As part of any spring cleaning routine a homeowner should pay attention for signs of mold. Mold is a fungus that usually forms in areas where moisture becomes trapped.
After a winter of heavy snow and ice, mold can be a particular problem. Rapidly melting snow and ice can saturate the ground and make flooding more likely. If water floods your home, not only does it damage possessions, it can form the conditions for rapid mold growth.
“To avoid problems from microbial growth, remove standing water as soon as it is safe to do so,” said Chris Heller, spokesman for FastMoldRemoval.com. “Any standing water and water logged possessions and building materials are potential breeding grounds for mold and other micro-organisms. For many porous materials that are wet and cannot be thoroughly cleaned and dried within 24-48 hours, they often need be discarded as mold can begin to grow this quickly.”
For people with allergies, mold can be a health issue. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) exposure to molds can cause symptoms such as nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, wheezing, or skin irritation in people with sensitivity. Some people, such as those with serious allergies to molds, may have more severe reactions.
These severe reactions can occur among workers exposed to large amounts of molds in the course of their work, such as farmers working around moldy hay. Severe reactions may include fever and shortness of breath. Some people with chronic lung illnesses, such as obstructive lung disease, can even develop mold infections in their lungs.
The CDC says sufficient evidence has been found to link indoor exposure to mold with upper respiratory tract symptoms, cough, and wheeze in otherwise healthy people. For people with asthma, it's likely to set off symptoms. It has even been linked to hypersensitivity pneumonitis in individuals susceptible to that immune-mediated condition.
How do you know if you have a mold problem? According to the New York Department of Health, you can usually detect it with you eyes or your nose. Mold growth might appear as slightly furry, discolored, or slimy patches that increase in size as they grow. They also produce a musty odor that may be the first indication of a problem.
To find mold examine areas for visible signs of mold growth or water staining. If that fails, follow your nose to the source of the odor. If you can see or smell mold, you can assume you have a mold problem.
Look for water damage
Other clues may include excess moisture and water damage. It may be necessary to look behind and underneath surfaces, such as carpets, wallpaper, cabinets, and walls.
Some areas of your home seem to be mold magnets. For example, you can often find mold on the seal of the refrigerator door, on shower curtains or on window moldings. Surfaces on and around air conditioners are also favorite mold locations.
Getting rid of it
According to the CDC mold growth can be removed from hard surfaces with commercial products, soap and water, or a bleach solution of no more than 1 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of water. If you choose to use bleach to clean up mold, never mix bleach with ammonia or other household cleaners. Mixing bleach with ammonia or other cleaning products will produce dangerous, toxic fumes.
Commercial mold testing and remediation services can be pricey so shop carefully and get estimates and referrals. It may or may not be necessary. Keeping problem areas in your home clean and dry can prevent mold and keep it from coming back once it has been removed.