Mold … the very word makes you recoil, doesn’t it? You probably have visions of long-forgotten takeout food crammed in the back of your fridge, or an old decrepit bathtub that hasn’t been used in years. But aside from what might be growing in your refrigerator, household mold is actually very common, and can represent a significant health hazard.
The presence of mold, while unsightly, can also lead to ongoing issues, from respiratory distress to property damage. That’s why you need to pay immediate attention to any signs of mold, assess the situation and decide on a swift course of action for removal or remediation.
What Is Mold?
Mold is a fungus that reproduces by expelling microscopic spores into the environment. When these spores land in a damp environment, they grow and spread and can potentially cause rot. Mold thrives in damp environments, such as bathrooms, kitchens, attics, basements and crawl spaces.
Identifying Different Types Of Mold
Mold comes in many different forms; in fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are probably tens of thousands of types of mold, if not more. While many types of mold are harmless—and in nature, mold even plays an important role by breaking down dead leaves, plants and trees—in your home, harmful types can lead to respiratory distress, manifesting itself in symptoms that include stuffy noses and wheezing. The effects will be more intense for those who are allergic to mold or have asthma.
While mold is most readily identified by sight, high concentrations can also give off a musty smell.
Here are a few types of mold that you might commonly encounter in various areas of your home:
This type of mold, which can cause asthma-like symptoms in the upper respiratory tract, is frequently found in showers and tubs, beneath leaky sinks, and in homes that have recently suffered flooding or other water damage. It has a velvety texture with dark green or brown hairs.
Typically found behind wallpaper or on painted or wooden surfaces, this mold starts as a pink, brown, or black hue, then turns to a dark brown as it ages. This type of mold can cause eye, skin, and nail infections.
Black Mold (Stachybotrys)
This mold appears slimy and black or dark green and is commonly found in organic materials such as wood, hay, and cardboard. It is also known as “toxic mold” because it releases mycotoxins that can cause a host of medical issues, including difficulty breathing, sinusitis, fatigue, headache, a burning sensation in your airways, a persistent cough, nose bleeds, fever, and even depression.
Also black in color, this type of mold is found in kitchens, bathrooms and basements — areas where there are high levels of condensation or where there has been water damage. It can cause severe reactions that include hay fever, skin infections and difficulty breathing.
While pink mold is referred to, like others, as “mold,” it’s actually just bacteria. It is commonly found in bathrooms, especially showers — particularly on the tiles, in the grout, and on the doors — where it feeds on soap scum and shampoo residue. You can identify this type of mold by a colony that appears pink and slimy. While generally harmless, it can cause urinary tract infections or infections if it gets into your eye or an open wound.
Mold Removal And Remediation Methods: How To Get Rid Of Mold In The House
Just as there are many types of mold, there are numerous removal methods. The best option for your situation will depend on what type of mold you’re encountering, the surface that it’s on and the extent to which it has spread.
More serious mold problems are best handled by professional contractors or mold remediation specialists. And note that even though some mold can be removed from the home — for example, by taking out rotten boards or carpeting — it can never be removed completely, which is why getting rid of it is often referred to as “mold remediation.” The important thing is to handle an issue promptly to help mitigate the nature of the problem.
If you choose to handle the mold removal yourself, make sure to don adequate protective gear. The CDC recommends that you wear long pants and a long-sleeve shirt, protective gloves and eyewear, waterproof boots and a mask rated at least N-95 or more to protect your nose and mouth, available at any home improvement store. Note that while these masks protect you from small particles, like mold, they are not adequate if you are encountering any sort of gases, chemical vapors, asbestos or lead.
How To Get Rid Of Mold In The Shower And Bathroom
Mold on bathroom fixtures and surfaces can be removed a variety of ways: commercial cleaning products, such as Mildewcide; white vinegar and baking soda; a bleach solution of 1 cup laundry bleach combined with 1 gallon of water; or even plain soap and water. Match your scrubber to the area size — a large brush for broad surfaces, such as shower walls; or a toothbrush to remove mold from grout.
To prevent mold in the bathroom, make sure to open windows if you have them toimprove ventilation and run the fan when showering, shaving or cleaning. Wipe water off hard surfaces, like shower walls and sinks, and fix plumbing leaks as soon as possible. Scrub mold from surfaces as soon as it appears, then be sure to dry the area to prevent it from spreading.
How To Get Rid Of Mold In The Kitchen
Spotted mold in your kitchen? Scrub hard surfaces with one of the solutions mentioned above, taking care to thoroughly rinse any food prep areas after. You may need to replace porous surfaces, such as wooden cabinets, that are contaminated.
To prevent mold in the kitchen,open windows to improve ventilation and run the hood vent when cooking and cleaning. Wipe water from hard surfaces after doing dishes for example, and fix leaky faucets as soon as possible. Always make sure your tableware and serving dishes are dry before storing them to keep mold from proliferating in cabinets. Scrub mold from surfaces as soon as it appears, then be sure to dry the area to prevent it from spreading.
