Mold is a natural part of our environment and can be found everywhere. Several varieties of tiny mold spores are floating around us at this moment. And though we can clean our homes every day, one open window or trip outside will invite mold right back in.
However, without a suitable environment for growth, mold spores won’t be able to flourish and spread. For that reason, mold elimination starts with keeping a mold-resistant home. While eliminating every spore can be an impossible task, a home that is unfriendly to mold will avoid most of the issues that arise with its growth.
What is Mold, and How Does it Form?
Mold is a fungus that thrives on decaying matter and high-moisture environments. Spores that land in a suitable growth area will begin to spread and form a mold colony. Mold growth requires:
- Moisture, such as high humidity or dripping pipes.
- Nutrients from a variety of organic matter.
- A steady temperature between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Unfortunately for us, common food sources for mold include drywall, carpet, and our food. Mold has also been known to consume grease, glue, and textiles. In short, it isn’t difficult for mold to find a way to survive and grow.
Cold temperatures don’t have much impact on mold, either. Spores can go dormant in cold weather, only to reactivate and multiply once it warms up. Mold also doesn’t need light to grow. This is why dark and damp areas like basements and shaded outdoor spaces are prime mold locations. And molds love the same humidity levels that we like, so make sure you always have adequate ventilation.
Most types of mold will form and spread within 48 hours. Also, until the mold-suitable conditions are fixed, mold will continue to grow.
Is Mold Dangerous?
Several types of mold can be found in a residential home. In fact, many are dangerous to humans and pets. As such, molds are classified into three hazard levels.
- Class A molds, such as Acremonium and Stachybotrys, are primary health threats due to their ability to create toxins or cause infections.
- Class B molds, like Ulocladium and Alternaria, can be health threats since they can cause allergic reactions, especially over prolonged exposure.
- Class C molds have no known health risks.
Mold can affect people differently. While some people aren’t impacted, others may suffer various symptoms and illnesses. These can include lung infections and asthma, in addition to allergy symptoms.
Mold can also affect people without any previous allergies. Different molds can cause respiratory irritation, contact rashes, and red, watery eyes. Because of the small size of spores, all molds can easily enter and irritate the respiratory system, including your lungs.
How to Prevent and Eliminate Mold
Eliminating 100% of all mold from your home is impossible. Even if you don’t see any mold growth, there will always be spores waiting for the right growth conditions. Luckily, preemptive action can help ensure mold never gets the chance to grow.
Start by following a routine cleaning schedule. Be sure to target mold-prone areas, such as bathrooms and kitchen corners. Aside from controlling moisture, eliminating mold food sources is the best way to keep mold at bay.
During your cleaning, always look out for condensation, leaks, or other forms of moisture. Left unattended, high humidity areas will allow mold to gain a strong foothold in the surrounding materials. And that will make it much harder to clean.
You can also look into using mold-resistance materials in high-mold areas. These include:
- Mold-resistant wood to replace rotted or mold-damaged wood. It often contains fungicides to stop future mold growth.
- Mold-resistant drywall or Mag Board (MgO) is usually used in bathrooms and other areas of high moisture. It is made with inorganic components to deter mold formation.
- Mold-resistant insulation is typically made from fiberglass with a built-in fungicide. This allows it to dry after a moisture event.
There are also mold-resistant paints, caulks, and sealants. These have antimicrobial chemicals that stop mold from growing and spreading. However, these products can’t be used to kill mold. Surfaces must be cleaned and stripped of all mold before applying such products. Otherwise, the mold beneath will continue to grow and cause the product to crack and flake.
When cleaning, be sure to wear the proper protective equipment. This includes a mask or respirator, chemical-resistant gloves, and goggles. Some cleaning solutions and fungicides can be dangerous to the touch. Always use caution when using chemicals to clean. Ensure that there is plenty of ventilation to reduce fumes and help flush spores out of the home.
What Are the Best Home Remedies for Getting Rid of Mold?
A good rule of thumb is: if mold is visible, you should remove it. While involving a professional to do this is an excellent approach, many affordable home mold remediation options are incredibly useful for small areas of visible mold growth.
