Two Shocking Spots Where Mold Is Hiding in Your Home

Two Shocking Spots Where Mold Is Hiding in Your Home

Now that mold has been spotted in sippy cups, sparking alarm and a flurry of viral photos online, it begs the question: Where else is this funky fungus lurking in our homes?

To find out, a reporter on NBC's “Today" show invited a mold expert into his home. Although the house looked fine at first glance, the expert found these nasty spores in many places. For example: under the sink, where leaks combined with the dark quarters provide the perfect environment. The bathroom was another prime place, where the expert found mold on the bottom of shampoo bottles and even (ugh!) under the cap. Basically any moist place is at risk, which is why mold also flourishes around laundry machines and dishwashers.

And there's good reason to root out this silent scourge: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mold can cause coughing, wheezing, and other respiratory problems. Some studies associate mold with the pervasive problem of asthma among kids.

Only how do you know if the gunk you're seeing is actually molded? According to the "Today" show's housing expert, Lou Manfredini, you can buy a mold testing kit for $34, swab the questionable area, and then send the samples to a lab to get results. But experts also say that you don't need a test: If you can see mold or smell a musty odor, it's there!

And luckily, a little mold doesn't mean you should pack up and vacate the premises, it just means it's time to conduct a thorough cleaning. For this, bleach is your best friend, killing every species of indoor mold and its spores. Just mix one cup bleach per gallon of water and wipe (no rinsing required).

If you're not into using bleach because of the harsh fumes, there are alternatives. All-natural vinegar, for one, can kill 82% of mold species. Just pour into a spray bottle (don't water it down). Spray on the moldy surface, leave for an hour, then wipe.

To prevent the mold from growing again, you'll need to fix whatever's making the area damp. For instance, keep the humidity in your home below 50%; a dehumidifier or air conditioner can help. Fix any leaks with your plumbing or on the roof. You can even add mold inhibitors to paint.

In short, mold's not the death knell for your home, so don't start freaking out about every damp crevice and shampoo bottle. Instead, take a deep breath, then roll up your sleeves and start scrubbing.

Is Mold in Your Home

Is Mold in Your Home Putting Your Health at Risk?

It smells, it's unsightly, it can cause health problems, and it's just plain creepy. Mold—a general term that includes a variety of fungi—is one of the most common fears of homeowners. But is it really as terrifying as it seems? Learn more about mold and when you should really be concerned.

Why is it here?

Like mushrooms, mold reproduces through spores. Mold spores are infinitesimally small—roughly one-tenth the width of a human hair—and are pretty much everywhere. Mold thrives particularly in damp, warm environments such as your bathroom or basement.

If I find mold in my home, how worried should I be?

It depends. Those tiny mold spores, when inhaled, can induce allergic reactions in some people. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, these reactions include sneezing, red eyes, a runny nose, and skin rash. Mold can also provoke asthma attacks in asthmatic people. Those with underlying health conditions such as hypersensitive pneumonitis can also be at risk. Severe allergic reactions, including fever and shortness of breath, usually occur in people who have been exposed to lots of mold.

What about black mold?

You have probably heard of the dangers of black mold (Stachybotrys chartarum), but studies linking it to life-threatening health conditions in children and serious health problems in adults have been called into question for flawed methodology. According to the Centers for Disease Control, it’s best to treat all molds equally regarding their health risks and cleanup.

Can mold damage my home?

In most cases, no. Mold is simply a growth that can be removed with the proper procedures and equipment. However, if your house has suffered extensive water damage, mold can grow in your walls; it will require a complete renovation.

The presence of mold usually signals another problem. For example, a mold spot on the ceiling usually indicates a leak.

How about my property?

Mold will not necessarily destroy your items, but it can be a real hassle cleaning up. For example, if you have moldy books, you will need to carefully clean both the covers and the pages with a fine brush or cloth and with denatured alcohol. Rugs and mattresses need to be cleaned with as little water as possible and dried thoroughly in the sun.

Also, don’t just paint over mold spots. It won’t get rid of the mold, and the paint can peel.

I think I have mold. Now what?

Don’t worry—mold is common. Unless it’s a severe case of mold, like after a flood, you can usually clean up the mold yourself. If there is a lot of mold, or if you are highly allergic to it or have an underlying health condition, hire a professional.

To clean mold, the Center for Disease Control suggests using these items:

  • An N95 mask
  • Rubber boots and gloves
  • Goggles
  • Bleach mixture (1 cup of bleach to 1 gallon of water)
  • A stiff brush or mop

While cleaning, be sure to ventilate the area. Scrub down the affected areas with the bleach mixture, rub down with clean water, and then air-dry using fans or sunlight.

