Today, we are going to be learning how to clean mold. If there is one way that mold unifies us all, it is in the general acceptance that mold is disgusting. And its level of disgust does not even begin to compare with a full trash can or laundry bag.
However, it is not enough to be disgusted by this thing; we have to get it out of our homes and our lives. Hence, this article. Without further ado, let’s find out what mold really is.
What Exactly Is Mold?
Basically, mold is a kind of fungi. Now, if you didn’t already know, fungi are a pretty common phenomena in our ecosystem. In fact, we actually eat a number of them; some of the more popular ones being yeast and mushrooms. However, mold is certainly not in that category as we will soon explain.
That said, while we wouldn’t be eating mold, it does come in handy in certain areas, especially outdoors. Basically, mold helps with the decomposition of dead trees and plants in general (source).
Mold can come in a number of different colors including black, purple, orange, white and even green. And it spreads by releasing spores.
These mold spores fly in the air and can cling to anything (including our clothes) which presents endless opportunities for mold to multiply. However, for mold to actually breed and thrive anywhere, especially indoors, there needs to be a nice damp place to breed.
Why You Don’t Want Mold Growing In Your Home
Knowing that mold is disgusting is actually enough reason for one to want their homes rid of the stuff. However, we’ll provide you more; just so that we all are on the same page.
Basically, a good number of notable researches have been able to link exposure to mold with certain respiratory and other diseases (source).
In the 2009 WHO Guidelines For Indoor Air Quality; Dampness and Mold, a number of summations were reached as regards the above mentioned.
For one, after studies have been carried out in a number of countries in different climate conditions, it can be said that increased occupancy in moldy buildings increases the possibility of respiratory problems, respiratory symptoms and could even worsen the condition of asthma.
It was also stated that same conditions could expose one to certain rare conditions including chronic rhinosinusitis (inflammation of the nasal cavity and sinuses), pneumonitis (inflammation of the air sacs in the lungs), allergic fungal sinusitis (fungal infection of the sinuses) and allergic alveolitis (inflammation of the lungs).
Furthermore, it was pointed out that generally, allergic and/or atopic people are more susceptible to mold and all such fungi and fungal infections. However, non-atopic people are not left out as evidences show that they are also prone to some of these adverse effects. (source).
Way before this (2004), apparently the Institute of Medicine had already pointed out that it had found some solid evidence linking indoor mold exposure to certain respiratory tract problems (including wheezing and coughing) in generally healthy people and the worsening of asthma symptoms in people with asthma (source).
While we are yet at it, we must quickly point out that one is at greater risk of having this mold related issues if said mold exists in an enclosed space. Hence, the reports referring to buildings and the indoors.
Now, to better understand what we have been driving at, let’s look at the types of mold.
Types Of Mold
There are basically three types of mold and this classification is according to what effects they have on humans.
1. Allergenic Mold
Molds in this class are generally dangerous for people who already have allergies or even asthma.
This kind affects the respiratory organs and can result in such symptoms as cough, runny nose and sometimes headaches in people with mold allergies. As for people with asthma, allergenic mold could aggravate asthmatic symptoms.
Generally, people without asthma or a mold allergy are not affected by the allergenic kind of mold, especially if they (the mold) exist in small portions.
Also, if the mold is located and gotten rid of, there should be a reduction in, and possibly elimination of, these symptoms (source).
Some types of allergenic mold include:
There are different species of this so, it comes in a number of different colors. You want to be careful of aspergillus, though, because it has the potential of becoming toxic.
Effects: Apergillus has been known to aggravate asthmatic symptoms and inflame certain respiratory organs including the lungs.
This is pretty common and spreads really quickly. You’ve probably seen it on some damaged pipe somewhere or in shower heads. It is usually brown or dark green.
Effects: Causes and aggravates asthmatic symptoms.
While mold generally grows in damp and/or warm places, cladosporium can also grow in cold places. You’d generally find this on carpets and fabrics and it is sort of suede like to the touch. Cladosporium is usually either brown or olive green.
Effects: Causes and aggravates asthmatic symptoms, causes lung infections, lesions and skin rash.
