Do I have a Mold Problem in my home?

Woman looking at mold problem in the corner of a room

Mold has been around for millions of years. It found everywhere in our environment, both inside and outside our home. It is a mold problem inside our home that is of most concern. Particularly if you or a family member suffers from allergies, is mold sensitive, has asthma or other type of respiratory discomfort.

You could have a mold problem if you see dark colored spots around leaky pipes, under sinks, near baseboards and showers, or other dark and damp parts of your home. Mold can grow is spaces that are hard to reach so you won’t always see the mold growing. If you notice damp, musty odors inside your home, that could also be an indication you have mold issues.

Mold can only grow and thrive with moisture. If you have water leaks of any kind, it is likely you have mold growth. The key to controlling mold is to control moisture.

According to the CDC, the most common 5 types of mold found in homes today include the following:

Alternaria – Black or dark brown to grey, wooly texture. Found around showers, windows, etc. Often found where there has been water damage.

Aspergillus – Can be various colors, yellow, green, brown, black, grey. Most common mold found indoors. Grows walls, paper, fabrics.

Cladosporium – Black to olive-green. Found most often in fabrics such as carpets and curtains.

Penicillium – Blue to green in color with strong musty odor. Found on various materials that are wet or have been wet such as carpets, insulation, bedding, wall coverings.

Stachybotrys Chartarum – The infamous Black Mold. Most dangerous of all the molds. Produces mycotoxins that can cause severe health issues. Found in damp areas that stay wet because of leaks or condensation.

What health issues are caused by a mold problem?

Health effects from inhaling mold spores run the gamut from basic allergy symptoms like itching, watering eyes to full blown respiratory distress. Molds are capable of causing these symptoms because they produce allergens and in the case of black mold, toxic substances.

Mold sensitive people should not be in a home with mold of any kind because they could suffer allergic reactions. Contact with mold could trigger an asthma attack in those people with asthma and a mold sensitivity.

Even non-allergic individuals can suffer allergy type symptoms when inhaling mold spores.  

Discoloration on walls around furniture in the home

Is the mold problem in my house causing health issues?

Basically, if you can see or smell mold, you have a mold problem, and it could be a health hazard. It does not even matter what type of mold you may have, the goal should be to remove it and keep it from coming back. Yes, there are types of mold that are more feared for their toxicity, particularly black mold. But whether your mold is black mold or some other kind, it could be making you or a family member sick and needs to be removed promptly.

How do I remove mold?

Mold can be cleaned from hard surfaces relatively easily, however, for mold growing on porous surfaces such as drywall, drapes, wood surfaces, mattresses and the like, a different approach may be necessary.

Mold tends to grow into the surfaces that it inhabits. This means that mold is just not on the surface, it is growing below the surface as well.  It cannot be simply scrubbed off of these porous surfaces as with hard surfaces like glass and porcelain.

Cleaning mold from walls in a home.

You can try killing off the mold, but chances are the material it is growing in will have to be removed from the home to be completely rid of the mold. In some cases, particularly for large areas of mold growth, this is a major mold problem and it is recommended that you enlist the help of a mold remediation contractor. These folks are highly trained in mold and mold control and can give you the proper recommendation on how best to tackle your mold problem.

Mold growing on ceramic tiles around tubs, showers, and sinks should be cleaned as soon as it is visible. Leaving these molds to grow before cleaning them can present some problems in some older homes.

Unless the grout in between these ceramic tiles is waterproof and mold resistant, it can be porous enough for mold to grow down into it, making the mold hard to remove. The same goes for some caulks that may have been used to seal against fixtures and the like. Most modern caulks on the market today are resistant to mold growth but older caulking compounds may not be.

Non-Toxic Solutions to Remove Mold

To kill and remove mold try spraying hydrogen peroxide onto the affected surface. Hydrogen peroxide has anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial properties. Wait about 15 minutes and then scrub the area clean and rinse off with water.

 Alternatives to hydrogen peroxide are using vinegar or baking soda to kill the mold. Vinegar is effective in killing most mold species as is baking soda. The process is similar for both.

Spray non-diluted vinegar directly on the mold and let it set for about an hour. Scrub the area clean and rinse with water.

With baking soda, add about ½ teaspoon of baking soda to spray bottle filled with water. Shake until the baking soda has dissolved. Spray the solution generously over the moldy surface and let sit for about 30 minutes. Scrub area clean and rinse off with water. Spray the solution back over the surface and let it dry to eliminate any remaining mold and keep it from coming back.

Mold problem growing in a pantry in a home

How do I prevent mold from returning?

You cannot prevent all mold from getting into your home, there are simply just too many mold spores in our environment and some are bound to find their way in. There are some simple things that you can do to discourage mold growth in your home.

Controlling indoor mold, as we have stated before, means controlling moisture. Without moisture, mold cannot grow.

Fix all water leaks in your home. No water, no mold.

Reduce and control humidity levels in your home. Keep levels at 35% to 50%. Anything higher encourages mold growth.

Use bathroom vents and make sure they vent to the outside.

Check to make sure dryer vents are vented to the outside.

Use your air conditioner to pull moisture from the air.

Use dehumidifiers to control humidity.

Use exhaust fans when cooking.

Increase your home’s ventilation if possible. Open windows occasionally, have a mechanical ventilation system installed in your home.

Prevent condensation as much as possible. Insulate pipes that sweat, replace single pane windows, and prevent cold air drafts by insulating and caulking.

Do not put carpet in rooms with high moisture levels such as baths and kitchens. Use only small floor mats for these areas and clean them often. If they get wet, dry them thoroughly before re-using.

Infrared Cameras to Detect Hidden Water Leaks and More

Infrared camera systems detect infrared energy or heat on surfaces and converts that into a thermal image on a video screen. Differences in color indicate temperature variations on whatever surface you are looking at. These thermal images provide the user all sorts of useful information.

Utilize an Infrared Camera to find water leaks under floors and behind walls. They can find roof leaks and also leaks between floors in a home. Unseen water leaks are a major cause of high mold levels. Mold thrives in these dark areas of your home and can do so for years before discovery.

Using an Infrared camera to locate leaking water which could lead to a mold problem.

Infrared scanning technologies are getting affordable for just about anyone to own. These devices can plug right into your smart phone and are reasonably priced. You can get a good Infrared camera add-on for your smartphone for 200 to 300 dollars.

Infrared scanning can not only find hidden water leaks but can save you money in energy costs by showing you where your home is losing heat in the winter and cool air in the summer. They could potentially pay for themselves in a year or less in saved energy costs.

Another use for these camera systems is for scanning your home’s electrical panels and outlets. Bad connections in these parts of your electrical system can lead to overheating and fires. A quick scan of these items will show you if you have any of these “hotspots” and allow you to make corrections before the worst happens.

 Conclusion

Mold of any type is potentially harmful to you and your family’s help and must be removed immediately when found in your home. Mold problems cause many different symptoms in people, particularly those with mold allergies and mold sensitivities. Cleaning up mold can be a daunting task, depending on the extent of the mold problem and professional help may be needed. Prevention of mold growth requires that moisture in your home be controlled. Fix leaks, control humidity, and ventilation are good methods to discourage mold growth in your home. 

Finally, consider investing in a good Infrared camera that attaches to your smartphone. They are not as expensive as more professional models and can be just as effective in locating issues with your home. Problems like water leaks inside walls, in between and under floors, roof leaks, can all be located using these devices.

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