Identifying and Avoiding Indoor Mold Issues

It is widely known that mold is the leading cause of respiratory issues. Smaller, less ventilated homes are susceptible, as well as homes with their heating and air conditioning systems sealing the residence for long periods of time. Mold is magnified by three situations: stagnant air, still water, and excessive moisture. Keeping your home mold-free by keeping air circulating, draining still water, and avoiding moisture buildup in dark areas of basements, bathrooms, storage spaces and other areas is a very good start.

Mildew can be found on many different surfaces. It is a thin, black or occasionally white growth produced by mold. Molds belong to the plant group known as fungi. Though molds are always present in the air, those that cause mildew require moisture and certain temperatures in order to grow. Most often mold develops in humid summer weather, and more readily in closed houses.

In Closets Clothing Can Also Be Affected

Molds grow on anything they can feed upon. In closets they often develop in cramped spaces, especially on stored cotton, linen, rayon, silk, wool, leather clothing, plus stored wood and papers. Molds cause mildew to flourish wherever it is damp, warm, poorly lighted and/or where air is not circulated. It can also invade draperies and rugs in basement recreation rooms, on shower curtains and on damp clothes rolled up for ironing. We think of molds in older homes, but they are also likely to grow in a new house because of moisture in the new home’s building materials. As these molds grow, they cause considerable damage. They leave a musty odor, discolor materials, and sometimes eat into affected materials to cause rot.

Cleaner is Better

Keep closets, dresser drawers, basements — any place where mildew is likely to grow — as clean as possible. Soil on dirty articles can supply enough food for mildew to start growing when moisture and temperature are right. Greasy films, such as those that form on kitchen walls, also contain many nutrients for mildew-causing molds. Clean clothing is less likely to mildew than soiled clothing. Because most synthetic fibers, such as acetate, acrylic, polyester and nylon, are resistant to mildew, clean fabrics of these fibers will not support mold growth. But even on these fabrics, soil may supply food to start mildew. Clean all soiled fabrics thoroughly, regardless of fiber type, to help prevent them from mildewing. Surprisingly, your clothes dryer can produce high moisture levels in laundry areas, so having your dryer equipped with a sealed vent, exhausted to the outside, can reduce moist air indoors, too.

Dry the Air

Your air conditioner and dehumidifier can help cool indoor air, so it holds less moisture than warm air. Properly installed air conditioning systems remove moisture from the air by taking up warm air, cooling it (which removes the moisture) and circulating the cool, dry air back into the home. In rooms that are not air conditioned — especially the basement — mechanical dehumidifiers are helpful. A humidistat can be attached to the unit to control the humidity,too. Mechanical dehumidifiers, however, can add heat to a room. Get rid of dampness by heating the house for a short time. Then open doors and windows to let out the moisture-laden air. An exhaust fan may be used to force it out. Air in closets and other small areas can be dried by using an electric light continuously (60- to 100-watt bulb). The heat will prevent mildew if the space is not too large.