September is Mold Awareness Month and it’s a great time to review what causes mold, prevention techniques, and cleaning techniques.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC), mold can cause a wide range of health issues including “stuffy nose, sore throat, coughing or wheezing, burning eyes, or skin rash. People with asthma or who are allergic to mold may have severe reactions. Immune-compromised people and people with chronic lung disease may get infections in their lungs.”
Take some time to evaluate your home and ensure you mitigate your risk of exposure. Often, you may be able to deal with the culprit on your own, but you may need to call in a professional to test for mold and remove it from your home.
The first step in the process of eliminating mold is preventing it from appearing in the first place. Understanding the conditions that mold thrives in can help you understand where mold might be prone to grow and following a few precautions can help you prevent it.
Mold thrives in cool, damp, dark areas – bathrooms, kitchens, and basements are some of the prime breeding grounds, but any area of your home can be affected.
According to the CDC and Better Homes and Gardens, the following steps can be helpful in preventing mold from growing:
- Keep Humidity Levels Low. Be especially mindful during the hot, humid months of the year. Air conditioners and dehumidifiers are helpful for this task and monitors are available to monitor your home’s humidity levels – aim to keep levels below 50%.
- Allow air to flow freely through your home – use fans and open windows for airflow, exhaust fans in kitchens and bathrooms and ensure dryer vents are not blocked.
- Regularly check for and fix leaks in roofs, walls, foundation, and plumbing as soon as possible.
- Clean and dry out your home fully and quickly after any flooding.
- Use mold inhibitors in paint before painting.
- Do not use carpet in areas with a lot of moisture.
- Clean the fabrics in your home routinely and keep them dry.
- Remove and/or replace carpets and upholstery that have been soaked and cannot be dried immediately.
- Store items in dry, well-ventilated areas.
- For bathrooms, which are highly susceptible, these additional steps are helpful:
- Use mold killing cleaning products.
- Spread towels out after use to quickly dry.
- Minimize containers left in shower.
- Wipe down shower with a towel or squeegee at the end of each day.
- Choose plastic or quick drying curtains.
If you have mold in your home, you need to remove it. Depending on the surface the mold is growing on and/or the extent of the issue you may need a professional to help. If you can remove it yourself, you want to make sure that you safely and effectively clean the area.
According to the CDC, “mold can be removed from hard surfaces with household products, soap and water, or a bleach solution of no more than 1 cup of household laundry bleach in 1 gallon of water.” Keep in mind that if you use bleach there are a few necessary safety rules to follow:
- Never mix bleach with ammonia or other cleaning products.
- Always follow manufacturer’s instructions.
- Open doors and windows for ventilation.
- Wear rubber boots, rubber gloves, and goggles.
Cleaning mold from fabric or carpet can be a bit trickier. Better Home and Gardens recommends the following for cleaning mold from these items.
For items that are mobile, take the item outdoors and brush off as much of the mold as possible. Once this initial cleaning is completed, wash the fabric in chlorine bleach and hot water. If you cannot use chlorine bleach you can use oxygen bleach and hot water to presoak the fabric prior to washing. If possible, dry the item outside in the sun.
For fabric that is not mobile, you should first vacuum the item. Then, mix 1 cup of ammonia with 1 cup of cool water and use a cloth or sponge to blot the fabric until absorbed. Continue this process until the stain disappears. Afterward, clean the ammonia solution by blotting the area with a sponge soaked in cold water and dry with a fan or hair dryer.
For carpets, begin by vacuuming the affected area. Then, mix 1 tablespoon of liquid laundry soap and 2 cups of cool water and apply the suds mixture to the area with a damp cloth or sponge. Repeat until the stain disappears and rinse. Dry the area using a fan or hair dryer.
If you cannot safely and effectively clean mold from a surface, you should throw it away and/or call for professional help. It’s not worth the risk of hoping it was clean enough.