Dispelling Common Mold Myths in Your Home

By:    |   Published August 28, 2019
A gloved hand holds a spray bottle aimed at mold growing in the corner of a room.

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!

Mold can affect the air you breathe as well as destroy the surfaces that it lives in, on and under. If left unchecked for too long, it can cause decay and destruction to your home’s structure.

However, there are some mold myths that have grown like….mold. Left unaddressed, some mold myths have taken hold. Here are eight common mold myths explained along with what you can do about the mold that may be lurking in your home.

Myth #1: Cleaning the Mold Solves the Problem

It is simply a mold myth that cleaning mold solves the mold problem. While this may seem like the obvious solution, cleaning away the mold you see does not solve the problem. Most visible mold has more mold beneath the surface – it’s like the iceberg of fungi. You may remove the mold that is visible on the surface but if the original moisture that fed the mold remains, the mold will return. Cleaning the mold is only a temporary fix.

In order to solve the mold problem, you need to repair the leak, crack or other issue with your home that allows moisture inside. Removing the source of moisture will solve the mold problem because mold cannot grow where there is no moisture. 

Myth #2: Your House is Mold Free

Because mold spores travel easily and are produced anywhere damp and dark conditions exist, few homes, if any, will ever be mold free. This dispels the mold myth that your house is completely free of mold. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “There is always a little mold everywhere – in the air and on many surfaces.” 

Humidity in the air is often enough to keep mold alive, at least to some extent, so mold spores that have found their way into your house or around the foundation may make themselves at home.  Once they take hold, removal is a difficult process – especially if there is unaddressed moisture involved. Keeping the relative humidity in your home at the correct level is one way you can help combat mold.

Myth #3: Mold Is Impossible to Manage

While it’s true that mold problems can seem overwhelming – especially if you’ve tried before to manage them yourself – it’s another mold myth that mold is impossible to manage. One thing to keep in mind is that all mold has a moisture source. So once you solve the moisture problem, you will almost always solve the mold problem.  (Exceptions to this involve situations where there are secondary sources of moisture.)

For small amounts of mold due to leaks or tiny cracks, DIY fixes are possible. When there are larger mold problems, or for incidents where there are serious foundation breaches, the best thing to do is trust a waterproofing expert to fix the moisture problem.

Myth #4: All Mold is the Same

Some molds are more benign than others and there are several types of mold that can grow in a home. A common mold myth is that all mold found in a home is black mold. The CDC says that, “No one knows how many species of fungi exist but estimates range from tens of thousands to perhaps three hundred thousand or more.” Since there are thousands of types of mold, and several can cause allergic reactions, it’s important to remove any mold that is found in your home.

Though there is only one dangerous strain known commonly as black mold, Stachybotrys chartarum (Stachybotrys atra), it’s important to understand the health risks when attempting to clean or remove any type of mold. It is also very important that you take the proper precautions if you plan to clean mold in your home, like wearing a mask and gloves.

Myth #5: Only Old Homes Get Mold

It’s a common mistake and mold myth, but many people only think of mold as a problem for older homes or abandoned properties. Actually, mold can grow anywhere – including a new home you haven’t even moved into yet! Anywhere there is moisture there is the potential for mold growth.

Remember not to ignore potential mold sources – like high humidity and gaps where water can leak into your home – even if it’s new construction. The drainage around your house can be a factor with new construction, especially if there are grading issues or the lawn hasn’t been planted yet.

The newer the construction, the more energy efficient, and the less air exchange and circulation it will have. This is great for modern heating and air conditioning comfort, but creates the increased potential for mold and moisture problems that houses prior to the 1950s didn’t have. Additionally, the more conveniences a home has, like a dishwasher, multiple bathrooms, and main floor laundry, the more potential for water leakage or even frozen pipes which can mean more potential for flooding, moisture and mold problems.

Myth #6: Paint Can Cover Mold

Some homeowners try to paint over mold, expecting it to die underneath. The truth about that mold myth is that mold can eat right through paint! What you end up with when attempting to cover mold with a can of paint is wasted paint and a home that still has a mold problem.

Once again, as long as a moisture source exists, the mold will continue to thrive, no matter how you try to cover it up. Both the mold and the source of the moisture that feeds it need to be removed and addressed before painting.

Myth #7: No Smell, No Mold

While there is a commonly known “mildew smell,” not all mold smells the same. Not all noses are created equally either, dispelling the mold myth that if you can’t smell it, it isn’t there. If you notice that musty smell, it could indicate mildew. Mildew is also a fungus which lives on surfaces and is much easier to clean than mold.

Some molds will have stronger odors than others. Many factors can hide the smell of mold as well. Because mold usually grows beneath the surface, it may not be possible to detect an odor right away. Additionally, because it tends to grow beneath surfaces, by the time you smell it, there could be quite a colony growing!  Bottom line: don’t rely on your nose alone. Know the signs and stay vigilant in your mold prevention.

Myth #8: Small Amounts of Mold Are No Risk

Any size mold growth is a sign of trouble. Let’s dispel that mold myth right now. Underestimating the problem because you only found a dime-sized growth of mold in the corner of your basement is like shrugging off a single cockroach that you noticed!

Remember, for that mold to grow, water has to be reaching inside your home to feed it. And by the time you see it, it has probably been feeding and growing beneath the surface for some time. While the mold you can see may be small, the potential damage to your home or foundation can be huge.

Plain and simple: if you find mold, find the source. If you can’t find the source, you need to call a professional.

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