Recent Mold Remediation Posts
How to Prevent Mold Growth in the Winter
Mold spores are all around us, but the growth of mold can be prevented.
Mold needs moisture, warmth, and food in order to grow in your home. When you deprive mold of moisture, warmth, and food, you will stop it from growing, but you won’t kill the mold that is already there. The mold spores will stay dormant and start growing again if they get moisture, warmth, and food. So, it’s important to prevent mold from growing in the first place.
If you live in a climate where you need to heat your home frequently, mold can start growing in the winter on your home’s inside walls, especially on the surfaces closest to the outside of your home. Moisture that travels through the air from your basement, bathrooms, or kitchen may condense when it comes in contact with a cold wall. One thing you can do to prevent mold growth is make sure your walls are well-insulated. Well-insulated walls can prevent condensation and mold, as well as cut down on your heating and cooling bills.
Here are some other steps you can take to prevent mold growth during the winter:During the cold season, make sure that your indoor humidity level is below forty percent. If you use a humidifier, as many of us do in the winter, make sure it does not produce an excessive amount of humidity.Remove possible sources of mold growth by regularly vacuuming and cleaning. Pay close attention to bathrooms and other areas of your home that are likely to generate a lot of moisture.Use area rugs or washable floor surfaces rather than wall-to-wall carpeting in areas or rooms that have a moisture issue. It’s not usually a great idea to have carpeting in your entryway, for instance, if you live in a cooler, wet climate.Paper, books, and clothing are sources of food for mold, so don’t store them in humid parts of your home, such as your basement, especially close to the floor or walls.Leaks in your roof or windows need to be repaired as soon as possible.Make sure that your gutters and downspouts are clean and that the area under your downspouts is graded so that water from the roof flows away from your foundation. If necessary, extend your downspouts.In the bathroom and kitchen, use exhaust fans or open windows when producing moisture, such as taking a hot shower. Exhaust fans should be vented to the outdoors and not to an attic or crawl space.Make sure your clothes dryer is vented to the outdoors.Consider getting a dehumidifier for your basement. The cool basement floor and walls can be a source of moisture build-up, and a dehumidifier will control the humidity level and make it harder for mold to start growing.Make sure your attic is well insulated and ventilated.If you have a crawl space under your house, cover the soil in the crawl space with waterproof polyethylene plastic, also called a vapor barrier. If your crawl space has vents, close the vents in the summer and keep them open in the winter.If you have water problems in your basement or crawl space, clean up affected areas as quickly as possible and call an expert.
How to Tell if it’s Black Mold?
Since many types of mold can cause reactions, you should contact SERVPRO regardless of the color or type of mold. In many instances, multiple types of mold may exist in the same house or structure. If you suspect you have a mold problem, contact SERVPRO immediately.
If You See Signs of Mold, Call Us Today
When water intrudes into your property, mold growth can start in as little as 48 hours.
Consider the following mold facts:
- Mold is present almost everywhere, indoors and outdoors.
- Mold spores are microscopic, float along in the air, and may enter your home through windows, doors, or AC/heating systems or even become ingrained in your clothing or a pet's fur.
- Mold spores thrive on moisture and can quickly grow into colonies when exposed to water.
- Before mold remediation can begin, any sources of water or moisture must be cleaned and dried to an acceptable level; otherwise, the mold may return.
- Mold often produces a strong, musty odor, and that odor can lead to possible mold problem areas.
- Even higher-than-normal indoor humidity can support mold growth. Keep indoor humidity below 45 percent.
What is Mold?
Molds, mushrooms, mildews, and yeasts are all classified as fungi, a kingdom of organisms distinct from plants and animals. Fungi differ from plants and animals in several respects. Unlike animals, fungi have cell walls. However, unlike plants, which also have cell walls, fungal cell walls are made mostly of chitin and glucan. Fungi cannot produce their own nutrients as plants do through photosynthesis. Fungi secrete enzymes that digest the material in which the fungi are embedded and absorb the released nutrients. Multicellular fungi do not differentiate into different organs or functional components the way plants and animals do.
Approximately 100,000 species of fungi exists; fewer than 500 fungal species have been described as human pathogens that can cause infections. Visible growth of multicellular fungi consisting of branching filamentous structures (mycelia) are known popularly as molds.
