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How to Effectively Deal With Mold Damage in Your Home

Tuesday, July 16th, 2019

Many of the effects of mold contamination inside a house require the services of a mold remediation specialist to resolve. In most cases, homeowner’s insurance will stipulate a qualified professional with the credentials and technology to do the job. However, do-it-yourself efforts may be useful in dealing with both causes and effects of mold contamination in certain limited circumstances. Here are some suggestions:

  • Eliminate contributing factors. Homeowners can help resolve conditions which trigger contamination in the first place and then spread mold damage. Track down and resolve chronic moisture issues such as leaky plumbing, roof leaks and excessive indoor humidity. Ventilate damp spaces like the basement and attic that tend to spawn mold. Immediately dry any areas that accidentally become wet.
  • Protect air quality. Make sure your HVAC air filter traps airborne mold spores that spread contamination. Filters with a MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) rating of at least 11 will remove about 80% of airborne spores. In homes where mold damage is a concern the filter should be changed every month.
  • Increase circulation. Mold prospers in stagnant, dark environments, so keeping air circulation optimal also helps inhibit contamination. Regularly open doors and air out closed, unused rooms and closets. Make sure all HVAC supply and return vents in the house are open and unobstructed. Open curtains and shades to let in sunlight.
  • Tackle the small stuff. Though significant, advanced mold contamination doesn’t respond well to DIY methods, there’s no reason not to attack minor, limited outbreaks before they become major issues. Over the counter mold cleaners can be used to knock down mold growth on tile grout in damp bathrooms or kitchens, for example. Where caulking around windows or elsewhere is contaminated, it can be extracted and replaced with new caulking. If only a small area in a room—such as just one corner of a sheet of drywall—shows signs of mold, you can hire a inexpensive handyman to cut out that limited portion and replace it. Then, use mold cleaner as a preventive measure on all other surfaces in the affected room to inhibit recurrence.

When mold is present due to water damage, or if the mold contamination is significant, it’s time for a professional to be called to deal with the situation effectively.

How to Detect and Remove Mold in a Crawl Space

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

mold in crawl spaceWhen mold remediation professionals search for the origin of contamination inside a house, the crawl space is usually a prime suspect. Cool temperatures, moisture, absence of ultraviolet sunlight and ample food sources like cellulose in exposed wooden structure make that cramped space beneath your floor a perfect breeding ground.

Microscopic airborne spores released by active mold growth may continuously infiltrate living spaces above through tiny cracks and gaps. When inhaled, toxic spores may cause allergic reactions and other chronic physical symptoms.

Is The Crawl Space Contaminated?

Thriving mold growth in the crawl space is often unnoticed by residents. Even when it’s suspected, the signs may be ambiguous:

  • A chronic musty odor emanating from below. It’s hard to miss, but it may be dismissed as simply common mildew or moisture-related issues.
  • Splotchy growth visible on wooden surfaces in the crawl space such as trusses and subflooring. The growth may be fuzzy or flat. Coloration is typically white or black, but may vary into greenish or purplish hues, too.

Because not everything that looks like mold is mold and not all mold types produce mycotoxins that trigger reactions in humans, inspection, air sampling and testing by a qualified mold remediation specialist is critical to confirm presence of mold and determine the type of growth.

How Is Mold Eliminated?

Successful mold remediation incorporates a two-fold approach:

  • All active mold growth must be located and physically removed. Then, contaminated surfaces are sterilized with EPA-approved disinfectants specially formulated for the type of mold. Where growing mold has penetrated the surface of wooden building materials, those components may need to be replaced.
  • To prevent recurrence, conditions that promote mold growth in the crawl space must be addressed. Moisture sources such as water intrusion during rain and plumbing leaks should be eliminated. The dirt floor may require a plastic vapor barrier to keep out rising soil moisture. In dry climates, addition of vents to increase crawl space cross-ventilation may discourage mold. Conversely, in humid climates, sealing the crawl space entirely and making it a conditioned zone of the house may be preferable.

