Mold is the leading source of health-related housing complaints and questions in Linn County. Mold can affect your family's health, especially if someone in the home has asthma or other respiratory diseases.
Mold is not a disease that your house catches, despite what you may have seen on TV. Mold is naturally in our environment and helps break down organic material outdoors. Molds indoors should be avoided. The key to avoiding mold in an indoor environment is controlling moisture. When the moisture problems are eliminated, mold can be cleaned up and it won't come back (as long as the moisture problem is repaired or controlled.)
How can I tell if I have mold?
Molds are abundant in our environment and are usually not a problem indoors unless they land on a wet or damp surface. Other conditions that support mold growth is indoor humidity. Mold requires a moisture source to grow. The key to mold control is moisture control. Mold spores may grow when they land on surfaces that are wet. There are hundreds of types of mold and none of them will grow without a moisture source. If you have moisture sources that are not dried within 24-48 hours you likely have some mold growth.
How do I control moisture?
- When water leaks occur, ACT QUICKLY. Molds needs 24-48 hours to grow and if material and surfaces are dried within this time frame mold may not grow.
- Make sure your home's gutters and downspouts are working correctly and water is directed away from your home's foundation. Gutters that have not been cleaned can contribute to moisture and water infiltration in basements. Extend your downspouts at least 4-6 feet from your foundation and make sure you return them to their original location after you mow the yard.
- The soil or ground surface around your home should slope away from your foundation. You do not want water to collect around your foundation.
- Maintain your plumbing system and repair any leaks immediately.
- Maintain your roofing system
- Air conditioning units that drip should be sloped and drained away from the home.
- Control indoor humidity, we recommend between 30 and 50 percent. Humidity levels above 60 percent can support mold growth and increase dust mite activity. Humidity can be measured with a humidistat or humidity meter. These can be purchased at most hardware stores and cost between $10-$30.
- Make sure you use bathroom and kitchen vents after showering or cooking to help control humidity
- Your clothes dryer should also be vented to the exterior, while it makes sense to conserve the heat and supply it back into your home during the winter months, the moist damp air release from the dryer can create conditions to support mold.
- Controlling condensation
- In ground floor and basement apartments, condensation is a common source of moisture. Running a dehumidifier and setting it at 50% can help control moisture in the air. Opening windows in the summer months to dry out a basement can cause the warm moist summer air to mix with the cooler air and cause condensation. Because basement walls and floors contact the earth, the temperature of these surfaces will be cooler, when the dew point outside is above the indoor temperature moisture can condense and cause mold to grow.
I have mold. Now what?
- Remove the water source.
- For small areas of mold (less than 10 square feet), clean mold off hard surfaces with warm water and household detergent.
- Wash or dispose of fabrics with mold on them.
- Dispose of paper and cardboard that are moldy (these are not cleanable). Replace building material like chipboard and drywall that is molded through. Do not drag the moldy material through your home, seal it in plastic to avoid spreading the spores.
- Take cautions to limit your exposure and others to mold. You may want to wear an N-95 respirator which is available at most hardware stores. Consult with your physician to see if you can wear a respirator, as some medical conditions will prevent it. Other personal protective equipment that is recommended is non-vented goggles and gloves.
- If chemicals are used to clean the mold such as bleach or biocides, make sure you follow the instructions carefully and use in a well ventilated area. Chemicals can kill mold, however mold will come back if you do not control the water source. In some cases chemicals may be necessary when the water source is from sewage or contaminated like flood water.
The most important thing is to FIND AND REPAIR THE MOISTURE SOURCE!
How do I know I fixed the problem?
- After you have fixed or controlled the water source and cleaned the area visually check the surfaces that were cleaned. You should not see any mold growth or smell moldy odors.
- People should be able to occupy the area without health complaints or physical symptoms.
What About Black Mold?
Black mold is the nickname given to a specific group of molds called Stachybotrys. While this mold is in fact a green/black color there are hundreds of other species of mold that are also black. Many people have expressed concerns about their health when dealing with this specific type of mold. From the CDC, "To date, a possible association between acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage among infants and Stachybotrys atra has not been proved. Further studies are needed to determine what causes acute idiopathic hemorrhage," A common-sense approach should be used for any mold contamination, regardless of the color.
For more information on Stachybotrys, click here.
Additional Mold Resources