Quelling Household Mold Mania
Mold: it’s as old as the Earth and it’s everywhere. And under the right—or should we say wrong—set of conditions, it can actually start to grow—gasp—inside your house. In most cases, this is not cause for alarm. First, start by getting the facts. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) has developed the consumer web site, www.MoldTips.com, to debunk mold misinformation and provide consumers with sound, practical advice on identifying, preventing and cleaning up household mold.
First of all, where does mold come from? Mold spores are everywhere around us and are too small to detect with the naked eye—we cannot avoid being exposed to them. Mold spores travel in the air and attach to people’s skin, clothing, shoes, shopping bags and belongings. Mold is simply a part of our natural environment. Once spores enter your home, they can settle onto carpeting, upholstery, curtains and other fabric. While you cannot keep spores out of your home entirely, regular home cleaning and maintenance often can prevent mold problems before they arise.
Mold is most likely to find a place to grow in a bathroom, basement or kitchen and seeks moisture, warmth and food—the three conditions necessary for it to grow. The climate where you live and the living habits in your household can affect the ability of mold to grow as well.
Be mindful that mold spores can thrive in areas of your home that have had flooding or where leakage has occurred in roofs, pipes, or walls, or areas around house plants, especially ones that sometimes are over-watered. If you’re concerned about possible mold growth, pay close attention to keeping these areas as dry as possible, and periodically check the potential trouble spots to prevent or clean up any budding mold growth. These tips may help you get started:
- Vacuum and clean regularly to remove possible sources of mold growth. Pay special attention to areas of your home that are likely to generate a lot of moisture.
- In portions of your home that are susceptible to moisture, use area rugs or washable floor surfaces rather than wall-to-wall carpeting. If you use area rugs, launder them periodically.
- Do not store materials such as paper, books, clothes, or other possible sources of food for mold in humid parts of your home.
- Repair water leaks in your roof, windows, or any other part of the home as soon as possible.
- Clean refrigerator drip pans regularly according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If your refrigerator and freezer doors do not seal properly, moisture can build up and mold can flourish. Remove any mold on the door gaskets and replace faulty gaskets.
- If you live in a house, make sure that your gutters and downspouts are clear of debris that may block the flow of water from your roof. Properly grade the area under your downspouts, so that rainwater from the roof flows away from your foundation. Splash blocks can help rainwater flow in the proper direction. If necessary, extend your downspouts.
- Check the grading of other areas around your foundation, so that rainwater does not flow toward the house.
- Plant gardens and shrubs away from your foundation, so that water does not flow toward your house when watering them. If you water your lawn with a sprinkler, make sure the water does not hit your house or the area next to the foundation.
- In the kitchen and bathroom, open windows or use exhaust fans when engaging in activities that produce moisture. Exhaust fans should be vented to the outdoors and not to an attic or crawl space.
- Make sure that clothing dryers are vented to the outdoors.
- If you use a humidifier, check that it does not produce an excessive amount of humidity. Read the manufacturers directions for proper use.
- Consider using a dehumidifier if you have a basement. The cool basement floor and walls can be a source of moisture build-up.
- Properly insulate and ventilate the attic of your home.
- If you have a crawl space under your house, cover the soil in the crawl space with waterproof polyethylene plastic. If your crawl space is ventilated, close the vents in the summer and keep them open in the winter.
- Clean up and correct any water problems in your basement or crawl space as quickly as possible.
Mold growth in your home is a problem—but it is one that swiftly should and can be addressed and resolved by homeowners themselves or with the assistance of professionals. For more information about preventing and cleaning up household mold, visit www.MoldTips.com, a consumer information web site provided in English and Spanish by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).