Invisible mold spores float around us daily*. They love a damp environment, and when they find it, they bloom on virtually any material—and begin to slowly destroy it**.
As mold grows, it also sends allergens and irritants into the air, which can worsen symptoms for people with asthma or allergies. Common symptoms from exposure to mold is sneezing, runny nose, coughing and sore throat. Although reaction to mold varies from person-to-person, these symptoms could well be the first sign that your home hosts mold***.
Other clues? A musty smell and, of course, actually spotting those telltale dark spots.
Mold needs moisture to grow. Prevent moisture, and you prevent mold. To do so, keep your home within the 30 to 60 percent humidity range. (You can get an inexpensive indoor humidity monitor to help track it****.)
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends these tactics to help keep your home in the desired range**:
First, fix the source of your mold-causing moisture, whether it’s a leaky pipe, poorly insulated windows or an unvented bathroom.
Cleaning up the mold depends on the material it’s growing on:
If the area is smaller than 3 ft.-by-3 ft., the EPA says it’s OK to try and clean it yourself*****. Wear goggles, gloves and a properly fitting N95 respirator, available at your local home or hardware store. Scrub the mold off with warm, soapy water—no bleach necessary—then dry completely*.
If the area is 10 sq. ft. or larger, or if it involves your heating and cooling system, or sewage or other contaminated water, consult an expert with proven experience cleaning up mold.
If the mold is on fabrics, carpet, ceiling tiles and other absorbent materials, you may need to replace them. Mold can grow inside the crevices, making it all but impossible to remove*****.
If you’re nervous about effectively cleaning moldy items, such as heirloom furniture, a valuable rug or keepsake clothing, consult an expert on the item. Get references and ask about affiliation with professional organizations.
After clean up, follow the tips above for preventing mold growth in the first place, and don’t forget to replace your air filter regularly—at least every season—so everyone in your home can breathe easier.