Spring has finally arrived which means, rainy days are expected to follow. And when it rains, the mold follows. Let’s talk about what mold is, symptoms to look out for when mold is around, and signs of mold in your home.
What is Mold? Is it harmful?
Mold is composed of microscopic organisms that are present almost everywhere. They can grow on your plants, foods, and can suddenly appear inside and outside of your home. Mold plays a vital role in the environment, especially during the decomposition of dead creatures or materials.
Symptoms When Mold Is in Your Home
That said, over exposure to molds may cause allergic reactions and some other symptoms, such as:
- Watery eyes
- Runny nose
- Shortness of breath
If repeatedly exposed to mold, it can increase someone’s sensitivity level that could cause severe and chronic allergic reactions.
Mold poses a risk to people’s health and your home should be the safe haven you return to each day after being out in the world. That is why we want to emphasize the importance of detecting its presence inside your home.
How To Detect Mold In Your Home
- History of Water Leaking
- Improper Ventilation or Conditioning
- Improper Vapor Barriers
- Visual Staining on Surfaces
Where there is a musty odor there is mold. You can’t have one without the other. This is one of the more blatant signs of mold in your home.
There is this distinct smell that mold emits – a stale, earthy, and musty odor. This smell might be very familiar to you as they are very common in your basements, walls, cabinets, food waste, laundry, damp shoes or wooden tables. This is the most obvious sign that mold is lurking in your area. In order to prevent this odor, you have to diligently clean and monitor the area where you smell the musty odor of molds.
You are only allowed to clean small areas on non-porous material of mold to prevent it from growing back. If the mold reaches 10 feet or more on a non-porous material such as tile, metal, glass, or any length of porous material such as wood, sheetrock, and carpet, you have to seek help from the experts to prevent health risk.
To get rid of the odor, have the air professionally treated with an enzyme based solution. If you have an HVAC system that draws out the odor, catches spores in its filters, and distributes them throughout the house, have the filters cleaned and replaced on a regular basis to help remove the smell.
- History of water leaking
Molds thrive because of moisture. As the EPA says, “to prevent a mold problem, fix the water problem right away”. That is why any part of your home that has a history of water leaks should be repaired because it potentially contributes to the growth of molds. During rainy days, it is best to take note of where the leaks and wet spots are; have them fixed and disinfected immediately. It is not always certain that molds are already present in those areas but it is better to make sure rather than be sorry down the road. This will help you save expenses in the future. Mold could flourish so quickly that they can grow on a damp cloth you left within a few days. The simplest way for mold prevention is to check for leaks or wet spots in your home.
- Improper ventilation or conditioning for your attic and basement/crawlspace
Basement and crawl spaces are often the most neglected areas in our homes and they are the most common areas where mold thrives. Mold grows in these areas because of poor ventilation for the attic and conditioning for the basement/crawlspace. The changes of the temperature due to the air inside condensing and creating moisture then causes molds to grow. By having proper ventilation in your attic spaces and conditioning in your basement/crawlspaces, you are allowing the air to circulate and can prevent this phenomenon from happening. The best way to condition your basement/crawlspace is to have a properly sized dehumidifier set to 45% that is consistently draining so you don’t have to empty it. Avoid choosing the cheapest or oversized dehumidifier as both options will cost you money and will not operate as you need. Start by calculating the cubic foot of open space and go to the chart for the dehumidifier and choose the right size pint for your application.
- Improper vapor barriers
Vapor barriers are installed because they are deemed to be beneficial and essential for building code compliance. However, poor induction of vapor barriers could cause some safety hazards. The moist air being produced by home occupants in their day-to-day activities such as cooking or showering; or even the change of temperature of the home can cause mold growth. In most situations, the moisture penetrates through the drywall or fiberglass insulation and through the cold walls outside the home which allows moisture to condense and allows the mold to flourish.
- Visual staining on surfaces
Stains alone that we may perceive as mold do not necessarily indicate that mold is present. There are other things that cause that kind of staining. In addition, there are two important facts to clearly understand when it comes to mold:
The Many Colors of Mold
Mold comes in a rainbow of colors, but it is not only black so it is important to recognize that the black mold you are seeing is more likely to be green or blue if properly assessed
There are numerous types of molds that come in different colors. There are 9 common types of mold and their corresponding colors:
- Stachybotrys Chartarum – Greenish-black
- Penicillium/Aspergillus – Gray to white, plus various shades of blue or green.
- Aureobasidium – may be pink, velvety or black.
- Cladosporium – May range in color from white mold to olive-green, brown or black.
- Fusarium- White to yellow, brown, pink or yellow.
- Chaetomium – It may appear as a smudge of dirt, and its color can range from brown to black.
- Alternaria – Has over a hundred species in various colors.
- Stachybotrys – the infamous toxic black mold.
- Acremonium- Orange in color, it can also appear as pink, gray or white.
These examples alone should show you that it is difficult to identify whether a stain is mold or not. If you believe that the stain does not appear ordinary, we recommend having have it tested by the experts. Considering the wide array of molds, you would never know what health problem it could bring to you and your family.
It is a major misconception that only black molds are dangerous to your health, they come in multiple colors and types. No matter what color the mold is present in your home, it should be treated similarly.
Mold vs Mildew
What you are seeing in your home is generally not mildew. Mildew grows only on living plants because it needs the live enzymes to survive.
Mold and mildew can both flourish in warm, moist areas, but they each have their own preference when it comes to where they start growing. A mildew typically grows on crops or plants – examples would be potatoes, carrots or grapes. Both of them share several characteristics which is why many people assume they are the same or mistake one for the other. To clear the misconception, they are not of the same kind or class – a mildew is just a subclass of mold and often described as an early-stage mold.
In terms of smell, they share the same musty or earthy smell. If this odor is present in your home, it’s likely that a mold or mildew is present in your home.
In terms of texture, mildew grows on surfaces which makes it easy to detect in its early stage compared to mold. Mildew can also appear powdery, which would be white or gray in color. As it ages, it will turn yellowish and eventually ends up in a dark brown or black color.
What To Do If You Find Mold in Your Home
Minor mold-infested areas can be easily handled by you without seeking help from experts. But there is no exact measurement as to what is considered a minor mold issue. In standard practice, mold sizing to 10-feet or more should be removed and handled by professionals.
There is always danger in removing molds by yourself because everyone reacts differently to types of mold they encounter. DIY mold cleaning can worsen the situation as mold is a type of fungus that thrives on moisture, reproduces through spores, and is airborne. Even bleach cannot help remove mold, it only removes the color or stain caused by mold.
It is impossible to achieve zero mold in your household. Molds should be checked and monitored on a regular basis as they grow silently and quickly without you knowing it. Now, If you have family members that are already suffering from unexplained cold or flu-like symptoms, medical assistance should be sought and mold experts should be tapped for a safe mold removal.