- Mold Basics:
- The key to mold control is moisture control.
- If mold is a problem in your home, you should clean up the mold promptly and fix the water problem.
- It is important to dry water-damaged areas and items within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth.
Mold is part of the natural environment that we live and work in on an everyday basis. Outside, mold plays a very important role in the break down of dead organic matter. This should of course be avoided indoors. Molds reproduce by means of tiny spores; the spores are invisible to the naked eye and float through outdoor and indoor air. Mold may begin growing indoors when mold spores land on surfaces that get wet. With all the many types of mold out there, none of those will grow without exposure to water.
Can mold cause health problems?
Molds are usually not a problem indoors, unless mold spores land on a wet or damp spot and begin growing. Mold will cause health problems if it goes untreated and isn't taken care of soon enough. It can cause: Allergens ( which are produced when there is an allergic reaction to something.) Irritants and potentially toxic substances ( mycotoxins).
Inhaling and/or touching mold can cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Allergic responses can be but are not limited to: hay fever-type symptoms, sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash. Allergic reactions can be delayed or immediate. Molds can cause asthma attacks, irritating the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs. The lungs are affected by breathing in the mold and the mold traveling through spores. Pregnant women need to take caution around such areas as the unborn child can also be affected by the amount of oxygen it receives. You need to consult with your doctor for specifics as to what it is right for you.
How do I get rid of the mold?
It is impossible to get rid of all mold and mold spores indoors; some mold spores will be found floating through the air and in house dust. The mold spores will not grow if moisture is not present. Indoor mold growth can and should be prevented or controlled by controlling moisture indoors. If there is mold growth in your home, you must clean up the mold and fix the water problem. If you clean up the mold, but don't fix the water problem, then, most likely, the mold problem will come back.
Mold can gradually destroy the things they grow on. You can prevent damage to your home and furnishings, save money, and avoid potential health problems by controlling moisture and eliminating mold growth.
If you already have a mold problem act quickly. Mold damages what it grows on and the longer it grows, the more damage it can cause.
Can mold hide?
You may suspect that mold is present if the building smells old or moldy, but you cannot see the source. Or if you know that there has been water damage and residents are reporting health problems. Mold be hidden in places like:
- Backside of drywall
- wallpaper or paneling
- the top side of ceiling tiles
- the underside of carpets and pads, etc.
Other possible locations of hidden mold include areas inside walls around pipes ( with leaking or condensing pipes) the surface of the walls behind furniture ( where condensation forms) inside ductwork, and in roof materials above ceiling tiles( due to roof leaks or insufficient insulation.)
Investigating hidden mold problems may be difficult and will require caution when the investigation involves disturbing potential sites of mold growth. For example, removal of wallpaper can lead to a massive release of spores if there is mold growing on the underside of the paper. If you believe that you may have a hidden mold problem, consider hiring an experienced professional.
Biocides are substances that can destroy living organisms. The use of a chemical or biocide that kills organisms such as mold ( chlorine bleach, for example) is not recommended as a routine practice during mold cleanup. There may be instances, however, when professional judgment may indicate its use ( for example, when immune-compromise individuals are present) In most cases, it is not possible or desirable to sterilize an area, a background level of mold spores will remain- these spores will not grow if the moisture problem has been resolved. If you choose to use disinfectants or biocides, always ventilate the area and exhaust the air to the outdoors. Never mix chlorine bleach solution with other cleaning solutions or detergents that contain ammonia because toxic fumes could be produced.
PLEASE NOTE: Dead mold may still cause allergic reactions in some people, so it is not enough to simply kill the mold, it must also be removed.
Who should do the cleanup?
