Mold and Mildew
Mold and mildew spores are just about everywhere on the planet. Indoors and outdoors and anywhere there is moisture.
Mold performs the task of decomposing dead plants and other organic material so it is a necessary part of the environment. It spreads easily by means of airborne microscopic spores. Spores spread pervasively. So that it is impossible for even high quality residential construction to exclude them from the home environment.
Pervasive or not, mold is definitely not something you want to have in your home. It consumes and destroys organic materials and causes respiratory and other health problems for people who are sensitive to it.
Mildew and Mold Nasties
Mold growth requirements
In order to grow, mold spores require three elements to be present: food, proper temperatures and moisture. If all these growing conditions exist, mold will grow in your home.
Unfortunately, there are many food sources in your home that molds love. They include fabric, carpet, wallpaper, and many organic building materials such as drywall, wood and even some insulations. There is not much a homeowner can do about the food element.
Mold growth also requires the right temperatures between 40 degrees F, and 100 degrees F. This happens to also be the perfect range of temperatures found in your home. Because this is the same temperature range that humans exist. So not much can be done about this element either.
Moisture is key to controlling mold
Finally, mold and mildew require moisture. Moisture is the mold’s Achilles heel. Moisture is the only mold growth factor that can be totally controlled in your home. As a result, homeowners can eliminate mold growth by eliminating high moisture levels in their home.
The problem with moisture is that many sources are not obvious. For example hidden leaks, overflows or condensation. Also, some moisture is just a part of the environment. Such as fog, steam or high humidity. Your home has many hiding places for moisture too. For example crawlspaces, attics, wall cavities, behind appliances and under sinks. If you can track down and stop moisture, you will have stopped any mold.
Critical Moisture Levels
There is no magic humidity level below which you can be guaranteed “mold free,” but you can use the guidelines found in this study to create and monitor a fairly safe condition.
Mildew is a type of mold that loves dampness and lives and feeds on just about any wet surface. For instance glass, paint, siding and other smooth-looking surfaces can be attractive to mildew and it can look like a layer of dirt. Mildew, and most other molds for that matter give off a distinctive “basement” odor. If you smell it in your home, you need to take action.
Mold is difficult to get rid of once it gets started in an environment. Its presence can affect the value as well as livability of your home. Call a specialist for mold problems. They will determine the source of the problem, the types of mold present and develop a remediation plan. Remediation is an intense process. It includes isolating the mold, removing infected material, killing it with bleach or mildewcides, then confirm. Special testing is done after the remediation work certify that the mold has indeed been eradicated from the site.
diligent maintenance and observations
Good construction, housekeeping and maintenance practices help to control moisture levels and eliminate possible mold and mildew growth. Moisture in any area of the home with food sources and proper temperatures can allow mold to develop within 48 hours.
Be aware of musty, damp odors and alert to discoloration or wet stains on drywall surfaces. These can indicate a potential source of mold.
- Track down musty odors and remove any visible signs of mold or mildew.
- Before bringing items into the home, check for signs of mold. For instance, potted plants (roots and soil), old furnishings, damp clothing etc. could already contain mold.
- Keep the humidity in the home at the lowest comfortable levels. Make sure clothes dryer vents and ducts are working properly and not obstructed with lint.
- Ventilate kitchens and bathrooms by opening windows. Use exhaust fans, or run air conditioning to remove excess moisture from the air. Facilitate evaporation of water from wet surfaces.
- Promptly clean up spills, condensation and other sources of moisture.
- Thoroughly dry any wet surfaces or materials. Do not let water pool or stand in your home.
- Promptly remove and replace any materials that cannot be thoroughly dried, such as drywall, insulation or fabrics.
- Should mold develop, thoroughly clean the affected area with a mild solution of bleach. First test to see if the affected materials or surface is color safe. Porous materials, such as fabric, upholstery or carpet should be discarded.
Common Problems and Troubleshootingo
- Dark spots and/or musty odors indicate that mold and mildew is present.
- Call a licensed healthy building science/mold expert to test, identify and to prescribe a remediation program for the type(s) of mold present.
- Select a reputable and licensed remediation contractor to execute the program prescribed.
- Have the work inspected and verified by the original health home program prescriber.
- 1x per week: Practice good housekeeping that removes mildew. Regular vacuuming and cleaning will help reduce mold levels. Mild bleach solutions and most tile cleaners are effective in eliminating or preventing mold growth. Solutions are available from local paint or home improvement stores. Wear protective eyewear and rubber gloves for this task. Follow the manufacturers warnings and directions, the chemicals that remove mildew are also unhealthy to humans.
- 1x per week: Inspect for leaks on a continual basis. Look for any drywall discolorations or wet spots and especially around or under sinks, toilets, tubs, washers and showers. Repair any leaks promptly.
- 2x per year: Inspect condensation pans (refrigerators and air conditioners) for mold growth.