Whether it occurs in summer or in winter, mold in your home is not only unsightly, it is also dangerous to your family’s health. Read these FAQs to get the answers about how mold grows, whom it affects, what you can do to prevent it and how to treat mold with effective natural solutions.
What is Mold, Anyway?
Mold is a form of multi-celled fungus which is naturally present in the atmosphere in the form of spores. These spores may be harmful to humans when they begin to grow indoors, a process that requires both moisture and a food source – fabric and fibers, paper, wood, human skin cells and more. Mold can grow on a wide variety of surfaces in your home and may cause serious health problems.
What Are the Health Effects of Mold?
Anyone can be affected by touching or inhaling mold in the home, but the most vulnerable are infants; the elderly; immune-compromised individuals; and people prone to asthma, allergies or other respiratory diseases. Common symptoms include inflammation of the nasal passages, resulting in sneezing and runny nose; cough; irritated eyes; and skin rash. Less common but more severe are fever, breathing difficulty and lung infection.
Isn’t Mold More of a Problem in Winter than in Summer?
Mold often appears in the home as a result of winter conditions, when houses are less well ventilated and water vapor condenses on cold surfaces such as exterior walls. However, mold thrives at relatively warm temperatures, 60 to 100 degrees F, and running your air conditioner in summer can create humid conditions if your HVAC system is too large or small to adequately dehumidify the home.
How Can I Prevent Mold?
Minimizing indoor humidity is the best way to prevent mold growth. Clean up spills of liquid promptly. If you cannot launder damp items like wet bathing suits or baby clothes right away, dry them outside. Make sure your A/C drip pans and drain lines are clean. Open the window or operate exhaust fans to ventilate your home, particularly in high humidity rooms like showers or kitchens. Make sure that appliances – your clothes dryer, for example – are properly vented to the outdoors. Insulate surfaces that are cold in winter, including exterior walls and cold water pipes.
If your home’s interior is still very humid after taking these steps, test it with an inexpensive moisture meter. The ideal indoor relative humidity level is 30 to 50 percent; a dehumidifier is a worthwhile investment if your home’s is substantially higher.
I already have mold in my house. What do I do now?
Begin by eliminating the source of the moisture which has allowed the mold to grow. Open windows and doors, if at all possible, and run fans to ventilate the moldy area.
Never touch mold with your bare hands. Wear rubber gloves, a breathing mask and goggles for protection when cleaning.
Once the cleanup is complete and the surface has been thoroughly dried, a new paint job using mold resistant paint will help safeguard against future mold formation.
Are there any eco-friendly methods of cleaning mold?
Although bleach is commonly recommended for mold cleanup, vinegar is not only greener, it also kills the organism at the roots and discourages any regrowth. Spray or wipe on a strong vinegar and water solution to scrub off all visible mold. Then spray the affected area with additional vinegar and let it stand for an hour before rinsing off.
A baking soda solution may be substituted for vinegar and used in the same way. For more cleaning power, combine baking soda and vinegar.
Two natural extracts are very effective in killing mold. Tea tree oil and grapefruit extract are antifungal and antibacterial. Use a solution in the ratio of one teaspoon oil or extract to one cup of water. If you do not finish the liquid in a single session, keep it on hand for general cleaning purposes. It will stay fresh indefinitely. A disadvantage of this method is the high price of the main ingredient.
Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.