Winter here in the Midwest means cold weather, ice, and snow. While this can be great for winter sports like skiing, ice fishing, and snowmobiling, those dropping temperatures outside generally create dropping humidity levels inside.
Mold has become a “four-letter word” when it comes to homes in the last several years. Although the trend is toward “going green” and mold is natural and sometimes greenish, it is not a part of nature you want in your home no matter what color it is!
You wake up with a stuffy nose, again. You rub your itchy eyes, drag yourself through your morning routine and head out the door. By the time you get to work you feel better and have a great day. You sing along with the radio as you drive home. You walk in the door, put your keys down, and kick off your shoes. As you walk over to look through the mail, you make a quick stop to get a tissue because you feel a sneeze coming on. Your rub your eyes which are beginning to itch again. You wonder: What’s going on? Am I allergic to my house?
You look for quality in life: quality time, quality sleep, quality food, but what about quality air? Have you thought about the indoor air quality in your home and how it can affect you and your loved ones? When the quality of air in your home is poor, you can experience health problems. How can you get quality in life and improve your quality of life? One simple step is improving your indoor air quality.
There are thousands of species of the fungi commonly known as mold. Mold exposure, especially for those with asthma or mold sensitivities, poses a serious risk to your home and family. Everything from yourself, to your pets to even your belongings can be harmed due to mold exposure. So what exactly are the health risks of mold exposure? Let’s look at the impact of mold and how to keep your home mold free.
Basements have a lot of nooks and crannies, but the biggest space to watch out for is your crawl space. This large, open area is a magnet for moisture and pests due to its size and how infrequently it’s accessed. Many homeowners run into crawl space waterproofing issues because their home wasn’t properly waterproofed in the past.
If you’re tired of mold growth or other moisture-related problems, read on to learn about the most common issues with crawl space waterproofing and how to keep moisture out once and for all.
Keeping water out of your house is a priority for every homeowner. Unlike foundation cracks or other damage, most homeowners aren’t surprised to learn their basement windows are a major risk factor for water intrusion. Waterproofing window wells and the windows inside of them is an important step toward keeping your basement safe from the weather.
Find & Clean the Source
The longer you wait to attack a musty basement smell, the harder it will be. Hunt through your entire basement until you locate the cause. There are plenty of places where it might be hiding – behind walls, along your tiling, or in a crawl space. Leave no box unturned and you’ll eventually find the mold or mildew, that could be growing on your floors, walls or anything stored nearby.
How you clean the mold or mildew will depend on the surface where you found it. Some cleaners are better than others – you don’t want to damage your paint or floors while cleaning the mold away. You can typically use a bleach-water combination to wipe away mold and its remnants. Finish off by rinsing the bleach away with water, and thoroughly drying the area.
Keep in mind that you’re only cleaning up the visible part of the mold. There will be more mold under the surface. Now that you know where the moisture is and the area is clean, you can assess the breach. If it’s a small crack less than 1/8”, you may be able to
fix it with a small amount of waterproofing compound
Before you tackle your mold problem, you’ll want to wear some protective gear to prevent illness. Not all mold is inherently dangerous, but identifying which type of mold you have is usually more difficult than simply looking at it. Inhaling mold spores can cause anything from simple allergic responses to severe sickness – for you or your pets.
Your mold-busting gear should include:
- Breathing mask
- Goggles or protective eyewear
- Waterproof gloves
All of these will help you prevent unnecessary contact with your mold. In addition to protective equipment, we recommend opening windows and improved ventilation as you will be working with chemical cleaners.
How to Clean Mold off Walls
Before you clean the mold off your walls, make sure you know what type of wall you’ll be cleaning. You don’t want to cause more damage, and how you clean drywall will be different than how you clean a concrete wall:
Cleaning Mold Off Concrete or Brick Walls
If mold appears on concrete or brick walls, it’s very simple to clean it off, though it might be an indicator of a crack in your foundation. You will need to use a cleaning agent that is antimicrobial, which you can purchase at almost any hardware store or even make yourself. Once you’ve put on your protective equipment, simply scrub the moldy surface with the cleaner until it’s completely wiped away. Some specialized cleaners will have additional instructions – if you’re purchasing a cleaner from the store, make sure to follow its directions closely.
One way to reduce your chances of dealing with moisture problems in your stone or brick basement is DuraShield. These panels create a barrier against moisture, insulating your basement walls and giving it a finished look with no maintenance required.