You’d usually find this one on wood or painted walls. It could be black, pink or brown but the older it gets the browner it gets. You do not want to touch this with bare hands, though, as it is known to cause skin infection.
Effects: Skin infection.
This one is kinda runny and looks either white or grey. It grows really thick and usually grows in really wet places like around the air conditioner or on damp floor coverings.
Effects: Causes and aggravates asthmatic symptoms, causes fever and breathing problems also. In severe cases, constant exposure to mold causes mucormycosis which is an infection that causes the sinuses and lungs (and sometimes the brain) to get damaged.
This one is usually white with a touch of green and it looks like wool. Generally, trichorderma is an allergenic mold but it could also develop into being toxic.
Trichorderma typically grows in really wet places like around the air conditioner, on wet carpets and wet fabrics in general.
Effects: Produces an enzyme that causes wood to rot. Could cause certain liver and pulmonary infections.
Penicillin is usually either blue or green, velvety to the touch and spreads really fast.
Effects: Causes and aggravates asthmatic symptoms and causes certain pulmonary infections. On the good side, penicillin is used in the production of antibiotics. You still do not want to be exposed to ‘raw’ penicillin (source).
2. Pathogenic Mold
Pathogenic mold is particularly dangerous for people who have a compromised or a weak immune system. This could include children, elderly people, people living with HIV and people with cancer.
Generally, adults with optimally functioning immune systems should not be at risk of pathogenic mold. This is because the immune system is able to fight off those pathogens.
There are basically two kinds of pathogenic molds according to what they cause:
Subcutaneous Mycoses Causing Pathogenic Mold
Subcutaneous mycoses refers to a number of fungal diseases that specifically affect the skin.
Now, we do not refer to rashes and those other infections that allergenic molds are responsible for. These subcutaneous mycoses is actually pretty severe and chronic.
However, subcutaneous mycoses could also affect the subcutaneous tissues and some tissues and organs.
That said, the pathogenic molds responsible for this group of fungal diseases are usually pretty weak which is why they usually cannot go beyond the skin even if such person has a compromised immune system.
Nonetheless, some really strong pathogenic molds could cause subcutaneous mycoses in people whose immune systems are working optimally.
Some subcutaneous mycoses causing pathogenic molds include:
Acremonium: Starts out being moist but becomes powdery as it ages. It grows slowly and could be orange, pink, rose, white or grey (source).
Exophiala: Sometimes referred to as black mold because it looks black. It is usually found in decaying wood and is known to cause cerebral infections and subcutaneous cysts.
Deep Organ Mycoses Causing Pathogenic Mold
This group of molds is pretty strong and can cause damage that goes way beyond the skin. They can grow in a human body system irrespective of the state of such person’s immune system.
Some deep organ mycoses causing pathogenic mold include aspergillus flavus, histoplasma capsulatum and penicillium marneffei (source).
3. Toxicogenic Mold
This kind of mold are the most dangerous and are sometimes just referred to as toxic mold.
While people who are susceptible to the previously discussed molds are more susceptible to toxicogenic mold, nobody is exempted from the harm that toxicogenic mold offers.
It gives off chemicals referred to as mycotoxins which happen to be pretty deadly and, according to Bust Mold, are dangerous enough to be used in biochemical weapons (source).
Toxicogenic molds are very easily spread as they can get into their host via inhalation, ingestion and touch.
Some types of toxicogenic mold include:
This mold is black in color and has been known to cause the lungs of both animals and humans to bleed. The major problem with this is that it isn’t easy to detect. You’d usually find it hiding under ceilings and behind walls.
Effects: Causes lungs to bleed.
In listing aspergillus as an allergenic mold, we mentioned that it has the potential to be toxic. This is because aspergillus releases mycotoxins and we already know how dangerous mycotoxins can be.
This one looks like stachbotrys and has the same effect on humans. The basic difference between the two is in how their spores are released; those of stachbotrys are released in clumps while those of memnoniella are released as chains.
This one is the opposite of memnoniella and stachbotrys in appearance in that it is white and powdery. It grows pretty fast and can grow pretty much anywhere and under any climatic condition. Its primary mode of transportation is air.
Effects: It has been known to cause some pulmonary infections and tuberculosis.
