It is inevitable that we live with mold in our home. Even the most sterile environment has mold present in the air and attached to dust particles. Mold, if allowed to get the upper hand, can cause suffering for people with allergies, asthma, and related breathing disease. Allergic reactions to mold can be a serious health threat. Inhaling or touching molds can cause serious reactions in people who are sensitive to allergens. Allergic responses can include symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, irritated eyes, and even skin rash. In addition, exposure to growing molds can cause asthma attacks, breathing difficulties, and irritation of the eyes, skin, nose throat and lungs.
So how do you control the growth of mold in your home? The answer lies in controlling moisture. Mold cannot grow without three elements - moisture, heat, and darkness. Even though the mold spore is existent in the home, without these qualifiers, mold cannot grow into the unsightly black patches typical of mold infestation. To identify a mold infestation, look for black spots on interior walls, including wallpaper, drywall and insulation in the attic. Check ceiling tiles for signs of mold. It can easily be identified by the musty odor it creates. Keep in mind that mold uses cellulose as a food source, so any area of the home that contains this substance is an area where mold can take hold.
Mold can begin to grow in as little as 24 hours. This makes it essential to clean up any spills and insure that they are dry as quickly as possible. Doing so takes away one of the key elements to mold growth. If there is no moisture, mold will not grow.
Be sure to look closely in any area of the home where moisture is commonly present. The kitchen and bathroom are obvious places. Mold can grow in areas under the kitchen sink if any moisture is present. Because daily cooking usually produces steam, this can be a moisture source for mold to begin growth. The same is true in the bathroom. Mold specialists do not recommend carpeting the bathroom, although many homes have this feature. Mold will begin to grow under wet carpeting in the bathroom, even if there is no water spill. The steam from a hot shower provides enough moisture to promote mold growth. Even though the carpeting does not appear to be wet, it can be retaining moisture beneath the carpet backing, allowing mold to gain a foothold. Mold can also develop behind bathroom walls, especially in shower areas. If the water pipes feeding your shower develops a tiny leak, the combination of heat, darkness and moisture in this area will certainly promote mold growth. Keep in mind that even if there is no leak, pipes will generally "sweat" during summer months, producing moisture that allows mold to grow. Areas around toilets and vanities are also good places for mold to begin to grow.
Always run the bathroom fan, or open a window, when showering.
In the attic of your home, especially if well insulated, mold can become a problem. Although mold will not grow on fiberglass insulation, it can feed on the paper backing of the insulation. Unless an attic is properly vented, conditions are ideal for mold growth. Because most attics are sealed off, they can create damp conditions during weather changes. High humidity or changes from cold to hot conditions in the attic encourages mold to gain a foot hold in the attic. Check the insulation regularly, and seek the advice of a mold specialist to find out how to properly vent the attic space.
Basements are a good place for mold to grow. Moisture is generally present around furnaces with humidifiers, the water connections of washers, and a sump pump. Look for mold growth in these areas. If a basement is carpeted, and because basements are often higher in humidity than other areas of the home, be on the lookout for the presence of mold.
On the home's exterior, check roof gutters on a regular basis, and clean and repair as necessary. Always make sure that the ground slopes away from the home's foundation, so water does not have an opportunity to collect around the foundation and possibly invade the living space. Always keep air conditioning drip pans clean, and check the drain lines to insure that water is flowing properly, and there is no obstruction. Keep leaves and debris cleaned up around the exterior walls. Mold can grow in piles of leaves if blocked from the sun by trees or shrubs.
Keep the humidity on the house below 60 percent. An inexpensive humidity gauge can be purchased at any hardware store. If you have problems with condensation on interior window surfaces, it is a sign of humidity levels being higher than they should be. Dry the windows quickly and attempt to determine the source of moisture. This can usually be alleviated by balancing indoor and outdoor temperatures through the use of attic vents and fans.
Mold can be cleaned up with a solution of chlorine bleach and water. A good rule of thumb in cleaning mold infestation can be determined easily. If the moldy area is less than 10 square feet, then you can safely clean it yourself. If the infestation is larger than this, you should leave the job to a mold specialist. Keeping moisture under control in the home will go a long way in keeping mold out of the home. Inspect regularly in areas that might be considered as good moisture sources, and you can keep mold under control.
Alden Smith is an award winning author and regular contributor to DoItYourself.com. He writes on a variety of subjects, and excels in research.