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  • Writer's pictureJohn@LiteHouse

Mold in Your Home

Updated: Nov 17, 2023

Basics of Mold

  • The key to mold control is moisture control.

  • If you have a mold problem in your home, you should immediately clean up the mold and fix the water problem.

  • It is important to dry water damaged areas and items within 24 to 48 hours to prevent mold growth.

Ten Things You Should Know About Mold

1. Possible health effects and symptoms associated with mold exposure include allergic reactions, asthma, and other respiratory problems.

2. There is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mildew spores in the indoor environment; the way to control indoor mold growth is to control humidity.

3. If you have a mold problem in your home, you need to clean up the mold and remove the moisture sources.

4. Repair the source of the water problem or leak to prevent mold growth.

5. Reduce indoor humidity (to 30% to 60%) to reduce mold growth:

a. ventilation of bathrooms, dryers, and other sources of moisture-generating outside;

b. use of air conditioners and dehumidifiers;

c. increase ventilation; and

d. use of exhaust fans when cooking, washing dishes, and cleaning.

6. Clean and dry all damp or wet building materials and equipment within 24 to 48 hours to prevent mold growth.

7. Clean mold from hard surfaces with water and soap and dry completely. Absorbent materials that are moldy (such as carpets and ceiling tiles) may need to be replaced.

8. Avoid condensation. Reduce the possibility of condensation on cold surfaces (i.e. windows, ducts, exterior walls, roof, and floors) by adding insulation.

9. Do not install carpets in areas where moisture is a constant problem.

10. Mold can be found almost everywhere; it can grow on virtually any substance as long as moisture is present. Some molds can grow on wood, paper, carpet, and food.

Why Is Mold Growing in My House?

Molds are part of the natural environment. Outdoors, and fungi play a role in nature by breaking down dead organic matter such as fallen leaves and dead trees. However, the growth of mold must be prevented in the interior. Fungi reproduce through tiny spores; spores are invisible to the naked eye and float in both outdoor and indoor air. Mold can start growing indoors when mold spores land on moist surfaces. There are many types of mold and none of them will grow without water and moisture.

Can Molds Cause Health Problems?

Mold is usually not a problem indoors unless the mold spores land in a wet or damp place and start growing. Mold has the potential to cause health problems. Molds produce allergens (substances that can cause allergic reactions), irritants, and, in some cases, potentially toxic substances (mycotoxins). Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores can cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Allergic reactions include hay fever-type symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash (dermatitis). Allergic reactions to mold are common. They can be immediate or delayed. Molds can also cause asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to mold. In addition, mold exposure can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs in both mold-allergic and non-allergic people. Symptoms other than the allergic and irritant types are not commonly reported as a result of mold inhalation. Research on mold and its health effects continues. This article provides a brief overview but does not describe all potential health effects related to mold exposure. You can get more detailed information from a health professional. You can also contact your state or local health department.

How do I Get Rid of Mold?

It is impossible to get rid of all mold and mold spores in the interior. Some mold spores will be found floating in the air and house dust. Mold spores will not grow unless moisture is present. Indoor mold growth can and should be prevented or controlled by controlling indoor humidity. If you have mold growing in your home, you need to clean up the mold and fix the water problem. If you clean the mold but don't fix the water problem, the mold problem will most likely recur.

Tips for Preventing and Controlling Dampness and Mold

  • Moisture control is the key to mold control, so if there is a leak or spill inside, ACT FAST. If wet or damp materials or surfaces are dried within 24 to 48 hours of a leak or spill, mold will not grow in most cases.

  • Clean and repair roof gutters regularly.

  • Ensure that the soil slopes away from the building's foundation to prevent water from seeping into or pooling around the foundation.

  • Keep air conditioner drip trays clean and drain lines free of obstructions and flowing properly.

  • Keep indoor humidity low. If possible, keep indoor humidity below 60% relative humidity (ideally between 30% and 50%). Relative humidity can be measured with a hygrometer or hygrometer, a small, inexpensive device ($10 to $50) available at many hardware stores.

  • If you see condensation or moisture collecting on windows, walls, or pipes, ACT FAST to dry the wet surface and reduce the moisture/water source. Condensation can be a sign of high humidity.

Measures to Help Reduce Humidity:

  • Vent appliances that produce moisture, such as clothes dryers, stoves, and kerosene heaters, outdoors where possible. (Burning appliances such as stoves and kerosene heaters produce water vapor and increase humidity if not vented outside.)

  • Use air conditioning and/or dehumidifiers if necessary.

  • Run the bathroom fan or open the window while showering. Use exhaust fans or open windows when cooking, washing dishes, or washing dishes.

Measures to Help Prevent Condensation:

  • Reduce humidity (see above).

  • Increase ventilation and air movement by opening doors and/or windows when practical. Use fans as needed.

  • Cover cold surfaces such as cold water pipes with insulation.

  • Increase the air temperature.

Home Mold Inspection

You may suspect hidden mold if a building smells musty but you can't see the source, or if you know there's water damage and residents are reporting health problems. Mold can be hidden in places such as the back of drywall, wallpaper or trim, the top of ceiling tiles, or the underside of carpets and rugs, etc. Other possible places for hidden mold include areas inside walls around ductwork (with leaking or condensing ductwork), surface walls behind furniture (where condensation occurs), inside pipes, and in roofing materials above ceiling boards (due to roof leaks or insufficient insulation).

