Just the word mold might send your thoughts reeling to spotted black organisms spreading across basement walls. House mold is one of those things EVERY homeowner desperately tries to prevent and avoid. It’s one of those house problems that correlates directly to our health and we want NOTHING to do with it.
You may have heard horror stories of families finding house mold running rampant in their homes and getting incredibly sick from this situation. While most cases of house mold are not THIS drastic, like I mentioned earlier, it does directly correlate to your health and wellness.
This is due to the fact that mold is a living organism that feeds on a number of surfaces, allowing it to grow and spread. This is also the reason that it so negatively affects our bodies.
But not all house mold is the same and not all of it is as potentially dangerous as some of the horrific stories you may have heard.
Today I’m sharing with you the different types of mold that can grow in your home, how to get rid of mold in your house and when you should be concerned about house mold.
TYPES OF HOUSE MOLD
The fact of the matter is that EVERY house has mold in it. Yup, even yours. And to be honest, you may not even know it. Some mold is very visible and may come in contact with humid seasons. This mold is often found in bathrooms and laundry rooms on surfaces that may not get dried out on a regular basis. (Think showers and tubs in the corners and around drains).
Mold that grows on a non-porous surface like shower surrounds can be easily cleaned up and is often not of huge concern. It definitely SHOULDN’T be in your home, but it’s easy to remove and keep a handle on.
There’s also mold that you might find in a corner of a damp basement. Concrete or stone foundation walls can act like sponges, drawing moisture in from the foundation around your home. THIS, is one of the ways mold can REALLY start taking hold and growing and expanding at a fast rate. This type of house mold takes some work to get rid of, but usually, it’s quite manageable as you can oftentimes seal the mold out of your home completely with a painted on barrier.
Finally, there’s the type of mold that grows on extremely porous surfaces like insulation and sheetrock. This type of house mold is the kind that can become extremely dangerous. Many times we don’t know this type of mold is growing within our home until it’s too late and it has taken a strong hold inside our walls, attics and closed off spaces.
HEALTH EFFECTS OF HOUSE MOLD
While house mold is an issue of quantity and length of exposure, it has also been shown to cause more problems, healthwise, with those having underlying health issues. These issues include autoimmune diseases, chronic illnesses, smokers and pregnant women who are the highest risk of being more vulnerable to house mold exposure. (STUDY)
Essentially, there are three ways that mold can begin to affect the body. First, through an immune response (similar to allergy symptoms), second lung inhalation and direct infection of the mold organism and finally toxic effects from mold byproducts.
Probably the most common way humans are affected by mold is by their bodies responding to an allergy. Oftentimes the symptoms of this include allergy symptoms, headaches, sinusitis, cough and sneezing. Oftentimes this is from airborne molds that become inhaled.
This allergic type of response to mold may be much more noticeable in those who have asthma and other allergies to pollens and dander. It’s often seen in a lower airway discomfort and symptoms. It’s also important to remember that allergic response can worsen and become a chronic problem if the house mold is not removed from the home.
Those who have this underlying exposure to mold strain their immune systems and can become vulnerable to pneumonia and bronchitis when a virus strikes.
The second way that house mold can affect the health and wellness of a human is through infection. This often happens within the lungs, as mold spores are microscopic and easily inhaled once airborne. The severity of health response often has to do with the overall health of the person, rather than the exposure of the mold.
In other words, those with underlying health issues or those with suppressed immune systems often bear the brunt of house mold exposure and can be affected by mold in a different, more severe way. Often mold is able to take hold and grow into a fungal infection, altering the bodies’ natural flora.
Finally, the most dangerous, and luckily least common way mold can infect the body is through toxic mold byproducts. This can be exposure through ingestion and inhalation. If you’ve ever heard the term “mycotoxins”, THIS is the type of issue we’re talking about here. Only certain mold species actually produce these mycotoxins, and oftentimes common house mold is not the culprit.
However, in the same breath, this type of mold toxin is the MOST harmful to our bodies and can begin to take over if we are exposed for long periods of time. Oftentimes, it takes treating the body wholly for long periods of time to remove the toxin and return the body’s microbiome to its natural state. (STUDY)
BIGGER PROBLEMS WITH MOLD
The issue of house mold can be more than JUST health effects, however. While health effects from toxic mold and house mold are the REASON we address this home issue, it can also have hideous effects within your home.
Mold that grows on small surface areas like around a tub or a sink can oftentimes easily be removed. However, as with any surface, if it doesn’t get dried out and removed right away, it can begin to grow behind caulking, behind cabinets and travel to drywall eventually.
This is when the problem of house mold can grow and become even bigger than just a problem with a humid bathroom. Once mold travels behind walls and begins to grow on a porous surface like insulation or drywall, it can continue to grow and spread as far as it can. This is when whole sections of your home can become a center for mold growth.
