M old can invade areas in your home you wouldn’t think about. While it is common to find it in the basement, it may take some time until you notice it under your kitchen sink or build up tight under a loose tile in the bathroom. It will probably be the musty smell that will give it away, but you may also start experiencing some symptoms that have been related to it. Remember Doctor House series? They were always checking for mold when breaking into patients’ homes. So, yes, there’s no joking when it comes to dealing with it.
While the best you can do is to immediately find the source and remove it, if mold is a current problem appearing in your home, you will want to make sure the spores don’t end up in your lungs before discovering the infestation. So here is where an air cleaning system can help. The problem is if you can expect any model to work. We are bound to find out.
What is Mold?
It is part of the fungus family and comes in a great variety of species, so you may encounter it having textures like cotton, or velvet, or even wool, with colors ranging from white to the darkest black. It will settle on surfaces that can serve as food for its system, like cardboard, fabrics, carpets, paper, wood, food. In general, it will find a good place to live on any spot that has been exposed to moisture. The high humidity in the house helps a lot as well.
The worst problem with this fungus is that it spreads at a very fast pace. The spores travel through the air in an attempt to find a good space to settle. In the meantime, they can interact with humans and animals and enter their breathing system. More than that, some species even release toxins that have been held accountable for causing cancer or permanent lung problems, but only when the patient has been exposed for a long time.
How Can It Affect Your Health?
Mold is an allergen, so it will cause the same reactions encountered by allergen sufferers when they have to deal with pollen and dust. However, the spores are usually smaller and almost invisible, with a diameter ranging from 1 to 5 microns, which means that advanced air filtration is required to remove them from the air. Not even the cilia, which act as a barrier against airborne particles, can always catch them, so you may end up experiencing the following symptoms:
- Rash or skin that itches
- Shortness of breathing
These symptoms can appear sooner or later. It all depends on your immune system and tolerance to allergens, but if the exposure extends on months or even years, infections of the lungs and skin can appear.
A greater attention should be paid to this problem if there are children living in the house. Their lungs are still in a developing stage and they are already struggling with congestion, so, if you cannot ensure purification for the entire house, at least make sure to keep the spores out the nursery or kids’ room. Clean air is essential for children to grow healthy and develop at a normal pace.
Will an Air Purifier Help Fight Mold?
The power it has on this particular type of fungus is rather restrained. If you are looking to use an air purifier to kill it and stop the infestation, it is highly unlikely that you will succeed. These devices will only filter the spores that become airborne, removing them from the air before they enter your nose or mouth. However, some models come with secret weapons that may affect to a certain degree the structure of the mold.
What to Look for?
Some devices are built to fight odors and VOCs while others have high efficiency in removing small particles that cannot even be spotted by the human eye. For example, a Carbon Activated filter will remove the odor of mold but will not fight its influence on the human body in any way. Or you can choose an ionizer, which is efficient against particles down to 0.1 microns, but this machine will not contain the spores but make them heavier and drag them onto the floor. This means that a simple air current or someone walking through the room can easily make them float again.
Ozone generators do have an action against mold, but more and more studies show that it takes them a long time to kill them. This would mean for them to continuously release high amounts of ozone, which can be difficult to contain in a single room. Exposure to ozone is something you will certainly want to avoid as this gas is harmful in large quantities. However, you can use an ozonator to remove the odor. It will only require a half an hour every week and the results are truly outstanding.
The most efficient way to fight spores remains a classic filter air purification system, but it will still need to meet certain criteria, namely to come with a good HEPA filter and maybe to include additional sanitation functions.
True HEPA Filter
The name of the filter is very important. Many manufacturers sell their machines with a HEPA-type or HEPA-like option. These filters are cheaper and may catch your eye, but the truth is that their performance is far from what a genuine HEAP has to offer. The real deal will help you get rid of up to 99.97% of the allergens. And not any kind of allergens but the truly dangerous ones, which are always smaller than 1 micron. A good HEPA version will filter particles with a diameter of 0.3 microns, while if you go for a HyperHepa, which is a more evolved variant, you will get 0.003-micron particle filtration.
Built tight of a blend of fibers, it is your best weapon against the spores, which will enter the air cleaner and get stuck in the webbing, being unable to exit on the other side of the filter with the clean air. As mentioned, if combined with a charcoal filter, it will remove the odor as well, helping the house become a more pleasant place.
Some ultraviolet germicidal lamps are strong enough to kill mold, but they are rare in devices designed for home use. Most models will act only on certain species, while others will have no effect. Nevertheless, if you find a model that includes a UV bulb, you should buy it, as it will help you remove bacteria and gems which tend to multiply faster in homes with high humidity, and if you are dealing with mold, this is probably your case.
When you are dealing with tiny spores that tend to leave their spot at every moment in search of a more comfortable one, you will want a machine with a fast filtering rate that can circulate the air multiple times in a room, and, even more important, that can cover the entire space. So, always check CADR ratings provided by AHAM. The certification itself is a guarantee that you have bought yourself a good unit.
What are Other Ways to Fight Mold?
- The main cause is always high relative humidity. If the value overcomes 50% on a regular basis, it means that the air is saturated with water and it can no longer absorb more. Therefore, you cannot rely on the air to dry your towels or any material that may have gotten moist. So, the first step is to bring the humidity back to normal and keep it under control. Use a hygrometer to check it daily, if the problem is really bad. Leave the device to record the data in different parts of the house. Consider the basement as well, as it is a space always in need of moisture removal. If the hygrometer shows high values, consider buying a dehumidifier for the more humid rooms.
- Always clean it when you spot it. Don’t postpone this task as you are at risk of finding your entire house infested. You can use a solution of chlorine bleach or hydrogen peroxide or buy a product that has been designed to fight mold. Use a sponge to wipe the infested areas and always wear gloves and a mask that will help you avoid irritations.
- If it has affected fabrics and get into mattresses, consider professional cleaning to make sure all the spores are removed. In some cases, you may have to throw away some objects that can no longer be saved. For example, books that have been affected can rarely be saved. But if you own a valuable volume, you can try and save it by taking it to a professional curator.
- Clean household appliances. It is not uncommon for mold to appear on the coils or other components. Units that use water will be more prone to develop it. So always perform maintenance on your humidifier and dehumidifier. Even the air purifier can develop this problem if it needs to run in humid conditions.
- Chech the exterior of the house. One of the main sources of mold are spores that enter inside through the windows or doors. You will want to keep your exterior walls clean as well, otherwise, all of your efforts will be in vain, as a new infestation can begin at every moment.
As shown, an air purifier does help with mold, but only by containing the spores, and only by using a high-quality HEPA filter. However, if you live in a humid area or you have recently experienced flooding, you will want to pay more attention to this problem. Keep an eye on the humidity indoors and make sure you have removed all the dampness from the flooded area. A commercial dehumidifier can help you with this. At the same time, make sure to remove any sign of mold as soon as it appears. It is the only way to ensure that your entire family is safe and none of the members will develop further health problems.