Mold and mildew spores travel on air currents and can grow anywhere where there is moisture--including in your home. In fact, because spores travel on air currents, all homes have some mold; the amount and type varies. But if there's enough that you can smell it, or if you can see it, you need to remove it to prevent it from spreading and causing allergic reactions and health problems.
Prevent Mold and Mildew
Moisture invites mold and mildew. Unvented bathrooms, leaking pipes and faucets, leaking roofs, moisture in walls and ceilings that has accumulated from leaks, steamy conditions and wet basements all provide a home for the spores that can bloom into a big problem. To prevent mold and mildew, homeowners or mold abatement services need first to fix the cause of the moisture. This may be as simple as making sure the bathroom fan is on whenever someone showers or as complicated as tearing out insulation and replacing it after also replacing a roof.
Clean Away Mold and Mildew
Cleanup of surface mold and mildew may be quite simple or it may not work at all. The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends scrubbing smaller areas of mold on wood and nonporous materials with nonammonia household detergent and hot water. After cleaning, also disinfect the area with a solution of 10 percent bleach and water, which should be allowed to air dry or sit for at least 10 minutes before rinsing. FEMA also points out that porous goods--such as fabric, particle-board and paper--may be salvaged if they haven't been wet for more than two days, if they are cleaned with a phenolic or pine-oil cleaner and if they can be thoroughly dried. However, they also caution that if you continue to smell mold on an item after you thought you cleaned it away, "when in doubt, throw it out."
Mold in Walls
Cloudy or speckled gray or pink spots on walls and ceilings mean that mold is growing either on the surface or behind it, within the wall or ceiling. The only way to be sure is to cut a hole in the wall board and take a good look at both the backside of it and the space behind it. Extensive mold may require that you replace the entire sheet of wall board and treat the studs with bleach, rather than spot clean. Also, if you discover wet batting insulation in exterior walls, it will not dry out and will need to be replaced. Rigid foam insulation boards may be salvageable if treated.
Air circulation during and after the abatement process, whether created by open windows, fans or heat-throwing space-heaters, helps to speed drying time and prevent regrowth of the mold.
When to Call a Professional
FEMA says that if the homeowner is too sensitive to mold to clean it or if there is more than 25 square feet of mold, professional abatement is in order.
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