Molds are ubiquitous in nature and grow almost anywhere indoors or outdoors. The overall diversity of fungi is considerable. Molds spread and reproduce by making spores, which are small and lightweight, able to travel through air, capable of resisting dry, adverse environmental conditions, and capable of surviving a long time. The filamentous parts of mold (hyphae) form a network called mycelium, which is observed when a mold is growing on a nutrient source. Although these mycelia are usually firmly attached to whatever the mold is growing on, they can break off, and persons can be exposed to fungal fragments. Some micro-organisms, including molds, also produce characteristic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or microbial VOCs (mVOCs). Molds also contain substances known as beta glucans; mVOCs and beta glucans might be useful as markers of exposure to molds.
Some molds are capable of producing toxins (sometimes called mycotoxins) under specific environmental conditions, such as competition from other organisms or changes in the moisture or available nutrient supply. Molds capable of producing toxins are popularly known as toxigenic molds; however, use of this term is discouraged because even molds known to produce toxins can grow without producing them. Many fungi are capable of toxin production, and different fungi can produce the same toxin.
Air Conditioners can Help to Prevent Mold
HOW A/C CAN PREVENT MOLD GROWTH IN HUMID CLIMATES
The temperature in your home can affect you and your family’s comfort level tremendously, especially if you live in states with hot, humid summers like Northern Virginia. However, living in such climates could have other consequences for your home and family, as humidity can contribute to mold growth. Fortunately, your air conditioner can prevent the growth of this fungus, while also keeping you cool.
HOW TEMPERATURES AND HUMIDITY CONTRIBUTE TO MOLD GROWTH
Mold needs certain conditions to grow, and unfortunately for those who live in hot and humid places like Maryland in the summer, the heat plus the humidity create a moist environment where mold and dust mites thrive, notes RSI. While the various types of mold have different minimum, optimum, and maximum temperature ranges for growth, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services indicates that many kinds of mold will grow well when conditions are between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit—the same temperature range we’re often comfortable in. Combine these temperatures with excessive moisture and you could have a mold problem in your home.
HEALTH PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH MOLD
While some people may not experience any reaction to mold, others can be highly sensitive. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that mold exposure can lead to itchy or irritated eyes, wheezing, coughing, skin irritation, stuffy nose, and sore throat for people with a mold allergy. Those who are immune-compromised or who have chronic lung illness may develop a serious lung infection from mold. Mold can also trigger asthma symptoms in individuals who suffer from the condition.
HOW AIR CONDITIONING CAN PREVENT MOLD GROWTH
Your air conditioner can control the temperature and humidity in your home, which can prevent mold growth. During the hot, humid summer months, set your air conditioner to between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. The relative humidity in your house should not exceed 50 percent. While most modern air conditioners dehumidify as they cool, they do not independently control both temperature and humidity, so you may want to purchase a stand-alone dehumidifier for when conditions are especially humid, according to the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).
Other tips for using your A/C to prevent mold include setting your A/C’s fan mode to auto because setting it to “on” can cause moisture produced during the air conditioning process to be blown back into your home, reports the Florida Solar Energy Center. If possible, you’ll want to disable this feature completely to maximize dehumidification, which can be done by a skilled HVAC professional. The servicemen will be able to set it up so the blower and compressor turn off at the same time.
Additionally, when you purchase an air conditioner, you should get one that has enhanced moisture removal. These units have a SEER of 14 or more. Make sure you buy one that’s the size you need. One that’s too big will fail to effectively remove humidity because the unit doesn’t reach its full capacity in the first three minutes of operation. When the system is oversized, it has a shorter on-cycle and therefore a shorter amount of time when moisture is removed.
MAINTENANCE IS KEY TO AN EFFECTIVE AIR CONDITIONER
Neglecting to regularly maintenance your air conditioner can prevent it from working effectively, which can lead to mold growth. For instance, the system can become clogged if air filters are not changed regularly, causing airflow to be obstructed. Filters should be cleaned or replaced at least once a month during the summer. You’ll want to call an HVAC technician once a year. A service professional can handle more complex maintenance, such as cleaning coils and checking that the condensation drains properly and that drain pains are free of mold. Simple precautions like these can prevent the cost of mold removal, as well as major repairs to your air conditioner.
Preventing Mold in the Winter
The wet season in the winter months is one of the best times of year for molds to grow and expand. Often mold is contained near sources of water where it can easily grow and reproduce. As it grows, mold can breakdown and compromise the integrity and strength of the source in which it lives.
Mold spores are microscopic and are naturally found in the air we breathe indoors and outdoors. When large amounts of spores grow, one’s health may be compromised. Mold can be killed, but if it is not removed properly, it can remain in the area just cleaned and the dry spores can be released into the air. Mold remediation services can help eliminate the mold in your home and personal items affected by water damage.