Investigating Hidden Mold Problems

Investigating hidden mold problems can be difficult and will require caution if the investigation involves disturbing potential mold growth sites. For example, removing wallpaper can result in massive spore release if mold is growing on the underside of the paper. If you think you may have a hidden mold problem, consider hiring an experienced professional.

Professional Mold Inspector

Who should do the cleaning?

This depends on several factors. One consideration is the size of the mold problem. If the moldy area is less than about 10 square feet (less than roughly 3 feet by 3 feet), in most cases, you can do the job yourself by following the instructions below.

  • If there is extensive water damage and/or mold growth covering more than 10 square feet, consult a LiteHouse Services Group LLC home inspector.

  • If you decide to hire a contractor (or other professional service provider) to do the cleanup, make sure the contractor is experienced in mold cleanup. Check references and ask the contractor to follow EPA recommendations, American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) guidelines, or other guidelines from professional or government organizations.

  • Do not run the HVAC system if you know or suspect it is contaminated with mold. This could spread mold throughout the building.

  • If the water damage and/or mold was caused by sewage or other contaminated water, call a professional who is experienced in cleaning and repairing water-damaged buildings.

  • If you have health concerns, consult a healthcare professional before starting the cleanse.

Tips and Techniques

The tips and techniques in this section will help you solve your mold problem. Professional cleaners or repairers may use methods not listed here. Please note that mold can cause stains and cosmetic damage. The item may not be able to be cleaned to restore its original appearance.

  • Fix plumbing leaks and other water problems as soon as possible. Dry all items completely.

  • Scrub mold off hard surfaces with soap and water and dry completely.

  • Absorbent or porous materials such as ceiling tiles and carpets can be thrown away if they become moldy. Mold can grow or fill the voids and crevices of porous materials, making it difficult or impossible to completely remove the mold.

  • Avoid exposing yourself or others to mold.

  • Do not paint or seal the moldy surface.

  • Clean the mold and dry the surfaces before painting. Paint applied to moldy surfaces is likely to peel. If you are not sure how to clean an item, or if the item is expensive or has sentimental value, you can contact a professional. Telephone directories commonly list specialists in furniture repair and restoration, painting, and art restoration and conservation, carpet and rug cleaning, water damage, and fire or water restoration. Be sure to request and check references. Look for specialists who are affiliated with professional organizations.

What to Wear When Cleaning Moldy Areas

  • Avoid inhaling mold or mold spores. To limit your exposure to airborne mold, you may want to wear an N-95 respirator, which is available at many hardware stores and from companies that advertise on the Internet. (They cost about $12 to $25.) Some N-95 respirators resemble a paper dust mask with a nozzle on the front, and others are made mostly of plastic or rubber and have removable cartridges that trap and prevent most mold spores from entering. A respirator or mask must fit properly to be effective, so carefully follow the instructions that come with the respirator. Please note that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that respirators fit properly (through fit testing) when used in a work environment.

  • Wear gloves. Long gloves that reach halfway up the forearm are recommended. Regular household rubber gloves can be used when working with water and a mild detergent. If you are using a disinfectant, biocide such as chlorine bleach, or a strong cleaning solution, you should choose gloves made from natural rubber, neoprene, nitrile, polyurethane, or PVC. Do not touch mold or moldy objects with your bare hands.

  • Use safety glasses. Glasses that do not have ventilation holes are recommended. Avoid getting mold or mold spores into the eyes.

Mold Inspection and Testing

Is mold sampling necessary? In most cases, if visible mold growth is present, sampling is unnecessary. Since no EPA or other federal limits have been set for mold or mold spores, sampling cannot be used to check a building's compliance with federal mold standards. Sampling the surface can be helpful to determine if the area has been adequately cleaned or remediated. Mold sampling should be performed by professionals who have specific experience in designing mold sampling protocols, sampling methods, and interpretation of results. Sample analysis should follow analytical methods recommended by the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), or other professional organizations.

Cleaning and Biocides

Biocides are substances that can destroy living organisms. The use of chemicals or biocides that kill organisms such as mold (such as chlorine bleach) is not recommended as a routine mold cleanup procedure. However, there may be cases where professional judgment may indicate its use (for example, when immunocompromised individuals are present). In most cases, it is not possible or desirable to sterilize the area; the mold spore level will remain in the background and these spores will not grow if the moisture problem has been solved. If you decide to use disinfectants or biocides, always ventilate the area and let the air out. Never mix chlorine bleach with other cleaning solutions or detergents that contain ammonia, as toxic fumes may form.

Please note: Dead mold can still cause allergic reactions in some people, so it is not enough to simply kill the mold; must also be removed.

How will I Know When the Remediation or Cleaning is Complete?

Before cleaning or remediation can be considered complete, you must completely resolve the water or moisture problem using the following guidelines:

  • You should finish removing the mold. Visible mold and musty odors should not be present. Please note that mold can cause stains and cosmetic damage.

  • You should revisit the site(s) shortly after cleaning and it should show no signs of water damage or mold growth.

  • People were supposed to be able to occupy or re-occupy an area without health problems or physical symptoms.

  • Ultimately, it is a call to judgment; there is no easy answer. If you have concerns or questions, be sure to ask your LiteHouse Services Group inspector during your next scheduled inspection.

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