What do molds need for growth?
Only two things: food and moisture. There are molds that specialize in
eating just about every possible type of organic material. When provided with
suitable food (for example, a ceiling tile or some drywall) and moisture (in the
form of very high humidity, condensation or water from a leaking pipe), some
fungi will gladly set up housekeeping and begin to grow.
How do I look for molds in my home?
The keys are your eyes and nose. If you smell a moldy, musty or earthy
odor, a fungus may be present. Or if you see a dark discoloration that is fuzzy
and expanding, it is likely produced by mold growth. Look especially closely
at areas that have been damaged by water. Molds can be many different colors, but most are green to black. Once you have found a spot of mold on the
floor, wall or ceiling, keep in mind that there may well be mold growth that
you can’t see. Molds often grow behind walls, under floor tiles or on the top
(back) of ceiling tiles.
Should I have my home tested for molds?
Professionals can culture your air and walls for fungi. However, this may
not be necessary. First, these cultures will always be positive. Molds are
simply everywhere, and, short of very specialized and highly filtered clean-room environments, it is not possible to eliminate them. Second, molds are
a problem only if you can see or smell them.
OK, I’ve got mold here. How do I clean it up?
Even before cleaning it up, you need to think about why it got there to
begin with. The key is always moisture: Where did it come from? While the
steps listed in the sidebar will get rid of your current mold infestation, mold
will absolutely return if you don’t eliminate the source(s) of moisture.
How do I keep mold from coming back?
Again, moisture is the key. As long as the moisture content is low, the
fungus can’t grow. Fix the leak and keep things dry. You also want to keep the
indoor relative humidity at 30 to 60 percent or (even better) 30 to 50 percent.
If you are dealing with surfaces that are consistently moist due to condensation, you might want to try two approaches. First, try to eliminate the
condensation. Second, consider treating the surface with paint containing
inhibitors to prevent mold growth. A
1. Wear gloves and a good-quality
mask rated N95 or better.
2. Dried molds are easily scattered,
whereas wet molds are sticky and will
stay put. This may mean that, yes, you
are going to remoisten at least the surface of the contaminated material with
water or disinfectant; the fungal spores
will be spread less easily if they are
dampened before being wiped away.
3. Truly porous materials (drywall,
ceiling tiles) will have fungus that has
deeply penetrated their surfaces. These
materials must be discarded. Cloth-covered furniture can sometimes be
cleaned using a high-efficiency vacuum
process (referred to as HEPA vacuuming),
but this is expensive, and simply discarding the furniture may make more sense.
Semi-porous materials (concrete, wood)
may have varying levels of fungal penetration. These can sometimes (but not
always) be cleaned. Non-porous materials (plastics) usually have only surface
contamination and are readily cleaned.
4. Bag and discard grossly infested
materials such as drywall. It is often
suggested that you remove a 12-inch
rim of clean, unaffected material beyond
the damaged area. Contaminated carpet
is almost impossible to clean, and
discarding it is the easiest solution.
5. Allow the area to dry.
6. Clean the surface with a standard detergent.
7. Your surface(s) should now be
clean, dry and free of mold. You might
want to check back later on to be sure
the cleaned area is still mold free and
that no moisture is accumulating.
For extensive contamination, hire
a professional firm that specializes in
dealing with this problem.
www.doctorfungus.org © 2007