Another allergenic mold we mentioned is potentially toxic is trichoderma. It is white in color and usually thrives in wet places.
Effects: It has been known to cause pulmonary and liver infections. Also, it contains some enzymes that could cause the destruction of paper and wood products (source).
Possible Mold Spots In Your Home
Generally, mold will grow in a place that is wet or dry. So, if you are thinking of where mold could potentially be in and around your home, you want to consider places where there is water including your kitchen, bathroom/toilet, laundry room and even small dark places.
That said, you’ll want to bear in mind that there are different kinds of molds as we have already mentioned and they usually cling to different things.
Some molds grow on wood and so you might find them on doors, wooden floors and such. Others you might find on walls. And there are those that cling to fabric, floor coverings and even mattresses.
Preventing The Growth Of Mold
While we are here to help you find solution to your mold problem, we think it appropriate to provide information on how to prevent a mold infestation in the first place.
This way, when you get rid of the mold problem, you’ll be able to stop a resurgence. We’ll provide these tips based on the different areas in the house that mold can grow.
Around The Home
First off, to reduce the moisture in the air, you want to invest in some dehumidifiers in addition to your air conditioners. This is especially important if you live in a hot climate.
Your air conditioner pans should be regularly emptied of water so that they do not form a breeding ground for mold.
You might also want to invest in a hygrometer. The idea for this is to be able to measure how much moisture is in the air. This way, you can control how much moisture is in the air by manipulating the dehumidifier. You want to go for something below 60%.
Be particular about air circulation. Open windows and vents so that your home is not too hot. The fresh air could also help kill mold.
You could also try to insulate certain areas in your home that are prone to cold such as the exterior walls,
Be sure to fix leaks in your roof, on your floors and walls. Basically, plug any unnecessary hole through which water can gain access indoors.
Finally, if your home has just been affected by a flood, be sure to clean up and dry out the entire space as quickly as possible.
If there is anything that cannot get dry between 24 and 48 hours, you might want to consider discarding it as it will most likely form a breeding ground for mold.
First off, you want to make sure that those places are dry. So, if water always flows through that place, be sure to constantly dry it off.
You could place a kind of plastic covering on the ground to keep out the moisture that comes from above and below the ground too.
Ventilation is also very important in these places; doubly so because of how tight the space is.
Be sure to plug the leaks in walls or ceilings. If you are working with a basement, you want to check for those places where the plumbing is at. Be sure that the plumbing is intact and there are no leaks at all.
If it is the attic, you want to be particular about the ceilings and the floors. Water could come into the attic through the ceiling and into your home from the attic through the floors. So, be sure that there are no leaks.
You want to do a periodic check of the taps, pipes and overall drainage system in your kitchen. Be sure that there are no leaks and if there are, fix them.
Always turn off your taps securely. Make sure your tap does not continuously drip as those drips will make your sink continuously wet, making it a breeding ground for mold.
When you cook or clean in the kitchen, make sure to open windows so that the atmospheric moisture can escape. You might want to invest in an exhaust fan or two to expedite this escape.
Your refrigerator is another thing you want to pay attention to. Be sure that any liquid thing in it is put in an airtight container. You also want to periodically empty the drip pans.
The bathroom is like the citadel of water in a home which makes it a bit more susceptible to harboring mold than basically any other room in the house. So, you want to periodically check the sinks and bathtubs for leaks and fix them if there are any.
Also, carpeting the entire floor of your bathroom might not be an awesome idea seeing as water can enter beneath the carpet, which makes a good breeding ground for mold. Worse still, it is not easily detected seeing as it is covered.
Tiles might actually be a better idea because you can easily spot when they are wet as they do not soak up the water.
Do not leave any wet or damp things lying around; air them out to dry.
Finally, maybe you are trying to discourage creepers by closing your bathroom windows when you shower but it is actually a better idea to leave them open; especially as regards mold. If the window is open, excess moisture in the air can easily escape.
This is another place where a lot of water is used so, be sure to always clean up spills.
Be careful not to leave your wet clothes in the washer or the dryer. If your clothes are washed move them to dry and if they are in the dryer make sure they are drying and not just sitting there.