When this happens, the only remedy is to contact a mold remediation company to properly remove all the affected areas as well as fix the reason the mold began in the first place. Unfortunately, when mold becomes THIS prevalent in a home, it can be very difficult to remove and there are often times a change that it will return.
There have also been studies done linking mold to depression, which I shared the details of in this blog post.
HOW TO GET RID OF HOUSE MOLD WITHOUT CHEMICALS
There are SO many recipes out there that claim to kill mold. I think it’s important to talk about the different severity of mold problems when we’re discussing how to get rid of mold.
First, there’s the pesky mold and mildew that shows up in bathrooms and laundry areas. It’s mold that we probably clean up and wipe down on a weekly basis. While this is still mold and it’s best to be avoided, it can generally be cleaned up quite easily with a home remedy.
Bathroom Mold Cleaner:
- 1 cup Distilled White Vinegar
- 1 tablespoon 3% Hydrogen Peroxide
- 1 teaspoon tea tree oil
- 10-20 drops lemon essential oil
Shake well and spray on the surface and wipe off.
Second, there’s the type of mold that’s maybe gotten onto a porous surface like a wall or trim. This will require something a bit more harsh to ensure that (1) the mold organism is not living any longer and (2) will completely remove the dead organism from the surface.
House Mold Cleaner:
- ½ cup vinegar
- ¼ cup borax
- 4 cups warm water
Shake bottle well and spray on affected area. Wipe away mold debris. Repeat if necessary.
Finally, there’s the type of mold that can just be cleaned up. When this is the case or the spot has SO much house mold you can’t just spray it down, there are a few better options.
If you can actually remove the spot that the mold is growing on (drywall, carpet padding, trim, etc.), that’s your best course of action. Once the source of the problem is found and corrected, the spot can easily be repaired.
There’s also the option of using a Mold and Mildew blocker/primer. Kilz makes a very low VOC formula that can be painted on your surface and will prevent the mold from spreading. It also seals the mold and mildew onto the surface so it can’t become airborne.
WORKING TO PREVENT MOLD AT HOME
The best way to keep house mold out of your home is to create a home that isn’t conducive to it’s growth. The following ways are the BEST ways to keep your home as healthy as possible and prevent house mold from taking hold.
Low Humidity Levels: Keeping your home’s overall humidity level between 35% – 40% is ideal in making sure you’re home isn’t a breeding ground for house mold. This post will help you obtain the PERFECT humidity levels at home.
Moisture Barriers on Foundation Walls: Foundation walls are notorious for allowing high amounts of moisture to enter your home. Painting your foundation walls with a covering that seals in moisture like this one (which is VOC free), is one of the BEST and least expensive things you can do.
Attic Ventilation: Attics usually have two forms of ventilation. Most common are square passive vents in the roof structure that allow air to freely flow from outside to inside and vice versa. You may also have small vents in your soffit that allow air to flow through them as well. Make sure you attic has some sort of passive or active vent and then peek your head inside the attic space to make sure they aren’t blocked by insulation or debris.
Run Vented Fans: THIS is the easiest habit to change in your home — I promise! While your cooking, bathing or doing laundry run the vented fan in that space during your use of the room. This will help draw the humid air out of the room and safely expel it outdoors. After bathing, I recommend running the vented fan for about 20 minutes to help remove the moisture that sticks around. You can get a bath fan timer for your fans that can help you remember and get in the habit as well.
Wipe Down Wet Areas: This will be especially important in bathrooms and even more important if you have kids. We all know that the floor around the tub and shower can become quite wet when your kids are using it, and even when we use it ourselves. Simply wipe down the floor and corners of your tub and shower after use to prevent water from puddling in the corners and creating a problem with mildew and eventually house mold.
Use Dehumidifiers: If you live in a location that is really humid or you have really humid seasons, you may want to invest in a dehumidifier for lower level spaces and basements. It will help draw moisture out of the air consistently and keep the humidity levels down in that particular space. Where I live in Minnesota, it’s not uncommon to have your dehumidifier running in the basement during the summer due to our hot and humid weather. The less humid the air is, the lower the change of house mold is.
Wipe off Window Condensation: Now that we’ve talked about summer, let’s chat about some winter habits. Window condensation from the differing temperature outside and inside can create a space that never really gets dried out. Especially if you have wood windows, you’ll want to make sure that the condensation that forms on the windows is wiped off on a regular basis. House mold can begin after just a few days of leaving window condensation to sit on the window frame.
Keep an Eye on Plumbing: Every now and then take a look under cabinets and sinks to make sure you’re not seeing any leaking going on. Leaks that are left and never repaired can mean that the enclosed cabinet area will lead to damp wood and surrounding areas. This in turn can create the perfect environment for house mold to start and grow. This checklist will give you an idea of the places you should be keeping an eye on.
If you’re looking for more information, check out my Toxic Mold page.