How To Get Rid Of Mold In The Basement
Mold in the basement can be persistent, given the nature of basements — they tend to be much more humid than above-ground levels and typically have poor ventilation and little air flow, a combination that can cause mold to flourish. And of course, basements can be prone to flooding, either from undetected leaks in the pipes or sump pump, or because of extreme weather. In addition, once mold develops, cinderblock or concrete walls can be difficult to clean due to their rough texture.
To get rid of mold in the basement, scrub the walls using a large brush, and keep in mind that porous surfaces such as ceiling tiles or drywall might need to be removed and replaced. If basement carpet has become moldy, sweep it to loosen the mold (wear a mask) and then let it dry in the sun if you can move it, or use high-powered fans to remove moisture if it’s affixed to the floor.
To prevent mold in the basement, you need to alter the conditions that can cause it to grow. First, remove dampness by installing a dehumidifier and making sure the dryer vent exhausts externally, if you use your basement for laundry. Then turn your attention outside: Shore up cracks in the foundation and make sure that your soil is properly graded so that rainwater or melting snow goes away from the house, rather than collecting near your foundation.
How To Get Rid Of Mold In The Attic
Much like the basement, the dark, damp atmosphere of an attic is conducive to mold. Clean it as you would other areas, by scrubbing the walls and making sure it hasn’t permeated porous materials.
To prevent mold in the attic, make sure that the vents are directed outside of your house, rather than just ending in the attic. It’s also important to check the roof to alleviate issues that can contribute to moisture entering the attic, such as roof leaks, raised shingles and gaps in skylights. Be sure vents and skylights are well-sealed to prevent moisture from coming in.
How To Get Rid Of Mold From A House’s Exterior
Mold on the exterior of the house isn’t just unsightly — it can also eventually migrate to the interior and cause further damage. A common place where mold may appear on the exterior of a home includes the decks, which can be cleaned with detergent or other light cleaning solution and a power washer. Clean vinyl or wood siding by power washing or scrubbing with a brush — hydrogen peroxide is a good solution choice as it won’t harm your landscaping. For stucco or concrete walls, use a garden hose and sprayer attachment. Rinse the siding first, spray on non-toxic mold remover, allow it to sit while the mold starts to dissolve, then rinse it away.
Cleaning Up After Mold Removal
Once the mold is gone, the chore isn’t yet over. Proper cleanup after mold removal is imperative to avoid recontamination. You should seal and immediately dispose of moldy materials including your mask, rinse shoes or boots, wash clothing in hot water, and shower to wash away spores that might have come into contact with your hair or skin.
Mold Removal And Remediation: When To Call the Professionals
Sometimes your mold problem may be too significant to safely handle by yourself. For example, according to the EPA, if a home has been severely water damaged or contains more than 10 square feet of mold, you should call a mold remediation specialist.
Since it’s crucial to act quickly once you spot mold and then remove it thoroughly, it can be wise to call a professional if you have any doubt that you’re properly handling the mold. In addition, visible mold could also be an indication of more extensive mold problems that might have permeated your drywall, insulation, subflooring, studs, ceiling and other hidden areas. And note that painting or caulking over mold will not prevent it from growing.
Finally, persistent respiratory issues or asthma-like symptoms could indicate your home is still infected with mold. Having a professional assess the situation can give you peace of mind that the mold problem has been dealt with properly.
Can You Ever Get Rid of Mold Completely?
While spotting mold might make you question your housekeeping standards, remember that the presence of mold spores is inevitable anywhere that there are damp conditions — and that, of course, is throughout your home, from rooms that get daily use such as the kitchen and bathroom, to areas you rarely visit, like the basement and attic.
However, that doesn’t mean you have to succumb to the growth of mold and the subsequent negative effects it can have on your health and home. Prevent mold by keeping surface moisture and humidity to a minimum, and then tackle spots as soon as they are visible to stop its spread.
Since it’s impossible to get rid of mold in the house completely, it’s important to keep your air clear by regularly replacing air filters. Consider using HEPA filters. High Efficiency Particulate Air filters are designed to trap 99.97% of particles that are 0.3 microns or larger (mold is usually 3 to 12 microns) in order to keep mold from circulating. You may also consider an air purifier that will remove mold spores. If you live in a particularly damp environment, find one with an antimicrobial filter to make sure that the filter itself remains free from mold.
By maintaining healthful air quality and mitigating mold as quickly as you can, your home will be healthier, safer and protected. Check out our refinance calculator if you plan on performing any home renovations after taking care of your mold outbreak. Our latest mortgage rates are another option.
What methods have you found useful for mold removal or mold remediation?
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