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How to Get Rid of Mold in Your Home

Posted on January 11, 2014 by Rachel Tardif There have been 1 comment(s)

What Is Mold?
 
Mold is the common term used to describe a variety of microscopic fungi that play an important role in breaking down organic material. It can be found everywhere, from the pile of leaves rotting in your yard to the fuzzy old bread on your counter, and is a natural and necessary part of any ecosystem. There are also a number of commercial uses for mold: many drugs, including penicillin and some cholesterol lowering drugs, are derived from mold while cheese and fermented soy products like tempeh and soy sauce are all made using molds.
 
Most molds flourish in warm, wet environments. Indoors, this means mold is most likely to be found on surfaces that remain damp for long periods of time. Common places to find mold included behind appliances like refrigerators and air conditioners, around leaky windows, doors, or pipes, and in poorly ventilated bathrooms where steam builds up. Mold is also very common after flooding.
 
It can sometimes be difficult to differentiate mold from other types of stains, but in general large mold colonies will have a fuzzy texture and can present in a range of colors from black to yellow to white. Some molds also have a distinctive earthy smell. If you are unsure about possible mold in your home, you can use a mold test kit.
 
Is It Dangerous?
 
Molds reproduce using spores – reproductive cells that are small and light enough to float through the air. These spores can be responsible for an array of health conditions: high concentrations of mold spores can aggravate asthma and will trigger allergic reactions in many people. Mold allergy symptoms include headaches, sinus congestion, rashes, and general respiratory symptoms like sneezing and coughing.
 
Molds also produce mycotoxins, a family of toxic chemicals with a wide range of effects, although most well-researched mycotoxins are food contaminants that only pose a health hazard when ingested. For example, the disease historically known as St. Anthony’s Fire is caused by the mycotoxin ergot, which attacks the nervous system and is found on cereal grains, while aflatoxins are a potent carcinogen associated with tropical species like maize and peanuts. Less is known about the effects of mycotoxins as an indoor air pollutant, although they have been linked to sick building syndrome.
 
Immuno-compromised individuals are at a greater risk for mold-related health problems and particularly for fungal infections. Spores may infect the sinuses, digestive tract, lung, or skin and can cause life-threatening illnesses.
 
How Do I Get Rid of It?
 
Most mold can be removed from hard surfaces with simple soap and water (be sure to use an eco-friendly cleaner to avoid introducing hazardous chemicals into your home), but it’s important to do a complete and thorough job to ensure your mold problem doesn’t return. Here’s how to safely get rid of mold in your home in five easy steps.
 
1. Take it outside

The first step in cleaning any moldy item is to take it outside. Mold spreads through microscopic particles called spores, and if you attempt to clean mold indoors you’re likely to spread these spores onto other surfaces in your home. Instead, when possible, moldy items like furniture, fabrics, or papers should be taken outside and brushed to remove as much mold as possible. Any porous surfaces that become infected with mold will need to be thrown out and replaced. This includes upholstery, untreated wood, and carpets.
 
2. Cover up

Airborne spores are the source of most mold allergies, and agitating mold while you clean releases millions of these spores into the air around you. You can help keep yourself safe while cleaning mold by covering your mouth and nose with a mask and wearing gloves. If you have mold on indoor household surfaces like walls or tile, be sure to cover the surrounding areas before you clean to help prevent the spread of spores through the rest of your house.
 
3. Avoid chlorine bleach

It may be tempting to reach for regular bleach when you’re trying to get rid of mold, but there are plenty of green cleaners out there that can do the job just as well. A simple, homemade mixture of vinegar and water will get rid of most household molds and is especially good for soaking moldy fabrics. You can also use non-toxic cleansers like an enzyme-based mold cleaner or a biodegradable mold and mildew remover. No matter which cleaner you chose, you’ll want to scrub the affected area thoroughly and always make sure its dries completely. For carpets and upholstered furniture, a steam cleaning vacuum used with carpet shampoo is the best way to ensure you’ve gotten rid of all the mold and spores. Again, be sure to dry the cleaned area thoroughly to prevent the mold from regrowing.
 
4. Make sure it doesn’t come back

Once the mold is gone you’ll want to make sure it never comes back. All mold needs moisture to thrive, so stay vigilant in areas of your home that are frequently damp such as bathroom walls and around appliances. You can apply a mold and mildew shield in those areas to help keep the mold away or use a dehumidifier to keep your home dry. Also be sure to seal leaky pipes and cracks around doors and windows to keep moisture out.

Mold spores are a common indoor air pollutant and can stick around after you’ve cleaned up the surfaces in your home. To keep mold spores from causing further problems, use HEPA or other filters that can remove smaller particles (mold spores are very small – most range from 3 to 100 microns in length – so they may not be captured by regular air conditioner or furnace filters). You can also use an air purifier to remove mold spores from the air.
 
5. When it doubt, get help

Mold can be a serious home contaminant, so you should always be careful when cleaning. If you aren’t sure whether you have a mold problem, use a mold test kit to determine whether extra precautions are necessary. And if you find areas of mold in your home that are too large to clean on your own or if you have a persistent mold problem, contact a mold removal professional who can help you assess the damage and clean safely.


This post was posted in Blog and Green Library, Fighting Allergies, Health and Safety and was tagged with bio-based cleaners, Eco Home Improvement, HEALTH SENSITIVE, NON-TOXIC

1 Response to How to Get Rid of Mold in Your Home

  • Molds are fungi that are found almost everywhere, inside and outdoors, year round. Molds act as nature’s decomposers, breaking down organic matter, and can be various colors including white, orange, green, or black. Molds reproduce by releasing microscopic spores into the air, which can enter homes through windows, doors, cracks, and vents.

    Sensitivity to mold varies from person to person. One person may react severely to levels that cause no symptoms in another person. In general, the following groups are most susceptible to mold:

    • Infants and children.
    • The elderly.
    • Immune compromised individuals.
    • People with respiratory problems such
    as allergies and asthma

    Posted on September 4, 2016 at 4:40 am

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