Who should do the cleanup depends on a number of factors. One consideration is the size of the mold problem. If the moldy area is less then 10 feet most likely you can handle the problem yourself. However:
- If there has been a lot of water damage and/or mold growth covers more than 10 square feet, consult the U.S Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA) guide: Mold recommendation in schools and Commercial Buildings. Although focused on schools and commercial buildings, this document is applicable to other building types. It is available free by calling the EPA Indoor Air Quality Information Clearinghouse at (800)438-4318 or on the net at www.epa.gov/mold
-If you choose to hire a contractor ( or other professional service provider) to do clean up, make sure the contractor has experience cleaning up mold. Check references and ask the contractor to follow local guides and recommendations for removing mold.
- If you suspect that the heating/ventilation/air conditioning ( HVAC) system may be contaminated with mold ( it is part of an identified moisture problem, for instance, or there is mold near the intake to the system), consult a professional before taking any actions. DO NOT run your HVAC system if you know or suspect that is contaminated with mold- it could spread mold throughout the whole building or house.
- If the water and/ or mold damage was caused by sewage or other contaminated water, then call in a professional who has experience cleaning or fixing buildings damaged by contaminated water.
- If you have any health concerns, think you might be pregnant or are and have been in contact with mold you should seek a health professional immediately.
- If you have any doubt, call a professional before attempting clean up your self. If you have any health concerns with clean up, consult with a professional.
Places that are often or always damp can be hard to maintain completely free of mold. If there is some mold in the shower or elsewhere in the bathroom that seems to reappear, increasing the ventilation ( running a fan or opening a window) and cleaning more frequently will usually prevent mold from recurring, or at least keep the mold to a minimum.
( these tips shared in this section are at home tips. Professional cleaners may use techniques not covered. Mold can also leave cosmetic damage and staining so it may not be possible to clean an item and restore it to its original appearance. )
- Fix plumbing and leaks and other water issues as soon as possible. Dry all items completely.
- Scrub mold off of hard surfaces with detergent and water, and dry off completely.
- Absorbent or porous materials, such as ceiling tiles and carpet, may have to be thrown away if they become moldy. Mold can grow on or fill in the empty spaces and crevices of porous materials, so mold can be difficult or impossible to remove completely.
- Avoiding exposing yourself or others to mold.
- Do not paint or caulk moldy surfaces. Clean up the mold and dry the surfaces before painting. Paint applied over moldy surfaces is likely to peel.
-If you are unsure of how to clean an item, or if the item is expensive or of sentimental value, you may wish to consult a specialist. Furniture repair, restoration, painting, art restoration and conservation, carpet and rug cleaning, water damage, and fire or water restoration are commonly listed in phone books or ask for a local neighborhood referral. Be sure to ask and check references. Look for specialist who are affiliated with the subject at hand.
Moisture prevention and controlling the mold.
When water leaks or spills occur indoors- ACT QUICKLY!! If wet or damp materials or areas are dried 24-48 hours after a leak or spill happens, in most cases mold will not grow.
- Clean and repair roof gutters regularly.
- Make sure the ground slopes away from the building foundation, so that water does not enter or collect around the foundation.
- Keep air conditioning drip pans clean and the drain lines unobstructed and flowing properly.
- Keep indoor humidity low. If possible, keep indoor humidity below 60% ( ideally between 30 and 50 percent) relative humidity. Relative humidity can be measured with a moisture or humidity meter, a small, inexpensive ( $10-$50) instrument available at many hardware stores.
- Reducing humidity: Vent appliances that produce moisture, such as clothes dryers, stoves, and kerosene heaters to the outside where possible. ( Combustion appliances such as stoves and kerosene heaters produce water vapor and will increase the humidity unless vented to the outside.) Use air conditioners and/or De-humidifiers when needed. Run the bathroom fan or open the window when showering. Use the exhaust fans or open windows whenever cooking, running the dishwasher or dishwasher, etc.
- Actions that will help prevent condensation:Reduce the humidity ( see the preceding page). Increase ventilation or air movement by opening doors and/or windows, when practical. Use fans as needed. Cover cold surfaces, such as cold water pipes, with insulation. Increase air temperature.
For more information please visit www.epa.gov/mold