This blog post is part of our home maintenance for first time homeowners series. Read the previous post on plumbing tips for more helpful information!
It doesn’t matter where you live or how long you’ve lived there, mold can strike anyone – and in fact, pretty much every home has got some, to a degree. That musty basement smell you’re probably familiar with? Those are actually airborne mold spores you’re smelling, and don’t worry, they’re almost never dangerous.
New homeowners, though, are particularly susceptible to mold breakouts. That’s because depending on the state, previous owners may or may not be required to disclose the presence of mold, and some less scrupulous sellers will even take measures to mask it without telling the buyer. A short while later, the mold reappears, but by then the new owners are comfortably situated – and don’t always have legal recourse, either.
Fortunately, eradicating mold is simpler than it sounds, if you’re willing to put in a little elbow grease. There are times – especially in the rare case that the mold is dangerous – that it’s probably necessary to call in the pros. But if you know how to get rid of mold in a house on your own, there’s a good chance your problems are already solved.
Is the Mold in my House Dangerous?
Calling toxic mold “black mold” is a bit of a misnomer – actually, it’s quite difficult to distinguish between different types of mold with the naked eye because the color of mold is determined more by its environment than by its species. Because of this, different molds growing in the same place would probably appear similar, and unable to be diagnosed except by a professional.
However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that the toxic mold we’re referring to – Stachybotrys chartarum – is less common than most other types of household molds, though it’s not exactly rare. It’s usually found in homes that have had long-term water damage, often which have sat empty for months on end.
According to the CDC, there’s little evidence linking Stachybotrys chartarum to conditions such as memory loss or pulmonary hemorrhage, which are reported extremely rarely. But, the CDC says, indoor exposure to toxic mold can be linked to upper respiratory tract issues in otherwise healthy people, such as coughing, wheezing, and aggravation or appearance of asthma.
It’s worth noting that even non-toxic molds are often allergenic, and can cause respiratory irritation or other symptoms in some people sensitive to them. So, if you’re asking “is the mold in my house dangerous?” the answer is essentially: it depends. It’s highly unlikely that mold will cause things like lung cancer, but for those who are allergic to them, even “innocent” non-toxic molds can cause uncomfortable symptoms.
Getting Rid of Mold in Your House on Your Own
Mold needs three things to flourish – moisture, food, and a suitable temperature. Because the temperature that’s healthy for mold falls within the comfortable temperature range for humans, and because “food” for mold consists of dust and dirt, the one element that homeowners have most control over is moisture.
How to clean mold off of the wall:
Mold can be cleaned with a homemade detergent solution of 1 cup Borax to 1 gallon hot water. Scrub with a brush or other cleaning implement. Borax can be found in the detergent aisle at most supermarkets.
It’s always best to put in the elbow grease to remove any mold that’s on your walls. You should never paint over mold to get rid of it, as it will just pop back through the paint. Once you’ve thoroughly scrubbed mold off your walls, however, you can re-paint with a mold killing primer to prevent mold from coming back. Keep in mind that if your home has had a bad history with mold in the past, you may still have to disclose that when you ultimately decide to sell it.
If mold on your wall keeps coming back, or if it’s growing on the walls in the bathroom, you should hire a mold professional to come out and test to see if the mold is growing inside the walls.
Different things can cause mold to grow inside your walls, but one possibility is that there’s a leak inside your walls that you can’t even see. These are particularly pesky, as they introduce moisture into a space, and allow mold to grow.
How to eradicate mold that’s grown on household items:
Dry wet items completely, or consider throwing away moldy things like carpets, rugs, or posters/artwork that has collected mold on the back.
If you think you may have mold in your heating/cooling system, avoid running the heat or air conditioning until you get a professional opinion. Have an expert perform this and other complex mold removal.
Tips to Prevent Mold in Your Home
Even if you do succeed in removing the mold, if you don’t solve the moisture problem, the mold will come back. Mold doesn’t need a massive water leak to get a foothold in your home – even relative humidity above 60 percent will make your home a breeding ground for mold.
To keep your place mold-free, try increasing ventilation, especially in bathrooms where shower steam can collect and small leaks can pop up. If your home is generally humid, try a dehumidifier, or simply opening the doors and windows whenever practical. Fans and other means of circulating air work as well. Make sure to also fix leaky faucets or other issues that may introduce water or moisture into the home.
Keep your gutters in good repair and keep runoff away from your home’s foundation. Also check the slope of the ground to ensure water is running away from the house rather than pooling by the foundation.
For closets, you can purchase hanging moisture absorbing bags to absorb excess moisture that you can’t see. These bags are surprisingly effective and can help keep dark, enclosed spaces dry.
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