Is Green Mold in My Home Toxic or Dangerous to My Family?

Thursday, December 20th, 2018

green moldGreen is among the rainbow of colors that growing mold may display, depending on the type and the environment where it grows. However, color alone is not a reliable indicator to identify mold. Experts say that literally thousands of mold species may exhibit greenish coloration. Most often, greens tend to be among the Cladosporium or Penicillium genus. White mold types are somewhat more likely to be found growing on paper products or raw wood in a moist environment, while green mold requires less moisture to thrive.

Is It Toxic?

Green mold shares a trait common with virtually all forms of indoor and outdoor mold, regardless of color: it spreads by releasing spores. These microscopic airborne particles carry mycotoxins that are proven to cause allergic reactions in susceptible individuals, including chronic illness.

Because airborne spores can accumulate to very high levels within an enclosed environment, symptoms are more likely to result from prolonged exposure to indoor mold versus outdoors.

Does Color Matter?

The Centers For Disease Control (CDC) recommends that all verified mold should be removed from a residence. The color of the mold—be it green, black or blue—isn’t a deciding factor.

Professional mold remediation relies on established procedures such as analysis of airborne spore samples and active mold growth. Testing is utilized to determine the genus of the mold as well as estimate extent of contamination in the house. These facts—not the color—inform proper techniques to remove the mold and sterilize the environment to prevent recurrence.

Is My Home Infected?

Any unexplained allergic symptoms should always be brought to the attention of a physician first. If other potential factors are eliminated, mold contamination may be suspected if:

  • Water damage has occurred inside the house or chronic moisture from any source is affecting some part of the structure.
  • Musty odors persist in susceptible areas—basement, attic, crawl space, etc—and can’t be attributed to some other cause.
  • You notice fungal-like growth—of any color—occurring anywhere inside the house.

Should You Really Be Concerned About Attic Mold?

Tuesday, November 20th, 2018

attic moldAttic mold is relatively common simply because attics provide very favorable conditions for mold to grow. Dampness from high humidity is a major mold trigger as water vapor from living spaces below migrates upward, accumulating in the enclosed attic. In many climates, an attic also provides very favorable warm temperature ranges that support active mold growth.

But should mold growing far away in the attic concern residents in the rooms down below? The answer is a resounding yes, because mold growing up in the attic typically doesn’t stay up in the attic. Microscopic airborne mold spores released by growing mold migrate into living spaces below. This not only causes allergic reactions and illness in susceptible persons, it also can grow and spread into the inhabited parts of the home. Two factors affect mold movement:

  • Studies have shown that airborne spores from active mold growth can seep out of enclosed spaces constructed with average residential methods. Unless the area is built and sealed to very high standards not common in residential construction, tiny openings in the structure will allow spores to migrate.
  • Contaminated air may be pulled out of a moldy attic down into living spaces due to pressure differentials. Colder air-conditioned air is heavier and naturally sinks to lower levels inside an enclosed house. This downward air motion creates a very subtle suction effect that draws spore-contaminated air out of the attic through tiny structural cracks and gaps into the living areas below.

To reduce potential ill effects as well as structural damage from attic mold:

  • Ventilate the attic to reduce accumulation of water vapor rising up from rooms below.
  • Eliminate other attic moisture sources such as roof leaks and condensation dripping from HVAC ducts.
  • Locate and seal even the smallest openings in the ceiling which allow air movement that conveys mold spores down into living spaces.

Attics typically include unfinished structural wood that provides desirable growing surfaces for mold which will penetrate the porous material. Where presence of attic mold is confirmed by inspection and testing, professional mold remediation techniques to neutralize and remove all mold must be utilized.

