Mold growth is a common household problem that may compromise your home and affect the health of those living in it. Fortunately, there are several easy and cost-effective methods to safely control and, in some cases, eliminate mold in the air and in many household mold prone areas. If you find that your home’s air quality or surfaces have been affected by mold, you’ll want to begin treatment as soon as possible to prevent any further damage to your property or risks to your health.
Table of Contents
- What is Mold?
- How Does Mold Affect Your Health?
- Where in the Home Does Mold Grow?
- How Humidity Promotes Mold Growth
- Why Running Your AC Can Cause Mold Growth
- How Fans Can Control Humidity in the Home
- How to Help Prevent Mold Growth Before It Starts
What is Mold?
Mold is a fungus generally found in the air and on surfaces that are exposed to or commonly trap moisture. There are several species of mold to be aware of, each carrying its own risk if allowed to grow without treatment. Common species of household mold are black mold (Stachybotrys), green mold (Penicillium) and Alternaria. Identifying the species is vital to choosing the right treatment plan.
Black mold is the species most commonly found in homes that have sustained water damage. This species of mold can be toxic and cause extensive damage if left untreated. In some cases, it can be eliminated with household cleaners and a thorough scrubbing.
When the problem is beneath the surface of walls or coming from beneath floorboards, it may be necessary to call in a professional to assess the severity of the growth and clean or repair areas that have been damaged.
Penicillium, or green mold, is likely to be found on decaying food items. Although they can grow elsewhere, you’ve probably noticed them on spoiled produce or bread that has expired. When green mold is present you can often identify it by its unique odor. In order to prevent green mold from spreading, check your food supply regularly and be sure to thoroughly clean any area of your pantry or fridge that has been affected.
Alternaria, like green mold, can commonly be found on spoiling produce. It may also grow on fabrics like kitchen chairs, cardboard boxes, and other items commonly found in homes when combined with moisture. In addition to monitoring your produce, check all cardboard food packaging or paper products such as cookbooks you may have in your pantry to ensure that have not been affected.
How Does Mold Affect Your Health?
Because mold is typically spread through the air, it can have either mild or severe effects on the respiratory system. People with preexisting respiratory conditions may experience harsher symptoms and need to seek medical attention after being exposed to mold. Some people who experience respiratory symptoms will only be affected in a manner similar to most other seasonal allergies. Unlike seasonal allergies, exposure to mold may cause symptoms to persist all throughout the year.
Upper respiratory effects of mold include nasal congestion, sneezing, coughing, and may create an excess of mucus in the nasal passages. These symptoms generally mirror the symptoms of allergies to pollen, dust and other seasonal allergens.
Lower respiratory effects of mold include coughing, shortness of breath, swelling or irritation of the trachea, possible infection and an excess of mucus in the respiratory tract. Your Physician should conduct an allergy test to help you measure the severity of any mold allergy you may have in order to help you develop a treatment plan for cases when you aren’t able to avoid mold exposure.
Early exposure to mold can increase the chances of asthma developing in children who may already be at risk of developing the condition. If you have been made aware of this risk, it is important that you thoroughly check your home and take any necessary precaution to eliminate mold. An asthma attack triggered by mold can potentially be fatal. The sooner the risk is identified, the sooner it can be eliminated.
Where in the Home Does Mold Commonly Grow?
Mold can be found in any area of the home that may be constantly exposed to moisture due to humidity or through direct contact with water.
Because your attic is the uppermost room in your home directly below the roof, it is more likely to be affected by mold if it isn’t properly ventilated. Some homes use exhaust fans that can release humid air directly into the attic trapping it there.
During the summer months when storms are prevalent, heat rising combined with rainwater that may leak through small openings create a warm, moist environment for mold to prosper. If you don’t frequently visit your attic, set aside some time to thoroughly inspect the area for any leaks or mold damage you may not have been aware of.
Having an attic fan installed in your attic will help reduce moisture that collects there. They also drastically reduce the temperature of the attic during the summer, so they also help reduce cooling bills.
The bathrooms in your home are ideal for mold growth. When you shower, water vapor spreads and tends to stick to the walls, ceiling and other surfaces in the room. If there is no ventilation in the bathroom and water is allowed to build up over time.
You may recognize the signs of mold which include a sour or musty odor, black or grey spots appearing on the walls and even spotting on the grout between tiles. Mold can also grow on plastics and silicone so be sure to check your shower liners, curtains and caulk sealants.
