Anyone can have mold in their home. Even the cleanest house harbors mold spores. The spores can enter a home through open windows, doors, on pets and even on our clothing. Spores go unnoticed until something becomes wet or moist. The spores land on the moisture, causing mold to grow within 24 to 48 hours of contact. There is no effective way to completely clean up mold spores in an environment, as they are microscopic and invisible to the human eye. However, controlling moisture in your home will help alleviate the problem of mold growth.
The areas of a home that are most affected by mold are basements, bathrooms, kitchens, attics or crawl spaces, as these places are more vulnerable to a higher humidity. Also, if a water leak has occurred anywhere inside your home, be sure to clean it up and dry it out as soon as possible, as it will become the perfect breeding ground for mold. Using a dehumidifier and an air conditioner are great ways to avoid problems with mold. The indoor humidity should be kept between 30% to 60% to decrease and keep mold growth at bay. Mold feeds on anything made of wood, cardboard, paper, drywall, carpet and fabric, so if these things get wet or the room is too moist, you will have a mold growth problem.
The most common types of mold include alternaria, aspergillus, cladosporium and penicillium. Stachybotrys chartarum, which is often referred to as black or toxic mold, is more of a green color than black. Household mold appears in many different colors, such as black, green, blue, orange, red, violet, white or yellow. It usually appears as a patch on your wall, floor or ceiling.
Large accumulations of mold become a problem because of the mycotoxins that they produce. According to the media, these mycotoxins have been linked to upper respiratory problems, as well as causing pulmonary hemorrhage. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, no causal link between any type of household mold and pulmonary hemorrhage has been proven.
An allergy to mold occurs when your immune system overreacts when you breathe in spores. You may feel like you have hay fever, but the sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, cough, itchy and watery eyes, sinusitis and postnasal drip could all be symptoms of a mold allergy. Molds produce allergens and toxins that, when inhaled or contacted by individuals living in the home, can cause serious illnesses, particularly in those who are already sensitive, such as those with asthma and compromised immune systems, infants and the elderly.
The key to identifying mold is to figure out where the moisture is. If you have had a leak or flood, it is likely that this moisture has put you at risk for mold growth. You should assume that you need mold remediation any time you have water damage or flooding. Poorly ventilated rooms that tend to have moisture are the most worrisome and should be renovated by adding better ventilation, exhaust fans and dehumidifiers. If you control the moisture, you control the growth of mold. If you smell a musty, earthy odor, you probably have mold. If it is not visible, it could be behind your wall and the only way to clean up that problem is by tearing out the wallboard and replacing it. Mold spores are next to impossible to eliminate, and as long as there are spores in your home, all it takes is moisture or a leak for a problem to crop up.
If you do find yourself with a mold problem, you must either clean it up yourself or call a professional to help you. A moldy home is not a healthy home. A small mold growth is probably manageable to clean up yourself, but you do need to wear rubber gloves and a dust mask. You should scrub the area with hot water mixed with dish-washing liquid and then dry it thoroughly. Using diluted bleach also works, but it can cause fumes, which can be irritating. If you need a mild abrasive to help scrub off the mold, you can mix a bit of baking soda with the dish-washing solution. Remember to check the area for the next week or so to make sure the mold does not return. If it does, then you have not pinpointed the source of the moisture problem. If you have a large area with mold that is a greenish-black in color, you will need to hire professionals to clean it. Mold removal is not a regulated business, so you want to be sure to find someone who has credentials to prove their competence. Make sure they have completed courses through the American Council for Accredited Certification or by the American Board of Industrial Hygiene. The EPA or your local Department of Health can also offer advice and information for having your mold tested. All mold remediation experts should offer credentials, tell you how they do the testing and allow you to speak with the lab to verify your testing, give you a clean-up plan and estimated cost to complete the job.
Mold growth is a big turn off for a potential home buyer, as no one wants to live in a home that could be a health hazard. It is better to get it cleaned up prior to a home inspection than wait until after the inspection is completed and the report is given to the potential buyer. If you do not clean it up, it will take longer for your sale to go through and could cost you more in the long run or you may even lose the sale.