Why Mold is Enemy #1 After Your Home Has Water Damage

Tuesday, July 31st, 2018

mold and water damageDon’t worry about keeping mold out of your home. It’s already there. Microscopic airborne mold spores exist everywhere in nature. Even in a house certified to be free of active mold growth, a spore count of 500-1,000 spores per cubic meter of air is considered normal. Exposure to dormant spores at low concentration seldom causes physical symptoms. When water damage enters the picture, however, everything changes. Here’s a typical sequence of contamination:

  • Whether from a ruptured plumbing pipe, outdoor floodwater entering the house, basement seepage, roof leaks or some other source, water is the triggering event. Dormant mold spores settling into moisture activate into growth mode.
  • Active mold growth releases reproductive spores. As little as 48 hours after exposure to moisture, the airborne spore count indoors begins to soar, up to 100,000+ spores per cubic meter. At this point a previously normal home is officially contaminated and professional remediation is required.
  • When inhaled at high concentration, toxic mycotoxins contained in reproductive spores of certain mold types can cause allergic reactions and illness in many people. Symptoms vary from respiratory illness to flu-like symptoms, vision problems, chronic fatigue and mental depression.
  • As active mold grows, airborne spores circulate on air currents and in the HVAC system, spawning contamination wherever contact with moisture occurs. Spore count in a house with chronic mold contamination may reach one half million per cubic meter of air.

Breaking The Contamination Cycle

The first priorities are removal of water and drying all wet areas. Where moisture persists, mold growth will continue to thrive. From that point, the remediation process follows these general steps:

  • Air samples are taken to confirm the type of mold as well as estimate extent of contamination.
  • Once active growing mold is located, containment is used to prevent further spread while the mold is physically removed and disposed. Disinfection of surfaces where mold occurred follows, using EPA-approved antimicrobial agents.
  • Monitoring spore count helps track the progress of remediation until results meet industry-standard goals that indicate full decontamination. One or more follow-up visits will include air sampling again to verify that there is no recurrence.

 

Why Summer Can Mean More Indoor Mold and What to do About It

Thursday, June 21st, 2018

indoor moldMold doesn’t take a summer vacation. In fact, it’s the time of year that provides ideal conditions to trigger dormant mold spores into active mode. Daily summer high temperatures in more than half the U.S. are within the mold-preferred range of 77 to 86 degrees, Fahrenheit. In about 40 states, relative humidity readings exceed 60%, the EPA-recommended upper limit to inhibit mold, for at least some portion of a typical day during June, July and August.

You can’t do much about the outdoor climate that nurtures mold. However, it’s possible to control the indoor environment to reduce the likelihood that mold will gain a foothold and contaminate your house. Here are some season-specific suggestions to prevent mold growth during a long, hot summer.

Your HVAC System Is Your Friend

A fully-functional, efficient HVAC system not only keeps you comfortable all summer, it’s a vital ally to inhibit indoor mold growth.

  • Hot weather outdoors tends to push indoor temps up, too. Set your A/C thermostat to maintain temperatures in the low- to mid-70s to suppress mold growth. Keep indoor conditions consistently cool, even if you leave home for a few days.
  • Water vapor extracted by the A/C evaporator coil reduces indoor humidity that feeds mold. Make sure the air conditioner is operating up to specs by getting manufacturer-recommended annual preventive maintenance to support optimum humidity extraction.
  • Mold prefers stagnant conditions. Maximize cool HVAC airflow throughout the house by changing the system air filter every month all summer long. A fresh, high-quality pleated filter also helps reduce the airborne mold spore count.

Eliminate Other Moisture Sources

  • Indoor humidity equals the outdoor relative humidity plus the amount of extra water vapor added by activities such as cooking and bathing. Vent humid rooms such as the kitchen, bathrooms and laundry room with powered vent fans that exhaust moist air outdoors.
  • Keep up with home maintenance. Leakage into the attic during summer storms provides a perfect environment for mold growth. Make sure the roof is professionally inspected for leaks every three years. Also have any plumbing leaks or seepage repaired promptly.