General Household Prevention
As the saying goes, prevention is better than a cure. To avoid an infestation, here are some things homeowners can do:
- After a major plumbing emergency, involve a professional water restoration expert.
- Fix leaky pipes immediately (no matter how small) and dry the area out.
- Ensure your windows are properly insulated if you live in a humid, rainy climate.
- Run an exhaust fan / open bathroom window for an hour after taking a shower or bath.
- Don’t dry your laundry indoors.
- When cooking, use your oven’s exhaust vent and make sure exhausts to the exterior.
- Take advantage of good air quality days and cross ventilate your home by opening some windows.
- Baking soda is a great absorber of moisture and a natural mold killer. Keeping a box open in troublesome areas is a great preventative.
- Invest in a good commercial-grade dehumidifier that is designed to run 24/7.
Clean with Correct Materials
Mold removal is best done with Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2). It has potent anti-fungal properties, is non-toxic and will foam when destroying the mold. Add a teaspoon of the chemical to a cup of water and spray the solution onto the affected area. After 15 minutes, scrub the mold away.
Ethanol and chlorine bleach are both also adequate substitutes if you don’t have Hydrogen Peroxide handy. But for non-porous porous areas only.
For those homeowners who prefer a slightly more organic approach to mold removal, tea tree oil, grapefruit extract, and distilled white vinegar also work well.
Sometimes, semi-porous materials (like wood) may need to undergo surface restoration depending on the duration and extent of mold exposure.
Clean and Repair Tile Grout
Bathrooms are the “front line” in the battle against molds. It’s common in the small gaps between floor tiles, walls around vanity/toilet and shower stall. Keeping your grout well maintained is one of the best home remedies for getting rid of mold. Cleaning grout is easy where fixing / replacing grout takes some time but if you follow some simple guidelines can be a good, affordable long term solution in helping prevent your bathroom from becoming a breeding ground for harmful fungi.
Improve Ventilation in Damp Rooms
Some bathrooms or kitchens don’t have windows that open or exhaust fans that vent to the outside. It’s more common than you think and often an easy fix for a good handyman.
Exhaust fans are one of the best home remedies for getting rid of mold and keeping a damp-prone room dry. Ensuring adequate ventilation is one of the most effective mold prevention techniques.
Discard Severely Affected Items
Porous and semi-porous items (like carpets, furniture, pillows, drapes, and other household items) are difficult to clean off mold. Many times it’s more cost-effective to just replace those items. Especially if you are worried about any future issues with those items.
Mold Removal Precautions
DIY mold removal isn’t complicated, but you do need to take precautions even when using the best home remedies for getting rid of mold.
- Invest in good Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)
- Wear clothes that you’re willing to discard afterward.
- Ensure that the room you are working in has good ventilation.
- Do not work while the air conditioning unit is on (and seal off those duct registers and returns).
Is Mold Testing Necessary?
Many homeowners believe that, once mold becomes visible, it is essential to identify the intensity and type. While it is true that certain types of mold are less damaging to your health than others, mold testing is typically not necessary once it becomes visible.
As a general rule, there are only two scenarios when it is necessary to have a professional perform mold testing.
The first is if any of the members of your family show symptoms of being affected by mold. This includes constant nasal congestion, coughing, and eye or skin irritation. People with allergies or immune disorders could even develop lung infections.
The second reason to perform mold testing is to check if your property has been successfully restored after a plumbing emergency or flood. Even if you have involved a water damage restoration expert, it is always a good idea to perform a “clearance” mold test to ensure the area has been properly restored.
While home test kits abound, use them sparingly and at the onset of a mold problem to get some answers. But when a professional is brought in to conduct restoration, a mold assessment professional should be used for final clearance testing.
Mold can form anywhere. Managing the moisture and humidity of your home is the best way to prevent mold spores from taking root. Take prompt action after any leaks. Since mold can manifest in the first 48 hours, time is of the essence. If you do find some mold, gear up and clean it off. Routine cleaning will make sure you don’t encounter any significant issues.
If you’ve been unfortunate enough to suffer a large water event, such as a burst pipe or flood, professional help may be the only answer. The building biologists at GreenWorks are focused on environmentally-friendly methods of mold remediation. Indeed, no task is too large to handle, and no surface too moldy to clean.