Cleaning Mold Off Painted Walls
Mold is common in rooms that have a lot of moisture – like your bathroom or basement. Ideally, these rooms should be painted with water-resistant “wash-and-wear” type paint that will prevent mold from growing deeper than the surface. It also makes it easier to clean when you do spot growing mold.
If you plan to use store-bought mold remover, make sure the formula is mild enough to minimize any damage to your paint. It’s possible, based on the severity of the mold, that you may have to repaint or even replace part of the wall. With the mold remover and a rag or towel, spray the affected area and scrub the mold. You may have to do this multiple times. Afterwards, spray water on the area and wipe it with a new towel or rag to clear the surface of any remaining mold remover.
Cleaning Mold Off Unsealed Drywall
Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to clean mold off unsealed drywall. Drywall is porous, which means the mold may be visible on the surface, but it’s also growing inside the pores. Without water-resistant paint, it’s very likely that by the time you notice the mold, it’s already inside the drywall too. You can look for mold by cutting inspections holes into the drywall. Remove the insulation and use a mirror to inspect the other side of the drywall.
If mold is growing on the insulation, it will need to be removed and replaced. Likewise, if you find that your drywall has mold beneath the surface, you will need to remove and replace it as well.
Unless you’re trained in mold remediation, the most you can do is temporarily reduce the overall mold growth by using a mold removing cleaner and scrubbing the visible mold away. You will need to contact your local mold experts for an inspection to discover the full scope of your mold damage. Even if you clean away all the mold, if it still has a source and some mold remains, it will continue to grow back.
Sometimes with porous surfaces, you will have trace amounts of mold that you can’t remove. If that’s the case, your only option may be mold encapsulation. To encapsulate mold, purchase a mold sealant and apply it to the mold after you’ve done everything to clean and scrub it away. This should be used as a last resort if the mold can’t be removed and the surface the mold is on cannot be replaced. If you think you need to do this, you should first contact a mold professional to make sure you don’t risk making the problem worse.
It’s often surfaces like brick or wood that will require encapsulation. Non-porous surfaces, or those that can be easily replaced like drywall should never need to be encapsulated.
DIY Mold Removal Cleaner
If you only see a small amount of mold and don’t want to purchase a mold remover, you can also create your own mold removal solution from common household products. The most common solution is simply a mixture of ¼ cup of bleach with 2 cups of warm water. Pour this combination into a spray bottle and it functions similarly to a store-bought cleaner.
Identifying the Source of the Mold
After you clean away any visible mold, it’s critical that you backtrack and find the source. Without correcting the cause of the mold, it’s guaranteed to come back.
The best way to fight mold is to prevent it
But how do you know which molds are dangerous and which are benign? It starts with knowing the properties of mold and understanding the symptoms they can cause. Read on and learn about house molds that could be affecting your family right now!
Stachybotrys Atra: Infamously Known as the “Black Mold”
Stachybotrys atra, or Stachybotyrs chartroom, is a specific type of toxic mold. This is what most people refer to when they say, “black mold.” While sometimes found in grain or soil, it’s much more frequently found in building materials that are rich in cellulose – often following water damage. High moisture content is a requirement for black mold to grow, so it is unlikely to be found in homes that are properly inspected and have been protected through waterproofing services.
This species of mold appears black or dark green, and has a unique shiny looking surface. Some would describe it as slimy-looking, but if it dries it often becomes gray and powder-like. The problem is when it comes to black mold identification, the only real way to confirm if it’s the dangerous, toxic species is with a microscope. Many different molds have similar appearance to Stachybotrys atra. Only with careful examination by an expert, practicing caution, can the species be accurately identified.
Low levels of Stachybotrys atra tend not to have any effect, though if you’re immuno-compromised it’s more likely to cause symptoms. Larger volumes of the mold lead to higher exposure, which can cause a variety of symptoms sometimes referred to as Toxic Mold Syndrome:
- Chronic coughing or sneezing
- Throat irritation
- Asthmatic Attacks
- Chronic Fatigue
- Persistent Headaches
These symptoms usually diminish or clear completely soon after removing the mold and its source.
Black mold affects animals too. While you may not notice a small spot of mold growing in that dark corner of your basement, you can be sure your pet will! Their curious nature may lead them to direct contact with the mold, causing illness or other reactions. If you have pets, keep an eye out for symptoms and take them to the vet immediately! Then,
contact a professional to inspect and locate the source of your mold problems.