Does Your House Smell Musty? You May Have Mold & Mildew
What is Mold and Mildew
Mold and mildew are types of fungi, much like yeast or a mushroom, that consists of microscopic organisms that can be found everywhere. Mold is made up of two parts: enzymes (responsible for digesting) and spores (in charge of reproduction). Outside the home, mold and mildew play a crucial role in the life-cycle: the part of decomposer. Without them old, dilapidated organisms would pile up instead of returning to the soil. In fact, certain foods (cheese) and medicine (penicillin) are made from mold. Mold and mildew can come in an array of colors. Mold is typically black, green, and purple with a slimy texture while mildew is white, gray, orange, and yellow with a fuzzy complexion. However, don’t let their colorful nature fool you, you do not want them in your home.
How to Test for Mold and Mildew
Mold test kits are readily available at any typical hardware store. Not all kits are made equal, though. Some kits only test surface mold while others can test the air for floating spores. Be sure to examine your kit before purchasing as the test takes a few days to process. It is important to note that the United State Environmental Protection Agency recommends having your home tested by a professional if you are concerned there is a mold presence in your home. If you are dead-set on home testing here are the steps to take:
- Step 1: Close all windows a full 24 hours prior to testing. This will allow the mold to congregate without a draft or wind knocking spores loose.
- Step 2: Open your home test kit and remove the petri dish from the box. Place the dish on a surface around table height and remove the lid. Leave the dish undisturbed for 48 hours. The dish has been treated with a microbial culture that promotes the growth of mold spores and will collect a sample from the room. Restrict as much access as possible to the test room during this period as you do not want a spore from a different room drifting in.
- Step 3: Once the incubation period is over, close the lid and tape it shut around the seam. Avoid using tape that is difficult to remove such as duct tape. Remember to label your petri dish with the date
- Step 4: Place the petri dish in a dark area such as a closet or a drawer.
- Step 5: Check the petri dish after two days for signs of mold. If there is no mold return the dish to the dark place for up to five days (check daily). If no mold has formed in that time then there is no mold.
Mold and Mildew in Your Home
Your home is a favorite snack for mold and mildew. They will feast on your drywall, insulation, and even your carpet glue. Not all molds consume the same material though. Each one has its own preferred tastes but your home is full of mold fuel. The most common component found with mold growth is moisture. Without it, mold won’t have a chance to eat away at your belongings. Mold won’t bring your house crumbling down to the foundation but it will make it look, feel, and smell horrible. Whether it is white “spider-web” (also known as powdery mildew) features spread across your wall or clusters of black spots along the corners of your shower, mold and mildew bring an unwanted appearance and smell into your home. Here are a few of the locations mold likes to gather:
- Leaky air-conditioning ducts especially those running through a hot attic
- Vinyl wall coverings can trap moisture within the wall when the warm outside air meets the cool surface of the vinyl.
- Washing rooms without floors drains. With nowhere to go the walls and carpets around will inevitably absorb the moisture.
- Poorly ventilated bathrooms. Shower curtains are hot spots.
- Crawl spaces.
- The condensation pan directly under the coil of your central air conditioner.
- Non-waterproofed basements.
- Yards that slope towards the foundation of your home invite water to gather.
- Improperly flashed or caulked windows let moisture seep into the surrounding woods.
- Leaky flashings and shingles allow rain to drip through to the attic and its insulation.
- Areas near leaking plumbing fixtures
How Mold and Mildew Affect Your Health
You are exposed to mold and mildew everyday. In small amounts, mold exposure is harmless. However, a serious infestation can have adverse effects upon your health. Mold does not simply sit on top of surfaces. In order to reproduce, it launches spores into the air which then land on other surfaces and begin a new growth. These spores can last floating in the air for long, extended periods of time and they are often inhaled by unsuspecting victims. Exposure to mold and mildew can cause headaches, runny noses, skin rashes, nausea, sinus problems, coughs, and even memory loss, just to name a few. It feels like having a never-ending case of the flu and as long as mold exists in your home they won’t stop spreading spores. Seasonal allergies oftentimes are triggered by mold. Heavy rains cause an increase in moisture within the home and subsequent mold infestation. If you exhibit symptoms of hay fever (allergies to pollen or dust) you could be misdiagnosing the root of the problem. Use the following preventative measures to maximize your mold and mildew control. It may remedy your allergies.
