Mold in Your House - Spot it and Safely Deal with It

Mold in your house is usually caused by improper ventilation, untreated leaks, or any excess excess humidity. I always wonder what I fear more, mold or creepy, crawly bugs; lucky I am a strong believer that there is a purpose to every living creature. After all, I loooove cheese, mushrooms (a fungus), and hurray for penicillin; you know it...they are all different species of mold - and there are thousands - so we are bound to find some "undesirables".

And bugs...well, I can take the occasional butterfly, dragonfly, bee, lady bug (NOT Japanese beetle), worm, even grasshopper...but not all in the same day. Even termites, as repulsive as they are, contain microbes in their guts that might soon become THE alternative fuel for mass consumption - easy to cultivate, abundant, and very scalable (read my article on fungus, algae and microbes as the next alternative energy source). Actually, if you think of fungus as a variety of mold, technically, the mold in your house could someday be used to power your house - talk about turning lemons into lemonade ;-)!

What is Mold in Your House?

Mold and mildew are essentially the same. Mold spores are airborne and present everywhere. Mold and mildew come in any color of the rainbow, and look fuzzy and generally circular in shape. When there is enough moisture, spores stick to surfaces, and start out as small circles and send off hyphaes, or threadlike filaments, from their core (which are like plants). Spores can reproduce within 24 hours on organic surfaces.

Removing Mold

How to remove mold in your house is the million dollar question. The answer depends on the type of material you are trying to remove the mold from. Below are remediation tip for common areas susceptible to house mold and mildew:

Non-Porous surfaces -

  • Mold on non-absorbent material (metal or tile (but not the grout), slate, linoleum, vinyl, the inside of washing machines and dishwashers and household appliances) can be cleaned effectively with borax, bleach, fungicide/moldicide, or warm detergent and water. cleaned. While some people say that bleach is the best way to remove mildew and even mold in your house, bleach acts the same way as any detergent and water and only removes surface mold.
  • For the inside of washing machines, use 4 cups Borax (or similar detergent) and run the washer on the hottest setting. When done, open the top to air out and dry.
  • For mold in duct-work, ducts must be taken apart, and thoroughly washed/cleaned using a professional grade disinfectant, and reassembled and insulated properly without discontinuities in seams. Unless you want to risk legionnaire's disease, don't take shortcuts on this one. Also helpful would be to install a dehumidifier or heat recovery ventilation system at the furnace to control future mold - and reduce energy use.

Porous surfaces -

  • Mold on carpets, fabrics, tile grout, drywall, or soil, never goes away, no matter how much you clean the material. In other words, it's best to replace those materials - anything else is asking for trouble.
  • Mold on basement walls that are unfinished typically adheres to the dirt that is on the stone or cinder-block foundation or floors. Often, mold in the stone or foundation can be scrubbed by scrubbing away the dirt and getting down to bare surface, meaning the mold is removed with the dirt.
  • Mold in wood can be removed by sanding down the wood by about 1/8 - ¼ inch. Usually, house mold removal or remediation companies will remove all affected Sheetrock or drywall to expose the studs, either sand down the wood or treat with industrial grade fungicide, clean all other affected surfaces, and then remove as much of the airborne spores as possible by using machines called air scrubbers that will run for one to several days to dehumidify, ventilate and clean the air.The remediation crew uses OSHA-required disposable clothing, masks, gloves, etc. So think long and hard about tackling severe house mold problems on your own. While these companies are really expensive to hire (depending on the size of the area they treat), the job is done professionally and safely and is certified upon completion, with "minimal impact" to the house and human health.
  • Mold in your house attic not only can grow on the studs and rafters, it can also get into the insulation. If the insulation is dirty-looking, chances are that mold has made its way into it. For that, you need to remove and replace the insulation.For wood that has only a small amount of surface mold, you can sometimes scrub down the wood with a good fungicide or detergent and hot water. For more permeated wood, you must sand down the wood by 1/8 inch and/or replace the affected wood.

Heath Concerns with House Mold and Mildew

The most prevalent reaction to mold and mildew are headaches and sore throats. House mold problems also cause sinus infections, and reduced immune response. Abrupt exposure to high mold spores can trigger typical allergic reactions such as sneezing, watery eyes, and other histamine-related symptoms. People taking immune suppressants must be careful around mold. Extreme reactions can cause respiratory and a slew of other systemic problems.

Preventing Mold In Attics and Basements

Keep moisture out, and maintain the relative humidity between 30 to 50 percent. Use a self-contained fireplace that heats and dries the area. Dehumidifiers, air conditioners, ventilators, whole-house fans, heat and energy recovery fans and attic fans all work well in keeping moisture under control. The key is to keep a healthy amount of fresh, dry air circulating at all times in a house.

Read More about Improving Your Attic.

Read more about Home Foundations

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