The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explains that mold plays an important part in the natural decomposition of dead organic matter. While it is naturally present in the air and outdoors, you never want to find mold inside your home.
Although mold can survive in dry conditions that aren’t conducive to growth, the best environments for mold development, growth and subsequent spread are places that are damp, humid and warm. Mold spreads through the reproduction of spores that are then transmitted through the air.
All mold comes from one of around 300,000 different species of fungi that exist in the world, according to Poison.org. People can easily be vulnerable to mold and can suffer from serious health problems from exposure.
Mold removal project in bathroom. Image by Aaron E. Silvers via Flickr.
Mildew Vs. Mold
Mildew represents the early stage of mold, and it can develop in all sorts of damp, wet, moist or humid places. It can even grow in places within the home that cannot be seen. Any damp surface can become a breeding ground for mold within 24 to 48 hours. Mold attaches itself to a surface and begins feeding immediately, spreading to other areas where it continues to destroy other organic matter within your home.
Potential Situations That Encourage Mold Growth
Water damage within the home can occur for a variety of reasons, including:
- Leaky roofs
- Excessive moisture in basements, crawl spaces or other areas
- Plumbing problems such as long-term leaky faucets or inadequate drainage caused by things like a clogged garbage disposal
- Overflowing bathtubs or sinks
- Backed up sewers
- Excessive humidity from improper dryer venting, humidifiers, cooking, inadequate ventilation in bathrooms
- HVAC issues
- Moisture build up from condensation on windows
The only effective way to control mold in the home is by controlling the moisture it needs to survive and grow. Once mold comes into contact with a surface, it continues to grow until you find the source of the moisture and eliminate the issue causing it. As mold spreads, it weakens the substances on which it grows, potentially causing major structural problems within your home.
Moisture Control in the Home
If water is coming into the home from outside, you may have to have your property professionally graded so the ground slopes away from the house. Make sure your gutters are properly installed and have them cleaned regularly. Landscaping can sometimes be helpful for creating a barrier that prevents water from accumulating in lower lying areas. Water loving perennial plants can also provide a cost-effective solution.
If water is coming up through the foundation, or from the roof, plastic moisture barriers offer protection, but you may be forced to remove all drywall, insulation and other material, and this will be extremely expensive. Make sure that faucets are properly installed and sufficiently sealed. The same applies for toilets. Inadequate sealing around the base of toilets allows moisture to accumulate.
If there are areas in your home that are prone to excessive humidity, use a dehumidifier, and be sure to empty the water regularly. If the humidity is the result of the climate you live in, use your air conditioner to remove humidity from the air. Avoid using evap coolers because they cool the air through moisture. These are especially common in dry portions of the Southwest.
Proper Attire for Cleaning Mold
To prevent yourself from developing any health issues because of mold exposure, you will want to wear gloves and protective goggles. Be sure you wear an N-95 respirator to protect you from breathing in mold spores or particulates. Hardware or home improvement stores may sell them, and they’re widely available through Internet retailers.
EPA Guidelines for Mold Cleanup
Hard surfaces may be effectively cleaned with a household detergent and warm water. After scrubbing the mold off, be sure to dry the area thoroughly. If you or other people in your household have health issues that can be worsened by exposure to mold, you may want to clean the hard surfaces with bleach after scrubbing the area with detergent.
On surfaces that are absorbent or porous, you may have to remove the moldy materials and discard them altogether. This includes wet or dampened carpet and ceiling tiles.
If the mold problem caused extensive damage, and the area involved is larger than 10 sq. ft., you may want to consult a company that specializes in this sort of clean up. You may also want to consult professionals if you suspect you’ve got hidden mold which can occur inside your walls, in the duct work, in pipes or under your sub-flooring. Finding properly licensed contractors who will help you along the way is crucial, and with websites like Tenlist.com it is now easy as well.
When the cause of mold is something substantial, the cost of fixing the problem, not to mention, replacing roofs, interior walls and can be very substantial. Homeowners or flood insurance may cover the cost of repairing and replacing damaged items, but the risks of not removing mold within 24 to no more than 48 hours are so serious that you shouldn’t wait until your insurance company reimburses you for the expenses.