Found some mold in your home? Getting rid of this mold is a task that you don’t want to delay. Here’s a brief guide as to how you can prevent and remove mold in your home.
What is mold?
Mold – also known as mildew – is a fungus. It can grow anywhere, but favours environments that are warm, damp and dark. The air if full of mold spores, which can find their way into homes. Given the right conditions, these spores can then settle, grow and spread. This causes the unsightly black outbreaks that many of us find on walls and ceilings.
Why it’s important to get rid of mold
Mold will make your home look dirty and neglected. However, this is not the number one reason as to why you should tackle mold urgently. The most pressing reason for tackling mold is that it’s a health hazard.
We breathe in mold spores every day. However, when mold becomes visible, there are often lots of spores in the air. These can start to irritate the eyes and nose and may also lead to a sore throat and wheezing. Some people can get sick or develop headaches. And then there’s the more serious side of mold exposure – which could include a risk of developing life-threatening respiratory diseases such as Legionnaire’s.
Why is there mold in my home?
Before tackling existing mold, you should consider what’s causing it to grow in the first place. Unless you beat the cause, the mold will keep returning.
There are three things that cause mold to thrive and these are warmth, dampness and darkness. Consider whether your home ticks all of these boxes.
Out of these three factors, dampness is the one that should be the biggest concern. Homes are naturally warm and shaded, but they shouldn’t be damp. By reducing moisture levels in your home, you may be able to prevent mold from taking hold.
How can I reduce moisture (and prevent mold) in my home?
Excessive moisture could be the result of anything from plumbing leaks to condensation. Here are just a few measures that you can take to beat this moisture.
Fix up leaks
Leaking water could be the cause of mold in your home. Fixing this leak could be essential not just for beating mold but for preventing water damage. A plumbing leak could even be affecting your water bill, causing you to consume more water than necessary.
There are two different types of leaks to look out for – plumbing leaks and rainwater leaks. Plumbing leaks can be from pipes, fixtures or appliances. Rainwater leaks tend to be through ceiling, but can also occur through walls and gaps in window and door frames.
Plumbing leaks may result in constant water leakage or water leakage only when certain faucets are in use. A 24 hour emergency plumbing company could be worth calling up if your suspect this to be the problem. Such leaks will usually create damp patches on walls in which the mold will usually be found, plus you may be able to hear dripping or trickling sounds. However, there are cases where they may be no signs of such a leak – a pipe within a wall or under the floor could be leaking without you knowing, causing invisible damage and putting enough moisture in the air to create mold. A professional plumber will usually still be able to diagnose these leaks.
As for rainwater leaks, you may want to call a roofing company or a window/door installation company, depending on where the leak is coming from. These leaks can be distinguished from plumbing leaks because they’ll be more present after it has been raining. Such leaks may also be hidden is rainwater leaks into a cavity wall and doesn’t create a damp patch.
Check for rising damp
Rising damp is a phenomenon caused by water rising up through the earth. If mold is only present at the bottom of ground floor walls and there are also signs of damp, this could be a clear sign that rising damp is the culprit.
Rising damp can be defended against by installing a damp proof course. This is a protective membrane that sits around the base of each of your home’s walls. Older homes are less likely to have this protection in place. Most new homes are already built with damp proof courses, although it’s possible for these protective layers to get damaged.
Defend against flooding
If you live in a high-risk flood zone and experience flooding, this could be a clear cause of damp and mold. Switching to a dry floodproofing strategy instead of using wet floodproofing could be necessary – this involves preventing flood water from getting into your property rather than letting water in and simply organizing your home around it.
There are lots of ways to dry flood-proof a home. This guide on dry flood-proofing offers a more in depth look into some of the measures you can use.
Hang wet clothes outdoors (or get a tumble dryer)
Hanging wet clothes indoors or dumping wet clothes in piles on the floor can also lead to mold. The clothes themselves may start to attract mold if they aren’t touched for a while, or the evaporating water from them could simply lead to excess moisture in the air, helping mold to grow on walls and ceilins.
Hanging clothes outdoors prevents this from happening. There’s then the more expensive yet more convenient option, which is to buy a tumble dryer. This could be essential if you live in an apartment and don’t have any outdoor space for hanging wet laundry.
Ventilate your home
Sometimes condensation is all it takes to promote mold growth. Steam from cooking or steam from the shower are two major sources of this. However, lots of breathing can also lead to condensation build up.
Ventilating your home helps to stop this condensation forming, by allowing moisture in the air to escape. You could do this simply by opening windows and letting air flow through your home. Another option could be extractor fans, which can be useful in rooms such as the bathroom and kitchen when moisture build-up is much greater. Extractor fans can also be useful when it’s too cold to open windows, as well as being useful if you live on a busy road in which pollutants are likely to get in.
Buy a dehumidifier
Some areas may be naturally humid – ventilation and hanging clothes outdoors may not have any effect. In these situations, you may have to take extra steps to reduce moisture build-up. One effective measure could be to invest in a dehumidifier.
Electric dehumidifiers take in moisture and pump it out as dry air. This helps to combat mold-causing moisture build-up.
To save money on your energy bills, you can also try natural dehumidifying techniques. Many houseplants will help to absorb moisture in the air, while salt rock candles are also an effective dehumidifier.
How can I remove existing mold?
Once you’ve beaten the cause of the mold, you can then move on to tackling the existing outbreaks of mold. How you remove the mold may depend on the surface that it is found.
On walls and wooden flooring, it can often be rubbed off with a dry cloth. For tougher stains, a solution of bleach may be necessary.
Mold can grow on fabric such as curtains or upholstery – especially following a flood. Scrubbing this mold using a brush and oxygen bleach with some water could help to remove the mold. Dry the area after so that the damp doesn’t attract more mold.
Mold will commonly grow on grouting between tiles. You may be able to get rid of this with some elbow grease, but in severe cases the grouting may need to be replaced.
As for mold on carpets, your best defence is usually to throw away the carpet.
You should wear gloves when cleaning mold. If a mold outbreak is severe, it may be a better option to simply hire a professional mold removal service.