What is mold? An introduction.
By Henry B. Nathan
As a Real Estate professional, I have
understood the importance of answering my customersâ€™ questions about
different related subjects. One of them is mold.
Molds are microscopic organisms that produce enzymes to digest organic matter. They are natureâ€™s way of getting rid of plant and organic debris.
They reproduce through spores. They are basically fungi, as are mushrooms, mildews and yeast.
They are the essential part of the process of
cheese making. Penicillin is originated in mold. So there
is nothing wrong with them except in very specific situations: for example,
when they get their way into our homes.
They usually begin growing when they find moisture on carpets, wood, paints, and insulation.
Excess moisture will build up from a flooding
episode, high humidity, a leaky bathroom or a damaged roof.
As soon as mold spores settle in a house, they feed on the moisture
that they digest to grow.
Once mold spores settle in your home, they
need moisture to begin growing and digesting whatever they are growing on.
How do they affect you? Mold spores, released into the air, will be absorbed through respiration or by skin contact to the affected area. They can also get in your body when you eat moldy food or by mouth contact after manipulating moldy materials.
For a healthy person, being exposed to common
mold is not a great risk. People suffering from asthma, allergies, and lung
diseases will aggravate their condition due to infections caused by molds.
A common disease is caused by the mycotoxins, produced by molds.
The effects can be respiratory, migraines, nausea, fatigues, cough
and eye irritation.
Odors can be a first sign. A musty smell,
added to white grows or clusters of black specks in damp locations are
definitely something to worry about. But there are many
cases of hidden mold that cannot be detected so easily.
Try areas with water damage, or furnishing that have suffered from flooding
or leaks. Places where warm and moist air has condensed
on a wall, behind a headboard, furniture and closets.
Kitchen, bathrooms, laundry rooms with high usage of water are the most
Fixing moisture and leakage problems in your house are the first step. Ventilation and good air circulation will help. Periodically aerating your house with fresh outside air. Use of air conditioning and dehumidifiers will definitely help.
Furniture against outside walls should be placed a few inches away from the wall
Verify that your bathrooms, kitchens and
laundry rooms are ventilated with exhaust fans. Install fans if missing or
damaged. Thoroughly clean or replace dirty or damaged
carpets, curtains and upholstery immediately after a flooding incident.
If you attempt to clean mold, only do it if you are free of allergies or asthma. Even in this case, only do it in small areas and be careful not to stir and spread mold spores, which would only worsen the problem.
If the area is large, hidden under carpet or floors, between walls, you should definitely call a professional. If you do small cleanups, protect yourself with goggles, gloves, breathing mask. Ventilate the area by opening windows before starting. Seal off the area from the rest of the house to avoid spreading the mold spores. Cover ventilation grills. Remove your furniture to a clean area and inspect it for a later cleanup.
Bag and discard carefully all residues and
After cleaning, scrub all surfaces with mild detergent and warm water. If possible use a bleach solution.
Finally apply a borate-base detergent. Do not rinse. The surface will be protected from new mold. Borate-base detergent can be found in many stores. To finish, clean thoroughly the whole area, vacuum the floor, wash bed sheets and clothing that have been exposed.
Heavily affected furnishings should be
discarded and replaced. If you decide to keep the least damaged, let them
ventilate outside and check for remaining odors.
Watch during a few weeks for recurring odors
This is just an introduction. You will easily find specialized professionals who can give you a more complete and educated advice on the subject. And it would be advisable to ask their opinion when buying an older home where you suspect that mold could be present.
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