3 Tips To Remove Mold From Washing Machines

Thursday, May 31st, 2018

remove mold from washing machineA common household appliance that cleans and sanitizes clothing is also a frequent source of mold contamination. How does that happen? If it’s a front-loading washer, the answer is in the design. Efficient front-loaders are now a popular choice to replace top-loading machines in many laundry rooms. However, while top-loaders usually dry out between each use, the waterproof design that prevents leakage from a front-loading machine tends to retain residual moisture inside the unit. This provides an environment for mold growth that may infect clothes and/or taint these items with unpleasant odors.

Here are three tips to interrupt the cycle of washer mold growth and keep your clothes sanitary and fresh.

  1. Ground zero for mold contamination in front-loading washers is the rubber door gasket. Deep creases in the gasket retain hidden moisture and conceal mold growth that contaminates the entire unit. Begin by making a 50/50 mixture of warm water and laundry bleach. Put on gloves and soak a clean rag with the mixture. Clean the door gasket thoroughly, pulling open the seal creases and wiping deeply to remove mold and mildew growth. If fungal growth is advanced, saturate several rags with the water/bleach mixture and stuff them into the seal crease, leaving the wet rags in contact with mold for 30 minutes. Following this initial cleaning, remember to wipe the door seal dry with a clean rag after every wash cycle.
  2. Remove the detergent dispenser, another source of potential mold contamination. Soak it in a 50/50 mix of hot water and bleach or vinegar, scrub it clean, then rinse and re-install.
  3. On a regular basis to eliminate mold in the washer and internal plumbing, run a wash cycle containing just a few small clean towels (many manufacturers don’t recommend running the washer totally empty.) Pour only a cup of bleach directly into the tub—no detergent—then select the hottest water setting and the longest wash duration. Some models incorporate a special high-temperature tub-cleaning cycle option that will help do the job for you.

Natural Ways To Prevent Mold In The Bathroom

Tuesday, May 8th, 2018

bathroom moldDoes your home include a space suitable for conducting scientific mold experiments? As it turns out, most residential bathrooms provide the perfect controlled environment for mold contamination: high humidity, chronically moist surfaces, warm temperatures, limited air circulation and little natural sunlight. Airborne mold spores circulate everywhere, outdoors and indoors. Without positive intervention, the ideal conditions present in a typical bathroom will trigger dormant spores into active mode that spawns mold growth.

Here are some natural methods that interrupt the cycle of bathroom mold contamination:

Fresh Air Treatment

Bathroom humidity from showering or bathing rises well above the 50% level that triggers active mold growth. Ample air circulation lowers humidity as well as rapidly drying surfaces where mold-friendly condensation forms. Open a bathroom window to let in fresh air and sunlight. If a ventilation fan is installed, ideally it should be timer-actuated. This allows the fan to continue running for several minutes after bathroom use in order to completely remove residual humidity and moisture. Fully extend the wet shower curtain—a mold magnet—to quick-dry in circulating air.

The Vinegar Approach

Mold is acid-averse. Common vinegar is a natural, non-toxic source of acid you probably already have in your home. Vinegar is known to kill over 80 percent of mold species when topically applied. Spray it full-strength on any suspect spots of mold (or its second cousin, mildew) on bathroom surfaces or infecting grout between tiles. For mold prevention, routine vinegar application about once a week to bathroom surfaces helps keeps the environment acidic and mold-resistant.

Vodka. Yes, Vodka

Naturally-occurring ethanol in fermented alcoholic beverages is known to be particularly toxic to mold and mildew. A readily available source of purified ethanol is vodka. Budget-priced brands of 80 proof vodka—containing 40% ethanol and 60% water—are cost-efficient for spot-treating incipient mold contamination. Pour it (straight) into a spray bottle and spritz it directly on signs of developing mold or mildew. Wait about 10 minutes, then wipe away the residue with a wet sponge or cloth.

