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.