W hen people think about mold, they imagine a musty basement or an abandoned home, but the truth is this problem is more common than you would imagine. What links it to theses spaces is high humidity, which is known to favorize its growth. However, it can easily appear in a well-cared home, as the spores enter inside through windows, doors, or our clothes. If they find a damp environment, they will settle there and start taking over the walls, ceilings, and upholstery.
Usually, you will have to deal with mold in the bathroom or kitchen, as here the steam from the shower or cooking lingers and maintains air moisture at a high level. But it isn’t excluded to find it in other rooms. What is truly important is to understand that the greyish-black spots aren’t just unaesthetic but can pose a danger to your health.
In this article, we will discuss three important aspects:
- What is mold and how mold infestation appears
- When mold becomes a real threat and how can it affect your health
- What to do in case you spot it on your walls
Mold Infestation – What Does It Mean?
Mold is a type of fungus that grows in humid environments and is composed of multicellular filaments, also known as hyphae.
Mold usually appears in the form of small dark dots on the walls and may not be easy to spot at the beginning, but if you do identify them, then you may be dealing with the origin of an infestation. In some cases, it may not extend on a larger surface, if the source of moisture is temporary and air can get in and dry the area, but if the relative humidity continues to remain high, over 50% or 60%, you will probably need to solve the problem yourself.
Important to mention, mold will find a good environment to multiply on the following materials:
- Ceiling tiles
- Insulation materials
What Are the Causes of Mold in a House?
We have already established that high humidity creates the perfect conditions for mold to grow, but in order to get rid of mold, you must understand what causes RH to go over the roof. Only by attacking the sources, you can make sure that you have stopped the spread of mold. So, here’s what could cause the dampness inside your home:
- Condensation – This phenomenon emerges especially in bathrooms and kitchens where the hot steam from the shower or cooking meets the cold walls and settles on them in the form of droplets. If the RH is already high, it will take a long time until they evaporate so, instead, they will keep the walls wet and tempting for any mold spore that may enter your home.
- Leaking Pipes – A small crack, which releases just a few drops of water per hour is enough to create excessive moisture. The water may gather under the furniture or be absorbed into carpets, and you won’t even know how mold got into them.
- Damp Basement – If you think that it won’t affect the rest of your rooms, you are in most cases mistaken. You should solve the basement problem fast, as the conditions here are just perfect for mold, and one day you may just discover that it has taken over the entire space. The smell will invade other rooms and every time you enter the basement, you may take a spore or two with you and allow them to settle in your other rooms.
- Poor Ventilation – If the air remains still all day long so will the water it carries. Air circulation is important to allow the air to dry so it can act upon other moist areas and dry them as well.
- Flooding – One of mold’s best friends, flooding leaves behind deep damage and in some cases, you may need to get professional assistance to evacuate the water and dry the walls. This issue can keep the floor and the walls damp for months, especially if it happens during the cold season, so the mold can infiltrate easily and grow.
Check out or selection of dehumidifiers for basement if you are looking for a reliable solution against moisture and odors. Most models can handle low temperatures and have decent energy consumption rates.
Impact on Human Health
The studies showed that mold affects humans in different ways. Some may not present any symptoms or develop a medical problem, while others may be allergic to the spores and struggle with effects specific to allergies, such as:
- Stuffy nose
- Itchy eyes
- Breathing problems
However, if the problem persists and the infestation covers a large part of the space, the symptoms can aggravate leading to fever and shortness of breath. High humidity can also lead to hypersensitivity pneumonitis, so it is better to deal with excessive moisture as soon as possible, especially if a member of the family is suffering from asthma.
Some people think that black mold, which is associated to Stachybotrys chartarum, can cause cancer or other grave health conditions. However, studies haven’t been able to identify a link between this type of fungus and the above-mentioned illnesses.
Mold spores can travel through the air but are too large to penetrate the tissues, and they rarely can reach the lungs. On the other hand, they can irritate the respiratory tract and cause discomfort. In this case, an air purifier for allergies and asthma can help alleviate the symptoms until the problem is resolved. We recommend choosing one with a carbon activated filter, which is highly effective in reducing the odor which is usually associated with dampness.
How to Prevent Mold
- Make sure your living space is well ventilated – Leaving the windows open for at least a half of hour every day is recommended not only for fungus prevention but for good health. In the winter, when the cold is too harsh to let the air in, you can use an air circulator that will prevent moisture from affecting the room.
- Use a dehumidifier – It will draw the moisture from the air into a bucket, thus maintaining the RH within optimal limits. Just make sure you pick a model that matches the size of your room and comes with an auto-defrost function for extra cold days.
- In case of flooding, solve the problem immediately – Try to evacuate the water as soon as possible, thoroughly clean the space and leave all the windows open for it to dry. If you are dealing with a serious problem, use a dehumidifier for basement that has more power and can help remove the moisture faster.
- Do not dry clothes inside – If you are dealing with dampness, set up a space outdoors for your clothes to dry or invest in a good dryer. Otherwise, the vapor will build inside the room making it even mustier.
- Deal with humidity in your business place – Do not let your employees suffer from air contamination. Use a commercial dehumidifier to cover large spaces. It will also remove musty odors that can scare the customers away.
How to Get Rid of Mold
Once it has settled in, more severe measures should be taken. First, you need to determine if it’s a job you can perform or you need to call for a professional. The general rule is to evaluate how many square feet does the infestation take. If it is over 10, then it is dangerous for you to start scrubbing the walls, not only because you will expose yourself to the toxins and spores released by the colony but you will need to use heavy-duty chemicals to kill it.
On the other hand, if the infestation isn’t that severe, the best thing you can do is to put on gloves and a mask and start scrubbing immediately, so it doesn’t have the chance to spread even further. Here are some solutions that will help you eliminate mold:
- Chlorine Bleach – It is your most efficient weapon as it doesn’t only kill mold but helps remove the dark spots that it leaves behind. However, take into consideration that it is strong and you may want to dilute it.
- Hydrogen Peroxide – Although it works lower than bleach, it is less dangerous and will provide good results as well.
- Borax combined with Baking Soda – This mix is inexpensive and the ingredients are easy to find. It will have a bleaching effect as well, but it is not as effective as chemical products.
- White Vinegar – It is used to clean home appliances that use water due to its disinfecting properties. It will break the structure of mold, but it may not clean the spots, so you will still need bleach for this final step.
WARNING! Never mix bleach with ammonia. This mix will release harmful VOCs that may affect your health.
Mold is just one of the problems that can derive from an abnormal level of humidity, so by treating the cause you will solve multiple issues. Nonetheless, the source may not always be evident. This fungus agglomeration can appear in hidden spaces, for example under the sink or behind the furniture, so a periodical check-up of the spaces may be indicated, especially in the summer when RH levels increase. It is important to deal with flooding as soon as possible as this can turn into a serious problem that can generate not only health problems but structural problems to your home. Moreover, if you have kids, the problem is even more stringent, as mold spores can affect their ability to breathe normally and set the grounds for future illnesses.