Posted on October 1st, 2018
Though only a few forms of mold are directly toxic to humans, seeing any kind of mold in your home is bad news. Mold can cause structural damage to your house and aggravate the symptoms of existing health conditions. The earlier you detect—and remove—mold infestations, the easier it will be to protect your home and your family’s well-being.
Why Mold Removal is Important
Mold is a type of multicellular fungal organism that rapidly grows and spreads. This means that it only takes a few mold spores to create a big problem if the conditions in your home are favorable for mold growth. Moderate to high environmental humidity, the presence of small water leaks, and enclosed spaces (where moisture can accumulate) all encourage mold formation. Mold also tends to prefer warmer temperatures.
In addition to causing unsightly stains and odors, mold can degrade organic materials in your home. Because mold feeds on cellulose, it’s highly destructive to wood, wallpaper, insulation material, and some types of upholstery. Left unchecked, mold infestations can cause thousands of dollars worth of property damage.
Mold spores are extremely light; as such, normal air circulation tends to carry them around infested homes. This both spreads the initial infestation and causes a number of uncomfortable respiratory symptoms in susceptible individuals. Mold is one of the most common allergens, with mold allergies affecting up to 1/3rd of all Americans. Living in a home with a high concentration of mold spores can therefore lead to chronic rhinitis, post-nasal drip, and an increased risk of suffering from sinus and respiratory infections. All of these conditions greatly degrade sleep quality, leading to a higher potential for daytime accidents and impaired productivity. In asthmatics, mold spores can cause life-threatening asthma attacks.
Detecting Mold in Your Home
First and foremost, it’s important to be aware that mold is not simply a problem for older homes. In fact, newer homes are often more prone to developing mold problems because they’re more tightly insulated (and therefore seal in more moisture). Likewise, you should know that most mold infestations are already well established by the time visible patches of mold appear. Mold growth usually begins in places where we can’t see it, such as within air ducts and behind tiles, panels, and wallpaper.
To detect the early signs of mold, you’ll need to pay attention to subtle clues that mold is present in your home. A musty odor in any area of your house cracked tiles or panels, peeling paint, warped walls, and stained or moist-looking patches on your walls or floors can all indicate the presence of mold.
Cleaning up Mold and Preventing Reinfestation
If you suspect a mold infestation in your home, the first thing you should do is hire a qualified indoor air expert to test for mold. He or she can let you know where the mold in your home is located and give you tips on any remediation steps you’ll need to take. If you have mold in hard-to-reach spaces, like inside your air vents, you’ll need to hire a professional cleaning company to help you take care of it. Depending on the extent of the infestation, you may also require professional repair services; e.g., to replace damaged paint or tiles. If, on the other hand, the moldy areas in your home are accessible and manageable, you can attempt to take care of them yourself using the following strategies:
1. Take steps to control the moisture level in your home.
Homeowners who remove mold without treating the root cause of the problem—interior dampness—often find themselves dealing with repeated infestations. The first step to eliminating mold in your home should therefore be moisture control: Place a dehumidifier in mold-prone areas, like the basement and bathroom. Alternately, installing central air conditioning can reduce the amount of moisture in your home.
2. Scrub hard surfaces with a mold-killing cleaning solution.
The go-to solution when dealing with any form of mold is household bleach. Mix one cup of bleach in a gallon of water, then sponge the solution over mold-blighted areas. Make sure you wear gloves and respiratory protection while cleaning with bleach—even diluted, it tends to produce harsh fumes. It can also cause burns. If you have a sensitive respiratory system, or you have kids or pets in the house, it’s better to hire professional cleaners than attempt this step yourself.
Note that bleach can damage porous surfaces (like carpeting, wood, and drywall). As such, you should only use bleach on non-porous surfaces, like ceramic tile.
3. Use baking soda to clean porous surfaces.
To get mold off of your walls, mix baking soda with water until it forms a thick paste. Work this paste into moldy areas with a stiff brush, scrub until you no longer see any evidence of mold, then rinse the surface with lukewarm water.
4. Have your carpets cleaned professionally.
Household vacuums are not powerful enough to remove fine particles that have become lodged deep within the carpet pile. To get mold spores out of your carpets for good, you’ll need to have your carpets treated with a professional hot water extraction system.
5. Install air purifiers throughout your home.
Air purifiers continually filter the air we breathe, trapping mold spores and other irritants before they reach our lungs. Not only will this help you breathe more comfortably, but it will also prevent the spread of mold spores and lower the risk of reinfestation. For best results, use air cleaners that have true HEPA filters installed.
Once you’re confident that your home is mold-free, you should consider giving it a thorough deep cleaning. Doing so will get rid of any lingering allergens and make your home look, smell, and feel flawlessly clean. What better way is there to make a fresh start?