Introduction to Mold
Mold or mildew (the terms are often used interchangeably) is a group of fungi that flourishes in warm, humid environments, and usually grows on plants and organic material such as cloth, leather, paper, linen, and wood. Mold can also, however, grow on plastics (such as shower curtains), and painted dry-wall, and are often found in bathrooms, basements, and closets. The other typical place one finds mold is on damaged fruit and vegetables, or foodstuffs that have been stored too long in the refrigerator.
While extreme heat and cold kill the spores of these fungi, a simple lack of moisture leaves them dormant, only to germinate when conditions become more favorable. It is, therefore, necessary to kill the spores in order to stop the spread.
Mold is characterized by irregular stains—either light or dark splotchy markings—and may be accompanied by a musty smell. Because these fungi can cause upper respiratory infections, exacerbate asthma, and cause allergic reactions, unfortunately, these symptoms may be what leads to their discovery.
Here are some steps to prevent the growth of mold.
- Prevent the build up of humidity in any part of the house. Use a ventilating fan in the bathroom and a dehumidifier in the basement, if necessary. Leave the doors of susceptible closets and a solid shower enclosure, if you have one, ajar, rather than closed, to allow for better air circulation.
- Prevent the build up of humidity in fabrics. After showering or a trip to the beach or pool, hang up towels spread as wide as practicable, using a drying rack, if necessary. Also, spread out the shower curtain and liner after showering. Don’t leave laundry that’s clean lingering in the washing machine. Make sure outerwear, umbrellas, and footwear are dry before storing.
- Fix any plumbing leaks speedily.
- Wipe household surfaces frequently to clean up any matter that might attract mold.
- Use insulation to prevent condensation.
- Choose a “mildew-resistant” shower liner.
- Choose “mildew-resistant” paint, or use an “anti-mildew” additive in your regular paint.
- Rotate food and clean the refrigerator regularly.
- Switch to liquid bath soap, which leaves less residue for mold to grow on.
- If you see mold growing, catch it early before it spreads.
There are several important elements to mold clean-up.
- Protect yourself: mold is not good to breathe. Wear a disinfectant mask, goggles, and gloves during clean-up and work in a ventilated area. Long sleeves and a head covering are also a good plan, particularly if you have work to do on the ceiling.
- Kill the mold: use a solution of one part bleach to 10 parts water or a specially purchased mildew or mold product. In either case, you can expect that the solution will both kill the mold and dissolve the stain (be sure to wipe the solution off after it’s done its work).
- If your shower curtain and liner can be laundered, do so. But note that some “anti-mildew” liners specifically say that they are not to be laundered. You may have to simply replace inexpensive plastic shower liners on a regular basis.
Written by Mary Elizabeth