Indoor Air - Mold
- What is mold?
- What does mold need to grow?
- Can mold make me and my family sick?
- What symptoms might I see?
- How do I tell if I have a mold problem?
- How can I clean moldy surfaces?
What is mold?
Molds are fungi. Molds grow throughout the natural and build environment. Tiny particles of mold are present in indoor and outdoor air. In nature, molds help break down dead materials and can be found growing on soil, foods, plant matter, and other items. Molds produce microscopic cells called "spores" which are very tiny and spread easily through the air. Live spores act like seeds, forming new mold growths (colonies) when they find the right conditions.
What does mold need to grow?
Mold only needs a few simple things to grow and multiply: moisture, nutrients, and suitable place to grow.
Of these, controlling excess moisture is the key to preventing and stopping indoor mold growth. Should I be concerned about mold in my home? Mold should not be permitted to grow and multiply indoors. When this happens, health problems can occur and building materials, goods and furnishings may be damaged.
Can mold make me and my family sick?
Mold can affect the health of people who are exposed to it. People are mainly exposed to mold by breathing spores or other tiny fragments. People can also be exposed through skin contact with mold contaminants (for example, by touching moldy surfaces) and by swallowing it.
The type and severity of health effects that mold may produce are usually difficult to predict. The risks can vary greatly from one location to another, over time, and from person to person.
What symptoms might I see?
The most common health problems caused by indoor mold are allergy symptoms. Although other and more serious problems can occur, people exposed to mold commonly report problems such as:
- nasal and sinus congestion
- wheeze/ breathing difficulties
- sore throat
- skin and eye irritation
- upper respiratory infections (including sinus)
How do I tell if I have a mold problem?
Investigate don't test. The most practical way to find a mold problem is by using your eyes to look for mold growth and by using your nose to locate the source of a suspicious odor. If you see mold or if there is an earthy or musty smell, you should assume a mold problem exists. Other clues are signs of excess moisture or the worsening of allergy-like symptoms.
- Look for visible mold growth (may appear cottony, velvety, granular, or leathery and have varied colors of white, gray, brown, black, yellow, green). Mold often appears as discoloration, staining, or fuzzy growth on the surface of building materials or furnishings. When mold is visible, testing is not recommended.
- Search areas with noticeable mold odors.
- Look for signs of excess moisture or water damage. Look for water leaks, standing water, water stains, and condensation problems. For example, do you see any watermarks or discoloration on walls ceilings, carpet, woodwork or other building materials?
- Search behind and underneath materials (carpet and pad, wallpaper, vinyl flooring, sink cabinets), furniture, or stored items (especially things placed near outside walls or on cold floors). Sometimes destructive techniques may be needed to inspect and clean enclosed spaces where mold and moisture are hidden; for example, opening up a wall cavity.
How can I clean moldy surfaces?
It is important to make sure that the source of the moisture is stopped before the mold is cleaned up. If this is not done, the mold will grow again. How you clean up the areas contaminated with mold depends on the surface where the mold is growing. A professional should be consulted if large areas (more than 30 square feet) are contaminated with mold. If the surface is non-porous (varnished wood, tile, etc.), you can take the following steps.
- The surface first needs to be cleaned with soap.
- Use a non-ammonia soap or detergent in hot water and scrub the entire area affected by the mold. Never mix bleach with ammonia; the fumes are toxic.
- Use a stiff brush or cleaning pad on block walls or uneven surfaces.
- Rinse with clean water.
- The next step is to disinfect the surfaces to help prevent the mold from coming back.
- Disinfect the area with a solution of water and bleach (1/2 cup of bleach per gallon of water). Straight bleach will not be more effective. When mixing or using the solution, make sure the windows are open.
- For spraying large exterior areas, a garden hose and nozzle can be used.
- Let disinfected areas dry naturally. This extended time is important to kill all the mold.
- Illinois Department of Public Health
- Minnesota Department of Health
- Click here for a list of mold remediation specialists in your area.
(Note: Kendall County Health Department does not endorse any particular contractor.)