Mild & Mildew Explained
Mold can be found just about everywhere, from attics and basements in the home to the woods outside, and everywhere in between. The term ‘mold’ is not a scientific term, but refers to a number of types of fungi – both harmful and benign.
Not all mold is harmful. Some molds contribute to making cheeses, charcuterie, bread, beer, wine, and more. Other types – especially the types growing in the home – can be hazardous to your health.
Florida’s humid, warm climate is the perfect environment for these unwelcome house guests to thrive. Mold and mildew can adversely affect your health, but proper cleaning techniques and moisture control can prevent them from taking over your home.
Since mold and mildew are found just about everywhere, it’s impossible to avoid coming into contact with some form of mold throughout the day – even in the best kept home! Moisture control and regular cleaning can keep your mold to a minimum.
What’s the Difference Between Mold and Mildew?
Both mold and mildew are types of fungi, and both tend to grow in moist, warm, and dark areas.
Mildew is a surface fungi, which means that it’s easy to clean with a bristle brush and some strong cleaner. