Fighting Mold in the Home
By Tom Matthews
Mold is a top concern for indoor air quality and remains a common problem in homes across the country. Mold and mildew are both types of fungi and are similar in many ways. From causing musty smells to serious allergic reactions, indoor mold and mildew can be a pesky nuisance or a real health hazard. EHT offers a few handy tips to help fight these problems around your house.
Spot the Spores
Mold is typically fuzzy in appearance and can be seen in many colors, including blue, green, yellow, brown, gray, black or white. Mold can cause structural damage to homes over time and lead to health problems, including respiratory problems, migraines and more.
Mildew usually grows in a flat pattern and may appear either powdery or downy. Powdery mildew usually starts out white and may later turn yellow, brown or black. Downy mildew usually starts out yellow and later turns brown. Like mold, it can also cause respiratory problems and allergic reactions.
Look for visible signs of mold and mildew around your home. Musty odors can be a sign of mold growth, but such a smell may also indicate mice infestation. Microfungal growth of mold and mildew can sometimes be difficult to see. One trick is to shine a flashlight nearly parallel to the lower portion of wall or leg of furniture. Look for fuzzy white, pale yellow or blue-green spots. These are likely mold colonies, and when disturbed these spores can become airborne.
Tips for Cleaning Mold and Mildew
When cleaning mildew and mold, ensure your work area is well-ventilated because many mold/mildew cleaners give off fumes that are harmful to breathe. Wear a facial mask to prevent breathing in mold or mildew spores as well as to protect yourself from breathing fumes given off by the cleaning product. Wear rubber gloves to protect your hands, and use an antimicrobial mold and mildew remover.
Not all household cleaning products and bathroom cleansers will do the job. For example, bleach is commonly used to clean mold and mildew but it has harsh fumes and can be toxic. Although bleach can kill the spores and give the surface a spiffy appearance, bleach won’t prevent the mold from returning to the surface. It may look clean once you’re done, but the mold will grow back within weeks. Bleach is also particularly ineffective at treating mold on porous surfaces such as drywall, lumber and grout.
One other issue with bleach: When it attacks surface mold, it leaves a carbon layer residue that prevents other antimicrobial products from penetrating to the mold roots or hyphae, which can limit the product’s effectiveness. If you’ve already treated a moldy area with bleach in the past, you should first wipe the area down with warm water and detergent to remove the layer. Once the area is dry, apply the antimicrobial product according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Use your antimicrobial cleaner to clean the surrounding area as well as the area where you actually see mold and mildew, to make sure you remove all traces of the substances.
Remove materials that cannot be thoroughly cleaned of mold and mildew, like insulation, carpeting or drywall, and replace those with new, mold-free materials.