Mold Exposure Dangers – Get The Facts!

Thursday, May 3rd, 2018

mold factsClarity is critical when evaluating potential health concerns like mold exposure. A study by the World Health Organization finds “sufficient epidemiological evidence” that occupants of buildings infected by mold are at increased risk of respiratory infections, asthma, and allergic symptoms. Furthermore, the WHO confirms that proper remediation of mold and conditions that trigger it “can reduce adverse health outcomes.”

How do these facts apply to the day-to-day risks inside the typical home? Here are common questions and answers about mold exposure dangers.

Can I avoid all mold exposure?

Mold is naturally occurring. There is no practical way to prevent microscopic airborne mold spores from infiltrating a structure. When dispersed in open air outdoors, mold spores typically cause no symptoms. Concentrated within the enclosed environment of a house, however, active spores released by growing mold may reach potentially toxic levels in daily exposure.

Is all mold toxic?

Only mold types that release spores containing mycotoxins are linked to ill effects in some humans. Common indoor varieties are Cladosporium, Penicilium and Fusarium. One type, Stachybotrys chartarum, is known generically as “Black Mold.” In an enclosed environment, Black Mold is most likely to trigger adverse reactions in susceptible persons. Mold testing and sampling by a professional can identify the type of contamination and help locate active growth. The World Health Organization recommends remediation of all indoor mold contamination, regardless of specific type.

How do I prevent indoor exposure to toxic mold?

Moisture triggers dormant mold spores into active growth mode. To inhibit mold growth, control household relative humidity—the EPA recommends the range between 30% and 50%. Also, repair plumbing leaks, seal the basement to prevent water intrusion, keep the crawl space dry and have roof leaks fixed. Should water inundation occur inside the house, active mold growth will begin within 48 hours. Water damage recovery must include prompt professional mold remediation to avert chronic contamination.

Are my symptoms mold-related?

Many illnesses mimic symptoms of mold exposure. Always discuss any suspect symptoms with your physician, first.

Simple Ways To Prevent Laundry Room Mold and Mildew

Thursday, April 26th, 2018

laundry room mildewYour laundry room rates high priority for mold and mildew prevention. In terms of fungal growth factors, it offers everything: excess humidity, warmth, condensation and the potential for water leakage. Once triggered, mold and mildew are unsightly and destructive to surfaces where they grow. They’re also a source of airborne spores which may cause allergic reactions and chronic illness in some individuals. Preventing contamination is preferable to eliminating it after it’s gained a foothold. Here are some laundry room-specific tips for mold and mildew prevention:

  • Use hot water only when necessary. Hot water and high spin speed settings increase the volume of water vapor emitted by a washing machine. This may raise room humidity into the mold-friendly range as well as forming mildew.
  • Remove clothes and begin drying as soon as the washing machine finishes. An idle washer full of wet clothes contributes humidity to the air. Mildew can actually begin forming on wet clothes while they’re waiting in the washer.
  • Inspect washer water supply hoses. Look for leaks or seepage as well as cracked or suspect hoses. No amount of leakage or hose deterioration is acceptable as a ruptured washer hose can release hundreds of gallons of water and trigger widespread mold contamination. Consider replacing rubber hoses with more reliable braided stainless steel lines.
  • Maintain the dryer. A dryer vents water vapor equivalent to two to three gallons of water during each drying cycle. Clean the lint filter before every use. Dryers should exhaust to the exterior of the house through intact vent pipe, preferably metal.  Check the dryer vent pipe twice a year for lint accumulation that inhibits exhaust, as well as leaks that allow water vapor and heat to escape indoors.
  • Consider installing a powered vent fan. To reduce accumulating humidity and heat in the laundry room, a vent fan installed in the wall vents moist, warm air directly outside. Ceiling vent fans utilize a dedicated duct and vent to the roof.

Stay on top of mold and mildew prevention in the laundry room with these simple tips.