Molds are different types of fungi that grow both outdoors and indoors; while they prefer damp, shady environments, molds can grow in any climate, year-round. Depending on the type, molds can have a dark-green appearance or they can look black. The type of mold found in bathrooms is often referred to as ‘mildew’ and can have a white, gray, or black appearance.
Outside, molds serve useful functions, such as helping to decompose organic matter (fallen leaves, branches, compost, etc.). But inside, molds are a nuisance, as they can contaminate the home environment and cause allergic reactions in some people, and they can cause permanent stains on some surfaces.
Although shower stalls and bathrooms are the more typical places where household mold is found, mold may also be found anywhere there is moisture in the home. Dark, cold basements are another place where mold often grows.
Mold can grow on wood, paper, dust or lint piles, foods; as well as porous construction materials such as carpeting, caulking and tile.
Possible Effects of Mold on Your Health
Most people will not be affected by most types of mold. People most likely to be susceptible to common household molds are those with allergies, lung disease, or compromised immune systems.
Symptoms that may indicate household mold is affecting your health include:
- Skin rash or itchy skin
- Runny nose
- Worsening of asthma symptoms
- People with immune or lung conditions may get infections from exposure to mold
Some researchers and people who have been exposed to mold also believe that mold can cause or contribute to other health problems, including fever, flu-like symptoms, fatigue, headaches, diarrhea, respiratory problems other than asthma, and even liver damage.
In addition to possible health problems with the mold itself, fungi metabolism can release into the air microbial volatile organic compounds (mVOCs). These compounds are released directly into the air and can produce musty, unpleasant odors. Exposure to mVOCs can irritate eyes and respiratory systems, and cause headaches, dizziness and nausea.
If you or a family member are experiencing health problems that you believe may be related to mold exposure, talk to your physician.
Ways to Prevent Mold from Growing in Your Home
- Air out your bathroom by either opening bathroom windows or running the exhaust fan when showering/bathing
- Open windows or use exhaust fans when cooking or running dishwasher
- Insure that clothes dryer has a vent to the outside
- Make sure you air out carpeting after shampooing
- Always have at least a couple of windows open on different walls of your home, to allow for cross-ventilation (you will get a lot more air going into your home if you open two or more windows that are located away from one another, preferably in opposing walls, than by opening only one window)
- Fix any plumbing leaks and dry items that have gotten wet; carpeting may need to be replaced
- Use air-conditioning when humidity and temperature are high in your area (and close windows!)
- Clean bathroom thoroughly on a regular basis
How to Clean the Mold in Your Home
If mold is a health problem for you, wear a mask and gloves when cleaning mold, or have someone else do it. The following are all great mold removers (use scrub brush, for best results):
- Use a solution of bleach and water
- Use a paste of baking soda and water
- Use a solution of essential oil (such as eucalyptus, tea tree, lemon or peppermint) and water, to clean, sanitize and deodorize, as well as help discourage mold growth. (You only need about a spoonful of essential oil per quart of water.)
By Marc Courtiol