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Mold: How to Know When You Have a True Problem in Your Home

Person wearing rubber gloves scrubbing the tile with a sponge If you or any of your family members are experiencing cold-like symptoms on a regular basis, it might be time to have your house checked for mold, especially if the symptoms go away when you are not at home.

Common reactions to mold include the same symptoms as a cold or allergies. Such symptoms as sneezing, a runny nose, watery eyes, or nasal congestion can mean the presence of mold growing somewhere in your home.

Mold and mildew are types of fungi. Mold reaches below the surface of materials, while mildew grows on top. Mold is tougher to kill and can cause more illnesses than mildew. Both can spread easily and usually are found where there is water or moisture. Mold grows on plants, walls, floors, and roofs, and it is often found in dark or damp areas like a bathroom, attic or basement. It can be many different colors, while mildew often appears to be white, gray or light brown with a powdery look to it.

Although “toxic mold” is a misleading term, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some molds do produce toxic substances called mycotoxins. Mildew, while it may look unpleasant to the eye, should have no effect on anyone’s health.

Here Are Some Things You Can Do to Prevent the Growth of Mold and Mildew

  • Make sure your home has good ventilation. Open windows or run a fan when you can. Look for condensation build-up along window sills, around appliances or any place where cold air may leak into the home.
  • Mold has a tendency to show up in places where there is moisture, heat, dampness, and darkness, so keep these areas to a minimum in your home.
  • Fix leaky pipes, faucets, sinks, roofs, gutters, and toilets. Make note of any place in your home where rain or moisture can enter in, and repair the area before it becomes a problem.
  • Eliminate dampness in the bathroom. Bathing or showering leaves enough moisture to encourage mildew to move in. Turn on a fan or open a window to allow for ventilation during bathing or showering. Purchase a shower curtain that is resistant to mold and mildew.
  • Use an air conditioner or dehumidifier to keep your house free of humidity.
  • Let the light in – install a skylight or open drapes.
  • Make cleaning with bleach part of your routine. Spray your shower or tub, problem areas, appliances and floors with a commercial spray that contains bleach or another mold- and mildew-fighting agent.
  • To eliminate small areas of mold, there are a variety of products available. Products that include bleach, vinegar, or hydrogen peroxide are best. Be sure to follow the instructions on the label. Do your research on eliminating mold in the home.

Call in a Professional When

  • Cleaning methods do not eliminate the mold.
  • You have an area of mold that is larger than 10 square feet. That could indicate more areas of mold you might not be able to see.
  • The mold has spread into walls and insulation.
  • You suspect that the heating/ventilation/air conditioning (HVAC) system may be contaminated with mold.

If you see evidence of long-term water problems like water stains, discolored walls, floors or ceilings, peeling or cracking paint, damp walls or surfaces, check it out immediately. Mold grows where moisture is present, and it may have developed after a past leak, a flood in your home, hard rain or snowfall, condensation on windows, rusted pipes or high humidity. Do annual mold inspections, especially if you have children or elderly adults living in your home that are prone to being sick.

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