Also, make sure that you vent your dryer outside. Preferably, wherever you vent your dryer to should be exposed to sunlight. This is because you want the moisture coming out of the dryer to be quickly dried up by the sun before that area becomes a breeding ground for mold (source).
Getting Rid Of Mold
You are probably here because there is already mold somewhere in your home. We have to first say, that in a good number of situations, it is actually advisable that you call a professional.
In the very next section, we help you see when it is advisable to seek professional help. But for this section, let’s look at what you can do by yourself.
Generally, when getting rid of mold, one of the primary things you want to do is open the windows and doors as many as and as long as possible. You need the air so that you are not saturated with all the chemicals that molds give off.
You also want to leave the place aired out when you’ve gotten the mold out.
Also, protect yourself. Wear gloves and a protective mask; paying attention to your oral and nasal cavities.
A good number of times, you can do without bleach. However, if you do want to use bleach, remember how sensitive it is to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines to the latter.
Your disgust for mold might tempt you into trying to get rid of it using a mixture of bleach and some other cleaning agents. However, you do not want to do that as that mixture produces some really dangerous toxins.
Be careful! If you’ve found mold somewhere, there might be mold somewhere else because mold tends to spread really quickly. So, check to be sure that nowhere else is infested.
Now, let us look at things a bit more specifically.
If you’ve noticed mold on any of your wooden surfaces, you could start out by vacuuming it to get rid of the mold. It is advisable to use a HEPA vacuum cleaner.
HEPA is basically an air filtration design that some vacuum cleaners use. So, using a HEPA vacuum cleaner helps to rid the air of the spores that are released as you try to get rid of the mold.
A HEPA vacuum cleaner is also is also something to consider using around your house if you (or someone in your home) has allergies or respiratory issues.
When you’re done vacuuming, wash the place with a bit of water and unscented soap. You want to wash it to rid the wall of stains and you want to use unscented soap because scented soap will mask the scent of the mold, preventing you from knowing whether you’ve gotten rid of the moldy smell or not.
You could also use a HEPA vacuum cleaner to get rid of mold on concrete surfaces if said mold is dry.
However, because moisture can seep through concrete, you might want to try some sort of phosphate mixture to actually get rid of the mold.
What you want to do, if you are going with the phosphate mixture is spread it all over the mold-area and leave for about 15 minutes. When that is done, be careful to rinse it out thoroughly.
Be careful that this mixture doesn’t come in contact with your skin or eyes as it could be dangerous.
Tiles, Stoneware And Other Impermeable Surfaces
Scrub the affected area thoroughly. Preferably, use unscented soap so that the soap doesn’t mask the smell of the mold and you’ll be sure of when you’ve gotten rid of it.
When you’re done washing, be sure to dry it out immediately to prevent mold from growing in that same spot again.
Mattresses, Sofas And Other Permeable Surfaces
Most permeable materials are as good as done when they’ve been infested by mold. Instead of trying to reuse the material by getting rid of the mold, consider disposing off said material.
To do that, wrap in a plastic bag, bearing in mind that mold reproduces and spreads on contact (source).
Thinking About Calling A Professional
While, we have given all these useful tips on getting rid of mold on your own, we think that sometimes (maybe a good number of the times), it is best to call a professional.
Remember that a good number of the molds we mentioned are toxic and cause adverse effects. And even those ones that aren’t, still have some negative side effects.
You can take care of the problem yourself. However, you want to call a professional if:
- The portion infested is quite large.
- You are able to identify it as a toxic mold.
- You are not sure what kind of mold it is.
- You (or someone in your home) have allergies or asthma.
- You (or someone in your home) have a compromised immune system.
- You’ve tried taking care of it before and it has reappeared.
- You’ve begun to notice mold after your house was just recently flooded.
Taking care of mold could be easy if you know what to do. However, it is somewhat a gamble seeing as a good number of molds look alike and identifying which is toxic and which isn’t could be an uphill task.
That said, if we could summarize the tips you need to bear in mind we would say, attack with a HEPA vacuum cleaner if you are in optimal health and the portion infested is small. But stay away and call a professional if otherwise.