Identifying mold and mildew may seem like an easy enough task, but often these fungi grow in walls or ceilings where recurrent plumbing and insulation leaks provide a steady source of moisture. Learning to identify the signs will aid in early detection and help you to eliminate mold and mildew from your home. While small patches of mold can safely be removed by homeowners, where mold has become entrenched, the services of a professional are required to successfully remove all traces from the home.
The first sign that something is amiss is the onset of respiratory problems, fatigue and allergy symptoms for some occupants of the home. While mold spores don’t affect everyone in the same way, the sudden emergence of symptoms should trigger alarm bells.
Musty odors are also a dead giveaway that mold is present. If you suspect that your home has mold, you can try a home testing kit for less than $50. Expose the petri dishes supplied to air inside your home and then send them off to the manufacturer for identification. These provide the most rudimentary results and will tell you whether or not you have mold in your home, but will not be able to identify the source of mold.
Inspect the inside and outside of your building for water damage as mold needs moisture to thrive.
A professional mold inspection (these start at around the $350 mark) is a more accurate measure of your indoor air quality. A trained inspector will make small holes in the walls and ceiling to check for mold.
According to the EPA, if the patch of mold is smaller than 10 square feet and isolated to a single, non-porous surface, you can handle it yourself. Its best to consult a professional if the area affected by mold exceeds 10 square feet.
If you are cleaning it up yourself, seal the room in which the mold occurs by taping up doors and vents. Open a window and make sure that the room is well ventilated by placing a fan near the window that will suck air from the room. Always wear a disposable suit over your clothing, an N-95 respirator mask and gloves to prevent inhaling mold spores or coming into contact with them.
Spores are released when you touch mold, so turn off your HVAC system to prevent spores from being distributed throughout your home.
Wash down non-porous surfaces with a 20/80 bleach and water solution. If you prefer a more natural approach to mold removal, you can use hydrogen peroxide, vinegar or baking soda (find recipes here.) If your mold patch occurs on a porous surface like drywall, washing it with a bleach mixture will only provide a temporary reprieve. Its best to remove the affected drywall, flooring or carpet and replace it.
In the event that mold-infected building materials need to be removed from the home, seal them in garbage bags (use tape) and pass them through a window. Avoid moving them through your home as they will only help to distribute mold spores. The same goes for your mask, disposable suit and gloves.
Once your mold has been cleaned up, take care of the rest of the room by wiping down surfaces and vacuuming carpets to ensure that all the mold spores have been removed.