September is Mold Awareness Month. It pays to keep an eye out and understand the signs, causes, and methods of preventing mold. Like any problem, there are solutions; you just need to be proactive and well-informed.
What is mold?
Mold is a type of fungus that likes to grow in moist, wet places. It can’t live without moisture, and it likes to chow down on materials like wood and paper. When mold really sets in, it can usually be identified by a green, blue, or black color.
Molds can produce materials called allergens which can irritate individuals sensitive to them. Allergic responses to mold include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash. More serious health problems can also occasionally result from mold exposure.
What you can do to prevent mold
Molds are everywhere, but they’re usually invisible and harmless. However, if you have a water leak or excess moisture somewhere in your home, they can often become a visible problem. The EPA recommends reducing the humidity of your home to around 30 to 60 percent to keep mold growth in check.
Ways you can do this include:
- Making sure bathrooms have proper vents (such as internal vents or windows) so humidity stays under control when taking a shower.
- Insulating different parts of your home well enough to prevent condensation when temperatures change.
- Avoiding installing carpet in areas where moisture accumulates.
What to do if you have mold
If you have an area that’s less than 10 square feet and covered in mold, here’s a helpful guide to cleaning it up yourself. However, if there’s been significant flooding damage to your home, or mold has taken up residence in a larger area, it’s best to find professionals to help clean it up. It’s also important to call in a professional if the mold was likely caused by contaminated water, such as sewer water.
But if your mold problem is small, you can usually handle it yourself. First, isolate the source of the mold, whether it’s a leaky fixture or a too-humid shower area. If the surface the mold is growing on isn’t porous, it can usually be scrubbed away (such as on plastic and tile). However, if mold has found its way into drywall, it’ll likely need to be replaced — though you can try wiping it away first.
Mold can be a serious nuisance as well as a costly fix, so it’s important to know what you’re getting into when you start. Also, when buying a new home, make sure you have someone inspect for potential mold areas so you can be proactive about prevention. Make sure to check out our top 10 red flags for buying a new home infographic for more information.