Hazardous to Your Home

Mold is unsightly, AND it can also damage your health.



Infrogmation

When it comes to your house, mold is a four-letter word. And Florida’s heat and humidity is a natural breeding ground for the stuff. Research by the Institute of Medicine has found that exposure to indoor mold can cause respiratory problems even in healthy people, so that’s reason enough to kick it to the curb. Here’s how.

Find It For starters, it’s easy to check the usual suspects, such as your shower curtain and  around your bathtub where moisture lurks. But mold can also grow in less obvious, less visible places. A leaky window, roof, toilet, washing machine or dishwasher, or an A/C unit that doesn’t drain properly—all can create an ideal incubator for mold inside walls or cabinets, under flooring or behind wallpaper or paneling. If you find a leak, it’s not enough to simply repair it; you’ll need to go behind or beneath the leak to see if mold has started to grow. 

Fix It After repairing the leak, thoroughly cleaning with bleach (never mix bleach with other chemicals), vinegar or another cleaning agent or a powerful steam cleaner is usually enough to kill the mold on nonporous surfaces, but if it has penetrated wallboard, insulation, wood or other porous materials—enough to cause damage—replacement may be in order. 

Never simply paint over mold; it’ll keep growing and eventually bleed right through the paint. And when you do paint after removing mold, add a mold inhibitor to the paint. You can find it at most paint and home improvement stores. 

If your mold problem is extensive, it may be more than a DIY project; there are companies that specialize in mold remediation. If you’re not able to get it under control yourself, it may be time to call in the professionals. 

Prevent It You can make all the repairs and do all the cleaning you want, but if you don’t eliminate the medium—humidity—the mold will come back. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the indoor humidity level in your home should be lower than 60 percent, ideally between 30 and 50 percent relative humidity. You can determine your home’s relative humidity with a moisture detection meter, which typically costs less than $50 at hardware and home improvement stores.  

Your best weapon against mold growth due to humidity is your central heating and air-conditioning system, which is a pretty efficient dehumidifier. If the weather is too temperate to run it, the purchase of a dehumidifier for about $200 can be a wise investment. There are also dehumidifying products designed to go under beds or in cabinets and closets, but they must be replaced often. 

Running ventilation fans in the bathroom and kitchen when showering or cooking also can keep indoor humidity down. If the bathroom is still foggy after a shower even if you’ve run the fan, open the window if there is one, and keep the door open. Wipe down the moisture that’s accumulated on mirrors, tiles and windows, too.   


Learn More About It

The Florida Department of Health (FDH) notes that all indoor mold should be removed, regardless of type, but there’s no Florida statute on the books that requires mold cleanup or removal. The FDH doesn’t offer mold testing, but can provide information and advice on mold-related issues. If you think you may have a mold problem, you can contact the FDH at 407-858-1497 for assistance.

Want to find out more about mold? Check out these sites for additional information:

cdc.gov/mold

epa.gov/mold

orchd.com/environmentalHealth/indoorAir/mold/index.asp

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