Using a bathroom exhaust fan while taking showers is a great way to help prevent moisture from collecting. They also help get rid of moisture faster than it would without the help from any sort of fan.
The sinks in your bathroom are one of three major water sources in the area. Like the tub, the sink may have caulk sealing that may hold water and create a perfect atmosphere for mold growth. Some sinks may be supported by wooden cabinets that conceal pipes. Water may collect on pipes as a result of condensation and in the case of a leak, water may be absorbed into the wood causing wood rot as well as mold growth.
Toilets hold water both in the bowl and tank. If you’ve ever noticed black spots around the bowl that don’t rinse away as water is drained, there is a good chance that its mold. Mold can build up under the lip of the bowl that supports the seat and may sometimes form in a ring just above the waterline.
If you haven’t checked the tank behind the toilet, it is a good idea to take a peek just to be certain that it hasn’t been affected. Another commonly overlooked area to monitor is the very back of your toilet’s tank. Because it is usually facing the wall with little space in between, you may not even notice mold growing on the wall or directly on the outside of the tank.
There are many components of a tub that make it the perfect environment for mold growth. The tub is usually enclosed by sliding doors or curtains that help trap moisture. Water droplets collect on doors, liners, shower walls and ceilings and are often allowed to sit on these surfaces and continue to build due to frequent use. Caulk sealants are one of the easiest places to spot mold in a tub and If shower walls are tiled, mold may grow in the grooves.
Drains and Pipes
Drains and pipes are components of all water sources in the home. Because most are concealed inside walls and under cabinets, mold growth may often go unnoticed in these areas. Materials like wood and drywall around the pipes can hold moisture, and because of the damp, dark and often warm environment mold can thrive undetected and undisturbed.
Kitchens are prime locations for several types of mold growth. Not only can mold growth occur in pipe concealing cabinets and around the sink, it can be prevalent in and around all of your kitchen’s appliances.
Dishwashers and refrigerators are especially susceptible because they hold moisture. Even dishwashers that have dish drying components need to be thoroughly cleaned to prevent mold because they are often damp, dark and warm after use. Fridges tend to fluctuate in temperature from repeated opening and closing.
Condensation can form in and around the entire appliance but it especially important to check the rubber seals around the fridge and freezer doors for mold build up. It may be overlooked if you are not able to see the area due to your fridge’s height.
Spoiled food can also be a source for mold growth in kitchens. Be sure to check your fridge and pantry regularly and discard expired or spoiling food items. Cool temperatures do not prevent mold growth. Fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and breads often begin to mold not long after they are purchased if not stored correctly and kept at the proper temperatures.
Basements have a reputation of being dark, dusty, smelly and generally not an area you want to spend much time in. That all too familiar smell may possibly be a result of mold growth. Even well-maintained basements are susceptible to mold since many of your homes pipes and drains run directly through the area.
When water leaks it travels downward and can go undetected in basement walls. In inclement weather basements are susceptible to flooding and if unventilated temperature fluctuation can cause condensation which helps to support mold.
Walls and Floors
When you find mold on walls and floors it is often necessary to investigate a little deeper. At times it may only appear to be affecting the wall’s surface but there may be an underlying growth affecting the drywall and even your homes insulation. Leaking pipes or leaks in roofing may cause walls to deteriorate. Mold feeds on decaying material so if water damage has caused wood flooring to rot you may also see mold growing on the affected areas.
Exhaust vents on your home’s exterior can harbor mold both inside the inner tube and around the vents opening. Because damp air is constantly being pulled through, water droplets may accumulate and usually go undetected.
Even though there are fans running to promote air flow, when they aren’t in use, small amounts of water may sit allowing mold spots to form. The exterior or hooded portion of the fan may be exposed to water and humid conditions outside, so it’s important to check vent hoods and give them a thorough cleaning as well.
How Humidity Promotes Mold Growth
Because mold is a moisture loving fungus, it thrives in warm and damp conditions. Humidity is caused by moisture in the air which can settle on walls, floors, furniture and many other surfaces in your home creating the perfect environment for mold growth. Though mold is naturally occurring, it can become a serious issue for your home and your health if steps aren’t being taken to reduce or eliminate mold-supporting conditions.
Ideal Conditions for Mold Growth
Mold tends to thrive in a warm, damp and dark environment. However, not all of these conditions need to be met in order to support mold growth. Like any other living organism, mold needs something to feed on. In your home, this can be anything from wallpaper, porous fabrics, rubber, wood, paper, food items and more. Combine any of these things with moisture and time, and you have a perfect environment for mold growth.
