But what do we do when those green
spots show up on the ceiling in our bathroom or there's a suspicious
black stain on the wall in the back bedroom?
First of all, use common sense.
"A small amount of mold is no reason to
panic," said Ted Funk, an Extension specialist in the University of
Illinois Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering.
"Many people see mold and their first reaction is to call an
But Funk says most people can do just
about all of the mold observation that's required themselves. Since
mold needs moisture to grow, your first job is to find the source of
moisture that's causing the problem and correct it. An obvious water
leak or drainage problem is often the culprit. Once you've found the
problem and corrected it, if there is only a small amount of mold,
scrub the area with soapy water, rinse it thoroughly and allow it to
However, there are times when the
source is more difficult to find. Funk once worked with a couple who
woke every morning with a metallic taste in their mouths. They had
black dust on their curtains and black soot coming down their walls.
"They said their crawl space was dry,
so I checked out everything else I could think of," Funk said. "I
finally said, 'Look, I know it's winter and I know it's cold, but we
have to check that crawl space.' We went outside, opened the
entrance and found two inches of water that had been there for
months. Their sump pump had failed."
Another man that Funk worked with moved
his family out of their home because of allergic reactions to mold
in the house. "He looked all over for water leaks, drainage
problems, but he couldn't find a thing."
Then Funk learned the man had installed
a second air conditioner. He ran the air conditioners long enough to
get the temperature down to 68 degrees, but the cooling cycle wasn't
long enough to lower the humidity.
"He'd created a refrigerator," said
Funk. "The humidity was extra-high, the temperature was low, and the
mold was having a heyday."
[to top of second column
in this article]
If you have extensive mold growth
before it's detected, or if you find that moisture has caused a
substantial amount of mold to grow behind wallpaper or in a wall,
ceiling or floor cavity, it might be wise to ask someone who has
experience dealing with mold in homes to evaluate the problem. It's
possible to dramatically increase your exposure to the mold if you
don't clean the space properly.
And exposure to mold is rarely a good
thing -- penicillin excluded. Exposure means different things to
different people. If you have asthma, exposure to mold can cause an
attack or make your chronic asthma worse. It can stimulate an
allergic response in people who are susceptible to mold, and it can
even set off coughing and wheezing in otherwise healthy people.
So how do you prevent mold from growing
in your home? The answer is simple. Keep your home dry. If mold
doesn't have moisture, it can't grow.
said Funk, "you're going to find garden-variety molds floating
around in the air all the time. They're just looking for an
opportunity to grow. If you provide the opportunity, you're going to
get mold. So don't provide the opportunity."
[University of Illinois news release]