Preventing mold

  • Mold likes humid environments, so eliminating moisture is the first step. Use ventilation fans or crack open windows in the bathroom when taking a shower, and be sure to draw the shower curtain when done.
  • In other humid areas, such as the basement, use a dehumidifier. According to the EPA, humidity levels should be below 60%.
  • If you spot a leak or spill, clean it up quickly. Mold won't typically grow if the liquid is cleaned up and dried within 24 to 48 hours.
  • Ventilation prevents moisture buildup. If you have mold in the kitchen, open windows or run ventilation fans when doing activities that increase temperatures, like cooking and running the dishwasher.
How to Clean Mold in my bathroom

How to Clean Mold in my bathroom

If you’ve never experienced bathroom mold, perhaps you aren’t looking deep enough into the corners of your bathroom. It’s one of the most common problems in any house; it’s also one of the easiest to prevent and cure — as long as you haven’t let it get out of hand.

Common Causes of Bathroom Mold

  • Lingering moisture caused by lack of ventilation
  • Leaky toilets, sinks, and plumbing pipes
  • Damp cellulose materials such as rugs, paper products, wood, wallpaper, grout, drywall, and fabric
  • So how do you know if you have a mold problem? Matt Cinelli, owner/operator of AERC Removals in North Attleboro, Mass., says, “If you can see it or smell it, you’ve got it.”

Finding the Mold in Your Bathroom

Bathroom mold isn’t always obvious. Check out hidden areas, such as under sinks, access doors to shower and bath fixtures, around exhaust fans, even in crawl spaces and basements underneath bathrooms.

“It could be starting in the bathroom but actually forming in another room,” says Cinelli, adding that lack of proper ventilation is the biggest culprit for mold growth.

Here are some tips for Preventing Mold

  • Use your bathroom ventilation fan when you shower or bathe, and leave it on for 30 minutes following the end of your bath; if you don’t have an exhaust fan, install one.
  • Keep household humidity levels below 50%; an air conditioner or dehumidifier can help.
  • Use a mildew-resistant shower curtain, and wash or replace it frequently.
  • Don’t keep bottles of shampoo or shower gel, toys, or loofahs in the shower, as they provide places for mold to grow and hide.
  • Wash your bathroom rugs frequently.

Getting Rid of Mold

What do you do if mold growth is already a problem? As long as the infestation isn’t large, you can take remedial measures yourself:

  • Strip away and replace any caulking or sealant that has mold growth.
  • Clean your bathroom with mold-killing products, such as bleach, vinegar, or hydrogen peroxide. Just don’t mix those products; mixing can cause toxic reactions.
  • Open windows and doors while cleaning to provide fresh air and help dry out the mold.

If you have a problem area bigger than 10 square feet, refer to guidelines from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or call in a professional.

“When you see it creeping into walls and insulation, you need a professional,” says Cinelli, who notes that tearing out walls (which may be necessary for a big problem) can release mold spores into the rest of the house and create an even bigger issue.

“The idea is to kill it and then remove it,” he says. “And the most important thing is to figure out why you have it before you clean it up.”

Can a color be used to identify the type of mold

Can a Color be Used to Identify the Type of Mold?

Can a color be used to identify the type of mold?

You cannot positively determine the exact type of mold based on the color. To determine the specific type of mold, you’ll need mold testing. However, color can be used to rule out certain types of mold. For example, Stachybotrys is always black. If you find white mold growth on a pair of shoes, you can rest assured it is not Stachybotrys. The same is true of chromium and a number of other mold types.

Unfortunately, many types of mold such as Cladosporium and Penicillium/Aspergillus come in a variety of colors. These molds can appear in everything from white or green to brown and black. This limits our ability to determine the exact type of mold by simply assessing its color. To fully identify the species or genus of the mold a sample must be collected and sent to a lab for analysis.

A tape lift sample is often the best method for determining the type of mold growth. In the photo below a sample of white mold is being taken from attic sheathing. Lab testing determined the growth was Acremonium.

Tape lift sample of white mold growing in the attic.
Tape lift sample of white mold growth.

Is white mold dangerous?

Many molds can provoke allergic responses in sensitive individuals. No area of significant mold growth within the home should be considered safe. Proper identification of the underlying cause, removal, and cleanup should be performed regardless of the color of the mold growth.

What tests are used to identify white mold?

Direct mold sampling can be used to identify the species of white mold. Types of direct sampling include tape lift, swab, and bulk samples. These samples are collected by a technician and sent to a laboratory for analysis. The lab will first determine if the suspect’s growth is mold, and if so, what species of mold.

Are there any special concerns for mold remediation when dealing with white mold?

Your approach to mold cleanup should remain the same regardless of the color. Remember, many types of molds, even non-toxic molds, are capable of causing an allergic response. Because of this, the color of the mold is inconsequential. Many non-allergenic molds are white, as are a number of allergenic molds. Confusing the issue, even more, is the fact that we simply don’t know the allergenic capabilities of the vast majority of molds. Conclusion = treat them all the same.