleanup, it is important to deal with
whatever is causing the moisture first. Otherwise, you can bet that the mold
will return again and again no matter how well you’ve cleaned the affected
area. The method of cleaning mold contaminated surfaces will depend on the type
of surface where the mold developed. If the mold has contaminated a large area,
say, larger than thirty square feet, you should consult a professional.
For non-porous mold-contaminated surfaces, you can do the
First, clean the surfaces with soap. You can use either
non-ammonia soap or household detergent diluted in warm water. Do not mix
ammonia with bleach because this will produce toxic fumes. Scrub the whole area
contaminated by mold using a cleaning pad or stiff brush to clean uneven areas.
Next, disinfect the surfaces to help keep mold from growing
back. Use a disinfectant solution of half a cup of bleach mixed in a gallon of
water. This will work much better than using just plain bleach. Be sure to open
the windows when you are mixing the solution and during this step. Use a garden
hose with a nozzle to spray large outdoor areas. Allow disinfected surfaces to
air dry completely to ensure all the mold has been killed.
While cleaning up the mold, many of its spores will naturally be
let loose into the air. In fact, the count of airborne spores during the
cleanup and removal is usually up to a thousand times higher than before you’ve
disturbed the contaminated surface. Thus, you can’t avoid being exposed to them
while you are cleaning the area but you can minimize your level of exposure.
Here are some steps to take and reminders to help protect homeowners from high
level of mold exposure during mold cleanup or removal:
Wear protective clothes that can be cleaned or disposed of
easily. Wearing rubber gloves is also a must. Moreover, put on a respirator
with HEPA filter to minimize the amount of mold spores that you inhale. This is
usually available in your local hardware store. Moldy materials should be
double-bagged before taking them out of the affected room.
If you have a chronic illness, never attempt to perform the mold
cleanup. Keep the area off limits to other members of the household while you
are cleaning it. Make sure to open the windows before the cleanup and keep them
open during and after the process. Do not try to finish the cleanup all in one
go, meaning give yourself several breaks in between the process so you can go
outside to breathe in fresh air.
Prevent the spread of mold spores around your home by making sure
the heating and air conditioning units are turned off prior to starting the
cleanup. If there is an air return vent in the contaminated area, cover it
tightly. Direct the air out of the room onto the outside by placing a fan near
a window or turning on an exhaust fan. Be sure that the air is indeed flowing
out of the room and not into it.
As recommended above, if the mold growth in your home is
extensive, the best action is to hire a professional trained in mold assessment
and remediation to deal with the problem. It is crucial to address extensive
mold development as soon as possible by, first of all, stopping the moisture
source and then removing the contaminated items, cleaning the affected surfaces
and lastly drying out the area thoroughly.
Should there be a need to hire contractors or specialists,
ensure that the person has proven experience in mold cleanup. Check out their
references and see to it that they follow safety guidelines and industry
standard practices and procedures.
Preventing Mold Growth
Once mold has been eliminated from your home, you would want to
make sure it does not form again. Since you already know that excess moisture
plays a critical part in mold growth, you need to control this element to
prevent this problem in the future. Certain areas in a home are susceptible to
mold growth like the basement, bathroom, laundry area and kitchen because
moisture easily accumulates in these places.
So, it is important to your preventive efforts to keep the said
areas clean and dry regularly. Make sure they are well-ventilated or use
exhaust fans that are vented outside to stop moisture buildup. Use an air
conditioner or dehumidifier to lower humidity levels indoors during summer. Fix
any water leak right away. Materials that have been water-damaged for any
reason should either be cleaned and dried out thoroughly or replaced.