Mold is a common problem in many households, especially in the fall and winter months. It’s definitely an eyesore and can damage things throughout your house.
But more importantly, mold can be devastating for your health.
That’s why it’s important to know what mold is, how it grows and the different types of mold that can crop up throughout your house. It’s the only way to ensure your house is mold-free and that you stay healthy.
What is mold and how does it grow?
Mold is a type of fungus that develops when mold spores grow. You could argue that the best way to get rid of mold is to get rid of mold spores.
But spores can’t be removed from indoor spaces. They exist whether you like it or not.
And they’re typically not a problem. They’re only a problem when they start to proliferate and grow. How does that happen?
Mold spores need a humid and warm environment to grow. When the environment is right, they will settle down and start eating whatever’s in that environment. It could be a book, wallpaper, a bed cover, etc. Mold spores don’t discriminate. If it’s warm, humid and moist, they will grow.
Common household materials that can become damp, and therefore, encourage mold spore growth, include paper items, cardboard material, tiles, wood, wallpaper, insulation, curtains, and upholstery.
Do you have mold in your home?
Most of the time, you can see mold in your home. However, it’s also possible to have mold growing where you can’t see it. For example, it can be hidden within walls, crawlspaces, attics or ceilings.
Here are some of the most common types of mold that can grow indoors.
This is a common and relatively mild form of mold. It grows on warm and damp surfaces. When it first starts out, it looks grey or white, but if you don’t remove it, it can become black or brown.
This is the most common type of allergenic mold. It will usually grow in damp areas of the home, like in the shower, tub, or underneath a leaky sink. It’s usually dark green or brown, and it has a velvet-like texture.
American homes tend to have aspergillus mold, which creates a thick moldy layer over surfaces. There are close to 200 different species of this type of mold, so it can show up in a variety of colors.
If your home has water damage, expect to have chaetomium. You may not see it depending on where it is, but you will definitely smell it – it has a musty odor. Its color can change from white to gray, and if it’s not treated quickly enough, it can become brown or even black.
You might not be familiar with the term, “Stachybotrys”, but you’re probably familiar with the ominous term, “black mold.” This is a toxic type of mold that ranges in dark green to black. It feels slimy. If an environment is warm, damp and has high humidity levels for many weeks, black mold can proliferate and spread.
Heath risks of mold
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Exposure to damp and moldy environments may cause a variety of health effects or none at all.” That is to say that some people or more or less sensitive to mold than other individuals.
However, it’s also safe to say that you want to avoid all mold in your home. Over time, consistent exposure to mold can lead to sensitivity, and this can show up in symptoms like congestion, coughing, sneezing, sore throat, eye discomfort, irritated skin, and even headaches.
While there are many different molds, the harmful ones are categorized as either being allergenic, pathogenic or toxigenic.
Allergenic molds can lead to allergies or allergic reactions. Pathogenic molds can increase health problems if you’re already dealing with an acute illness. And toxigenic molds are the worst of the bunch – they can lead to dangerous or even fatal health conditions.
What are the health risks of the five common molds we looked at above?
Breathing in mildew spores can lead to headaches, coughing, and a scratchy throat. If the mildew spores start to develop in the lungs, it can cause serious health conditions.
This is an allergenic type of mold and it can create symptoms similar to asthma in the upper respiratory tract, nose, and mouth. If an individual already deals with respiratory health conditions, it is crucial to remove this type of mold from the house.
Aspergillus is another type of allergenic mold, but it has the potential of becoming a toxigenic mold if the conditions are right. Like alternaria, it can lead to asthma-like symptoms and even respiratory inflammation.
Most commonly caused by water damage, this mold can lead to infections in the skin and nails. And under the right conditions, chaetomium can produce a dangerous substance called mycotoxins. These can be especially threatening for individuals with a compromised immunity.
This toxigenic mold also makes mycotoxins and that can lead to some pretty serious symptoms like difficulty breathing, inflammation of the sinuses, depression, low energy, headaches, chronic coughs, and even a fever. It is especially dangerous for children as they can develop neurological problems from Stachybotrys exposure.
How to get rid of mold in your house
Mold in your home is never a good thing. Therefore, keep in mind the following tips to prevent mold from growing inside your house and causing health problems.
- Know where there might be water damage, leaking pipes, etc. This is exactly where mold likes to grow. Repair leaky fixtures and replace damp materials.
- Control the humidity levels inside your home. A 60% humidity level or lower is ideal. To maintain this, run dehumidifiers, get fresh air inside as often as possible, and run the exhaust fans in the bathroom or kitchen.
- Dry up wet surfaces as soon as possible to prevent mold growth.
- Always wear gloves, goggles and a mask when cleaning up mold.
- When cleaning mold from non-porous surfaces, wipe away the mold with water. Then, clean the area with a gentle detergent.
- When cleaning mold from a porous area, such as carpets, rugs, drywall or ceiling tiles, remove them completely and replace them. When doing so, place them in a sealable bag to keep the mold spores from spreading again.
It’s very easy for mold to grow inside your home, especially in areas that are warm, moist and humid. Be proactive and stay on top of any areas where mold might grow. If you do see or smell mold, remove it immediately, and when in doubt, seek professional help. It’s the surest way to keep your house mold-free and to protect your health. Mold is a silent killer and it must be dealth with – the sooner, the better.