Molds are a natural part of the world, serving the important function of helping to breakdown dead organic matter. However, that process can produce toxic elements that, when outdoors, are perfectly natural and appropriate. But indoors, that toxicity can be dangerous and life-threatening and needs to be eradicated whenever encountered.
Molds are living organisms that reproduce by tiny spores, virtually invisible, that can travel airborne from their origin and thrive in any relatively moist environment. They will not survive in an environment void of water or moisture.
How and why does mold grow in a home?
Mold does not typically present a problem indoors unless exterior mold spores drift inside through open doors or even between the mesh of a window screen and happen to land on a wet or damp spot to thrive and grow and spread. One distinction of mold is that it does not necessarily require the presence of light in order to thrive.
Mold can present health risks to anyone exposed to them. Not all molds are toxic, but virtually all are allergenic, causing reactions of sniffles, sneezing and coughing or rash in a variety of degrees in individuals depending on their sensitivity.
Molds can occur in a variety of colors, mostly black and white, and none should be tolerated if found in the home. Action should be taken immediately to eliminate all presence of mold and the moisture conditions that promote their growth. For example, a common occurrence of mold can begin with leaking plumbing underneath a sink in the kitchen, bathroom or laundry room cabinet. Even a situation of a leaking roof that may cause ceiling or wall drywall to become and remain damp can encourage the growth of mold.
How to get rid of mold in your house
Depending on the extent and duration of a moldy condition, cleaning up mold can be an easy exercise of a couple of hours to a concentrated, all-out effort. The point is, mold can be temporarily eliminated, but if the source of moisture is not addressed, it will likely re-appear.
In many cases, particularly if the mold is a recent phenomenon and less than about 10 square feet in size, you can likely do the clean-up yourself. However, depending on the type of mold and severity of the condition of the wood, drywall, or other household surface the mold has attacked, it may not be possible to restore the surface to its original condition; it may need to be replaced.
Avoid direct contact with the mold. Wear a respirator to prevent breathing in mold spores through the mouth and nose. Wear goggles to protect the eyes. Wear rubber gloves rated to withstand your detergent.
Do not paint or caulk over moldy areas to mask it; this will not eliminate the problem. Scrub mold off hard surfaces with hot water and detergent using a brush, then force dry the surface until completely dry. If the surface is soft and porous, such as rugs, carpets or ceiling tiles, the entire area may need to be cut out and discarded. Even commercial steam cleaners may not sufficiently clean the area to eradicate the mold.
If your efforts have failed, if you are unsure you have adequately cleaned the area, or if the affected area is large, consult with a professional contractor certified in the area of mold clean-up. Always request and check references.
How to prevent mold
One of the best preventatives to mold growth is the discovery of a damp condition on ceilings, walls and floors and inside cabinets before mold can be generated. Eliminate the cause of the moisture and then dry the area completely. A fan is advisable to fully dry the area. If an area is noticed to be suddenly damp due to a new water leak, the leak must be stopped within 24 to 48 hours to assure a mold condition can be prevented. Never allow the results of a water leak to linger.
If relative humidity of greater than 60 percent inside the home is a constant or even seasonal concern, a dehumidifier should be purchased. A humidity meter is about $10 to $15 at many hardware stores. Perhaps a de-humidifier incorporated into the home’s HVAC system, rather than several portable units in each room would be best to employ.
If you see water condensation on interior windows, walls or pipes (other than immediately after a bath or shower in the bathroom) this is an indication of excessively high humidity.
The point is to eliminate the source of moisture in the home because no mold can grow in a low-humidity environment where there is no standing water or moisture present.