The appearance of black, green, or even white stains on walls or other surfaces, especially if accompanied by a musty odor, can be telltale signs of mold in the house. While many varieties are harmless and merely unattractive, certain toxic mold can cause health problems ranging from allergies to serious illnesses. Our best defense in these situations is to remove any mold and mildew as soon as they appear and then take steps to insure that they do not return.
Care should be taken during mold removal because the cleaners required are, themselves, caustic. We also don't want to release mold particles into the air where we might breathe them in. The following are some tips for cleaning household mold and mildew:
- Plastic gloves, safety goggles and a nose/face mask should all be used when cleaning infested areas.
- Hot water and detergent might be sufficient for some stains; others might require a solution of 1 part bleach to 4 parts water. The chlorine contained in bleach can be harmful to the lungs, so use it in a well-ventilated area.
- Never mix chlorine bleach with any other cleaners, as toxic fumes can result.
- All rags and/or paper towels used for scrubbing mold and mildew should be discarded in a plastic bag when the job is completed. Immediately tie this bag and take it outside.
Mold and mildew thrive in moisture, which is why we're apt to find stains in bathroom, kitchen and basement areas. Materials that absorb moisture, including carpets, clothes and newspapers, can cause problems in these places - especially if there's poor ventilation. Carpeting should not be used in bathrooms and other potentially damp rooms. Moldy carpeting is very difficult to clean and will likely need to be removed.
Moisture levels can be controlled within the home if plumbing, window, wall and roof leaks are fixed, drip pans in refrigerators and air conditioners are kept clean and dry, and toilet tanks and cold water pipes are insulated to reduce condensation. In houses where mold is a particular problem, showers and tubs should be wiped down after use, as well as the surrounding floor area.
Excess condensation on windows and other surfaces means that the humidity within the house is too high. Relative humidity can also be measured by a hygrometer, and should range between 30 and 50 percent. Exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens can help to reduce humidity, as can setting the humidity level lower on an existing furnace. If these tactics fail to make a significant difference, then installing a dehumidifier or air conditioner might be necessary. Because mold and mildew require moisture to live and grow, reducing moisture in the home is the most effective way to combat household mold before cleaning even becomes necessary.