Mold and Mildew
Mold and mildew spores can be found just about everywhere on the planet. Indoors and outdoors and anywhere there is moisture.
A necessary part of the environment, mold performs the task of decomposing dead plants and other organic material. It spreads easily by means of airborne microscopic spores and is found literally everywhere. Spores spread pervasively so that it is impossible for even high quality residential construction to exclude them from the home environment.
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
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, including fabric, carpet, wallpaper, and many building materials such as drywall, wood and some insulations. There is not much a homeowner can do about this.
Mold growth also requires temperatures between 40 degrees F, and 100 degrees F which is the range of temperatures found in your home. This is the same temperature range that humans exist so not much can be done about this either.
Finally, mold and mildew require moisture. This is the mold Achilles heel. Moisture is the only mold growth factor that can be totally controlled in your home. A homeowner eliminates mold growth by eliminating high moisture levels in the home. The problem with moisture is that many sources are not obvious such as leaks, overflows, condensation . Some moisture is just a part of the environment such as high humidity. Your home has many hiding places for moisture. Crawlspaces, attics, wall cavities, behind appliances and under sinks. Track down and stop moisture sources and you will have stopped any mold problem.
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. Building glass, paint, siding and other smooth looking surfaces can be attractive to mildew and it can look like a layer of dirt.
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. If mold has spread, specialists are required to determine the source of the problem, the types of mold present and develop a remediation plan. Remediation is an intense process of isolating the mold then killing it with bleach or mildewcides. Special testing is done after the remediation work is completed to certify that the mold has indeed been eradicated from the site.
Good construction, housekeeping and maintenance practices are essential to control moisture levels and eliminate the possibility of mold and mildew growth. If moisture is allowed to remain in any area of the home with food sources and proper temperatures, mold can 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. Potted plants (roots and soil), furnishings, or stored clothing and bedding materials, as well as many other household goods, could already contain mold growth.
- 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, using exhaust fans, or by running air conditioning to remove excess moisture from the air, and to 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. Should mold growth be sever, call on the services of a qualified professional cleaner.
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.