How to Get Rid of Mold and Mildew
Routine maintenance is the first step in mold control. Keep mildew-prone places such as bathrooms, basements, and kitchens as clean as possible. However, there may be mold lurking in unusual spaces as well. If your home has leaky pipes this may be contributing to excess moisture in your home and the proceeding mold growth. Have your home plumbing routinely inspected to avoid a leak from turning into a nightmare. Another unsuspecting location you may not notice is your heating and air system. The ductwork in your home is the perfect breeding ground for mold. It is dark, undisturbed, and a constant source of moisture is being fed through it. Worse so, once mold has formed, your HVAC system will blow spores throughout the entirety of your home. Have your HVAC system inspected to find out if it is harboring mold. If it has been a considerable amount of time since your last maintenance it would be prudent to give your system a tune-up as well. Consistent, routine maintenance is the surest way to prevent mold from gathering in your air system. If you would like complete peace of mind there is an added protection available to combat all forms of bacteria and viruses, including mold and mildew, from collecting in your HVAC system. UV light systems are a powerful measure to destroy unwanted bacteria. And it is as simple as turning on a light.
Without proper maintenance mold and mildew can grow. Excessive moisture may indicate that repairs or additional installation are needed.
Air conditioners and dehumidifiers will help combat mold and mildew. Cool air holds less moisture than warm air. A properly installed HVAC system removes moisture by inhaling the warm air and replenishing it with cool, drier air. This is increasingly important for basements where air receives little circulation. Make sure to keep your windows and doors closed when using this type of equipment.
If you do not own an air conditioning system check out the models and services Bill Howe offers to get you started. In the meantime, open all the doors and windows in your home to let air flow through. A fan can be used to assist any hot or humid air out. This should be placed in spaces like your bathroom and kitchen where moisture is constantly introduced. Small spaces such as closets can be alternatively dried by continuously running an electric light (60-100 watt lightbulb).
Musty odors, which indicate mold growth, can be noticeable in areas like your basement or your shower. Take extra care to double check these areas for mold and mildew growth.
How to Clean
The first step of mold removal is to halt their food supply by controlling humidity levels.. No matter how much you scrub and clean, if you do not stop moisture build-up in the affected room, the mold will simply regrow over time. Even dead, dried up mold can be reinvigorated back to life if introduced to moisture. Once the moisture source is gone is it time to combat the moldy materials as carefully as possible. Handling mold cleanup with reckless abandon will only knock loose the spores directly into your face and breathing space. One square foot of mold can hold more than 300 million mold spores. To properly remove mold follows these procedures to remove damaged materials:
- Wear a cartridge-type respirator. Preferably a P100 model. They are typically available through a medical or safety equipment supplier. Standard dust or particle masks don’t prevent mold from affecting you. Gloves and goggles should also be worn at all times.
- If your home has flooded, get it as dry as possible within the first 72 hours (how long it takes for mold and mildew to establish themselves). Drill holes or remove the lower section of your drywall to let the inner wall and insulation dry out.
- Close off any ventilation grills with polyethylene (type of plastic) sheeting or duct tape. Power off any furnace or air conditioning unit so it does not blow the spores throughout your home.
- Remove everything from the affected room — furniture, wall art, etc.
- Tape poly sheeting over the entirety of all doors in the room, then cut a slit down the middle for in-and-out access.
- Place a box fan in the window blowing outward
- Use a garden sprayer containing water and hand-dishwashing detergent to lightly mist the insulation, carpet, and other materials before you remove them.
- Move slowly and deliberately so you do not disturb any spores.
- Double bag all materials you are discarding.
- Scrub all remaining hard surfaces with .5% household bleach or Concrobium Mold Control
- For those who are interested in more homeopathic remedies: Tea tree oil and vinegar can be combined and poured into a spray bottle to create a mold remover. For more aggressive scrubbing, combine baking soda and vinegar to create a mold removal solution.
Does this sound like a lot of work to do? Don’t fret. Just call Bill Howe and let the professionals handle all the hard work. Bill Howe technicians offers a full package of services from flood and water mitigation to mold remediation to complete restoration and reconstruction of damaged property. They will even packout all your furniture to save you the heavy lifting. Bill Howe technicians are highly trained and have state-of-the-art equipment to extract excess water from your home with the use of commercial strength dehumidifiers and water extractors. Bill Howe also works with your insurance company to explain the damage and work that was done. When it comes to restoration & flood, if you go with Bill Howe, the only water you will need to worry about is the ice in your drink because they will handle the rest.