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.”

white mold

What is White Mold and How to Prevent it in Atlanta, GA

White mold growth, while a common problem in residential homes, does not receive the same attention as the black mold. Primarily this is due to the fears surrounding more well known black molds, such as Stachybotrys. However, many white molds are still capable of producing negative health effects and should be dealt with promptly. Curious what kind of white mold you’re dealing with? Read up on mold testing before hiring a pro. It may seem like mold in Atlanta grows more rapidly during the cold winter months. This is only because the conditions in winter are ideal for the growth of mold. Many of us tend to close ourselves into our homes when the temperature starts to drop. As a result of all the requirements for energy efficiency, our homes are tightly sealed during winter. This can result in trapping of indoors and the rise of humidity levels.

Common locations for white mold growth
Each type of mold has a preference for certain conditions. For example, Stachybotrys often prefers highly saturated materials, such as sheetrock after a flooding event. Because of these preferences, white mold growth is often found in the same location. Below are the most common areas.

Furniture
Mold growth on furniture is often white in color. Additionally, the mold typically has a 3 dimensional, fuzzy growth aspect.

Clothing & Textiles

Clothing, shoes, backpacks – when mold attacks contents within the home, it’s often white or light green in color. This is especially true for leather items. The good news? It’s easier to remove white mold than black mold. While the latter often leaves behind permanent stains, white mold can often be fully removed.

Attic sheathing and framing

White mold tends to grow in high humidity environments rather than areas suffering from total saturation. This is why it’s less common to see mold growth on base trim after a flooding event. The vast majority of attic mold is caused by humidity, which is why white mold growth is common here.

Crawlspaces

White mold is often found in two locations in a crawlspace, exposed soil and the lower portions of the floor joists. In cool climates, mold growth on floor joists is rare. But when it occurs, it’s often white in color.

In wet climates, exposed soil in a crawlspace will often propagate mold growth. Typically this is due to a missing or incomplete vapor barrier. The combination of an organic food source (dirt), excess moisture and limited airflow creates the perfect conditions for mold growth. In nearly all cases, white rather than black mold grows in the soil.

Does white mold lead to wood rot?

In short – no. Rot (dry rot, wet rot, white rot, brown rot) is caused by wood decay fungi. These are distinct from molds and are relatively small in number in comparison to molds. They require much higher levels of available water to grow. The name ‘dry rot’ is a complete misnomer, as all rot requires elevated quantities of moisture. If you find white mold growing on building material, it will not morph into rot.

However, this doesn’t mean your wood won’t rot. If you have a high quantity of moisture, eventually wood decay fungi will take over. This will happen regardless of whether or not you had any mold growing beforehand.

How can I tell the difference between white mold and efflorescence?

White mold growth provides an additional challenge because it is often confused with efflorescence, a crystalline growth structure found on concrete and masonry surfaces. Efflorescence occurs when water moves through a masonry structure, bringing unbounded salts to the surface. When the water evaporates, a white, fluffy structure is left behind. This growth, while harmless, can appear very similar to white mold growth.

White mold can be found anywhere conditions conducive to mold growth are present. Common areas of white mold growth include attic sheathing and crawlspace framing.

A trained mold inspector can readily determine if the growth structure is from white mold or efflorescence. Additionally, efflorescence will typically dissolve under the application of a water mist, while mold growth will not. Other helpful distinguishing characteristics include the material of the substrate. Efflorescence will only occur on concrete, brick or other masonry structures. If you find a white mold-like substance on sheetrock or wood, you can certainly rule out efflorescence. Another indication, though imperfect, is the presence of a mold smell. Efflorescence is odorless, while mold growth often produces a musty odor.

  • Warm conditions resulting from the turning up of our thermostats in winter make the indoor home environment perfect for the growth and proliferation of mold.
  • Decaying matter around the home resulting from fallen leaves and dead plants results in the release of mold spores into the air. These are spread and settle indoors where they grow.
  • Increased humidity as a result of the wet winter conditions provides ideal conditions for the growth of mold.

1. Keep the surfaces in your home clean and dry.

Don’t give mold spores the chance to settle and grow.

2. Ensure that there is adequate circulation of air.

Open a window when cooking, washing dishes or taking a shower. You can use an exhaust fan if you have one. This will prevent condensation from building up in the home and therefore keep humidity levels low.

3. Ensure that leaky plumbing is fixed in good time.

Ensure that you get a plumber to inspect any leaky pipes or drains. This will ensure that water is not leaking within the home and therefore keep moisture levels down.

4. If you have a crawl space, ensure that you spread a moisture barrier over the soil.

This can take the form of a plastic film or roofing paper made of polyethylene. This barrier will prevent moisture from the crawl space rising and penetrating the floor. This moisture can result in the rise of indoor humidity levels and encourage the growth of mold.