Though mold thrives in warm temperatures, it can also be sustained in cooler temperatures. This explains why even refrigerated foods are susceptible to mold. A dark environment is ideal but not always necessary for mold growth. But it rings true that the darker the environment, the less likely it is for mold to be seen or disturbed.
Why Running Your AC Fan Can Cause Mold Growth
Your AC unit may be supporting mold growth as well as spreading mold spores into the air. If Your AC unit isn’t draining as it should it can be holding water that will help to feed mold. Mold can also build up on your AC unit’s vents. This means that whenever your AC is on, it is blowing mold spores directly into your home. Keeping your thermostat’s fan on an automatic setting can help to prevent mold growth by allowing the unit to regulate the level of humidity in the air.
How Fans Can Control Humidity in The Home
Using a fan in your home helps with air circulation, allowing you to move air from the inside of your home to the outside. Fans can also help to regulate the temperature on warmer days when you may want to ventilate your home by opening windows as opposed to running the AC.
If outdoor temperatures are elevated, air conditioning units may cause an excess of condensation on windows and other surfaces. Since fans circulate existing air or simply pull air outward, this issue can be avoided by using a fan as an alternative to air conditioning.
Some fans are known for being able to purify the air, such as bladeless and tower air purifier fans. These fans can help reduce airborne mold and mitigate mold before it even starts, both by filtering the air and by providing air circulation to dehumidify the space. Many of thse fans are also quiet, so you are able to sleep with them operating. Whole room fans tend to work best, but any fan will work if necessary. If you need to cover a large area, consider using an oscillating fan.
If you can’t afford an air-filtering fan, just having a pedestal fan, battery fan, or box fan that can be moved from room to room as needed can help a lot when it comes to controlling mold. Window fans are also good choices because they can sometimes reach an entire home to help cool it and remove moisture.
Why Should You Use an Exhaust Fan While Cooking?
Most ranges are equipped with an exhaust fan located in the range hood. Steam released from foods add to the humidity in your kitchen. The exhaust fan will help to pull the steam out of the kitchen through tubing that leads to an opening on the outside of your home. This helps to prevent moisture from sticking to walls and other kitchen surfaced that are susceptible to mold growth.
Why Should You Use an Exhaust Fan While Showering?
Hot showers or baths also create steam that sticks to bathroom walls and other surfaces. Running your bathroom exhaust fan while showering reduces the water vapor in the air preventing it from building up. This is especially important in high traffic areas like restrooms since they are likely one of the most used rooms in your home. If multiple people are taking showers daily, this tip can make a significant difference.
How to Help Prevent Mold Growth Before It Starts
Use a Dehumidifier in Problem Areas
A dehumidifier reduces the humidity in an area by pulling moisture from the air. That water is then stored in a tank within the machine so that it can be discarded. This method of mold prevention is great for homes that don’t have adequate ventilation.
Dehumidifiers usually aren’t equipped to serve as a solution for an entire home, so it is recommended that it be used in the area of your home where humidity levels are at the highest and moved around to serve other areas as needed.
Repair Leaks Quickly
Leaks are one of the most common causes of mold growth in homes. Leaks can often go undetected for long periods of time if the evidence is concealed within walls or under flooring. The sooner the leak is detected and repaired the better your chances of preventing mold growth.
Don’t Let Water or Spills Stand
Any standing water can contribute to mold growth. It is important fully to dry any water spills in the home on hard wood flooring and especially on carpeting. Water and other liquids can seep into carpeting and towel drying may not absorb spills below the carpeting creating a perfect environment for mold to grow and spread.
Run a Fan Near Problem Mold Areas
Fans help to improve air circulation in problem areas and move the affected air out of the area. If surfaces in the affected area are damp, a fan may have a drying effect helping to eliminate moisture. Using an exhaust fan is beneficial because unlike some fans that only circulate air, exhaust fans pull air out of the home.
Mold is an intrusive fungus that can negatively affect your home and your health if provided with the proper conditions to prosper. There are several safe and cost-effective methods of preventing, reducing and in some cases eliminating mold. Fans can be one of your home’s best defenses. If you’ve noticed any of the various indicators of mold, try increasing the use of your home’s fans in combination with other defense measures to keep your home safe and mold free.