Keep Mold Out of Your Home This Winter and Breathe EasyPublished on: January 24, 2014
If you or other members of your household have respiratory allergies, poor indoor air quality could be to blame. One of the common culprits is mold, even in the winter. The more you understand this unpleasant air pollutant, the easier it is to understand how to control it.
Health Effects of Mold
Small particles of mold or mold spores are present nearly everywhere. Limited exposure to miniscule quantities of mold pose no problem for most people. However, when mold spreads and more particles or spores contaminate the air, allergic reactions can occur, especially in those sensitive to molds.
Common reactions to mold include upper respiratory irritation, eye irritation, lung problems and fever. Less commonly, serious lung infections may develop.
How Mold Becomes a Problem in the Home
Mold is a living organism and, as such, certain requirements must be met for it to live and grow. It needs moisture, a food source and habitable temperatures. Many homes contain at least some areas that meet all three of these requirements. This type of fungus doesn’t need puddles of water. All it requires to meet its moisture needs is dampness.
Regarding food, nearly any organic substance, including cardboard, wood, food crumbs, paper and particles unseen by the naked eye, can sustain it. In addition, even when cold winds blow outdoors, the air inside the home is perfectly warm enough for mold.
When spores are exposed to the right conditions, they begin to grow, and certain conditions accelerate their growth. These include:
- High humidity
- Plumbing leaks
- Roof leaks
- Poor sanitation
- Poor ventilation
Common Locations of Indoor Mold
While mold can begin to grow nearly anywhere, provided conditions are right, check these areas first:
- Near plumbing – This includes around toilets and beneath sinks in the kitchen and bathroom
- In damp basements – Many basements are not only damp, but they also lack air flow and sunlight, making them ideal for fungal growth.
- In the laundry room – The damp heat washers and dryers produce creates a perfect world for fungi.
- Behind large appliances – Behind your stove and refrigerator is likely a nice warm environment perfect for bacteria and mold.
- In the attic – Unless you’ve created an extra living space in your attic, chances are you don’t go up there very often. Dampness from a small leak or even just high humidity in this undisturbed space can lead to mold growth.
Eliminating Mold Indoors
- Keep all areas prone to fungal growth clean. This may mean cleaning behind and beneath appliances, cleaning the laundry room more frequently, and cleaning up all spills as soon as possible. Use white vinegar or a bleach solution to destroy spores.
- Eliminate unnecessary cardboard from your home. Switch to easy-to clean plastic tubs for storing items rather than cardboard boxes.
- Avoid storing linens and similar porous items in damp areas or areas with poor airflow, such as basements.
- Have the air ducts cleaned. Small particles of dust can become a breeding ground for spores, and as air flows through dirty ducts, these spores may hitch rides to contaminate your home’s air. Have your air ducts checked by a professional.
Have concrete floors sealed to keep out moisture, and use dehumidifiers in rooms that have a relative humidity above 60 percent. During the winter, excess humidity is less common than during the summer. This is because cooler air simply can’t hold as much moisture. Nevertheless, some homes in the Southeast may benefit from portable or even whole-house dehumidifiers.
In addition, use exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathroom to remove excess humidity while cooking or bathing, get plumbing leaks fixed as soon as you can and clean up all liquid spills immediately.
Proper ventilation in the home removes stagnant air and replaces it with fresh air. This can help reduce most air pollutants, including mold spores, if you also use adequate filtration.
If your home has been damaged by flood water, or mold growth is extensive for any other reason, you may need to contact a remediation specialist to safely handle the cleanup. If you do the job yourself, make sure you wear the proper gear, which includes a respirator, protective suit, gloves and goggles.
For more information about finding the right contractor to assist you with your Southeast U.S. home’s air quality and maintenance, please contact us.