Prevention, however, is what will help keep your lungs healthy and homes and buildings strong. We’ve put together a few tips on how you can help thwart mold from infesting your home that are efficient and realistic:
General Home and Building Maintenance:
- Keep all areas clean.
- Make sure there is good air circulation. Use an exhaust fan or open a window when showering, cooking, and washing the dishes.
- Prevent mold and water damage by turning off the water flow to broken appliances and pipes.
- Replace cracked or defective mortar in basements. If you find your basement is wet or has water leaking into it, inspect the outside drainage systems.
- Spread moisture-barrier materials in crawl spaces over the soil. Heavy roofing paper or plastic film made of polyethylene can be used for this. Make sure there is good ventilation in the crawl space and, if possible, do not enclose it. One may need to use a fan to blow out humid air from under the building.
- One can get rid of humidity or dampness within a building by heating it for a short time. After heating, open up the doors and windows, or use an exhaust fan, to let out the air that is moist.
- If there are freezing temperatures, take measures to insulate pipes inside and out to ensure they will not crack and/or burst.
- Make sure all the seals on the windows and doors are not compromised and in good-working condition.
- Clean and repair roof gutters regularly.
- Make sure the ground around your building slopes away from the foundation so water does not collect around or enter in to it.
- Act quickly if you see condensation on windows, pipes, or walls inside a building. Dry out the area and determine if the source of the condensation is from a leak or the result of high humidity.
Mold and You
Mold is a family of organisms that are found throughout nature. Unlike plants, mold needs food and water sources in order to thrive. This food source is often in the form of a carbohydrate material, such as wood or cellulose.
Mold grows in units called mycelium and reproduce through the formation of spores. Spores frequently become airborne, and like pollen can cause allergic disease.
What Types of Diseases Can Mold Cause?
Mold has well-known associations with human disease. People can develop fungal infections of various types, especially those with poorly functioning immune systems. Fungi are also known to produce toxins, which have been blamed for causing various diseases.
Molds can also cause severe immune reactions as a result of colonizing (living in, but not causing an actual infection) the lungs (hypersensitivity pneumonitis) and the sinuses. Molds are also well known to cause various allergic diseases, such as allergic rhinitis and allergic asthma.
Which Molds are Known to Cause Allergies?
There are thousands of types of mold, however, only a few of these are currently available for allergy testing. The following are the most likely causes of allergic disease based on the types of mold spores collected in the air:
- Alternaria is a common outdoor mold; allergy to this mold can be associated with severe asthma.
- Cladosporium is the most common airborne outdoor mold.
- Aspergillus is a common indoor and outdoor mold; also associated with allergic
- Penicillium is a common indoor mold; allergy to which is not associated with antibiotic allergy.
- Helminthosporum is more commonly found in warmer climates.
- Epicoccum is found in grassland and agricultural areas.
- Fusarium is a commonly found on rotting plants.
- Aureobasidium is a common outdoor mold, commonly found on paper, lumber and painted surfaces.
- Phoma is an outdoor mold, especially common during wet periods.
- Smuts are abundantly found in areas of agriculture.
- Rhizopus and Mucor are commonly found on decaying leaves and damp indoor areas. Airborne forms of these molds are less common.
- Yeasts are commonly found in the air during wet periods in agricultural areas. Allergic disease to Candida albicans is controversial, despite some people having positive allergy testing to this type of mold.
What Times of the Year Does Mold Allergy Occur?
In colder climates, molds can be found in the outdoor air starting in the late winter and peaking in the late summer to early fall months (July to October). In warmer climates, mold spores may be found throughout the year, with the highest levels found in the late summer to early fall months.
While indoor molds can occur year-round and are dependent on moisture levels in the home, indoor mold levels are higher when outdoor mold levels are higher. Therefore, a common source of indoor mold is from the outside environment, although can also be from indoor mold contamination.
What Measures Can Be Used to Decrease Indoor Mold Levels?
- Prevent outdoor molds from entering the home by keeping doors and windows closed and using air conditioning equipped with allergen-grade air filters
- Control indoor moisture with the use of dehumidifiers
- Fix water leaks in bathrooms, kitchens, and basements
- Ensure adequate ventilation of moist areas
- Clean (or replace) contaminated surfaces with diluted a chlorine bleach solution (one part household bleach in 9 parts water), while using proper protective gear (mask and goggles)
- Utilize HEPA-filters on vacuums or as a stand-alone air filter
- Limit indoor houseplants, and ensure those that are present are free of mold on leaves and in potting soil
For more information: https://www.verywellhealth.com/mold-allergy-83231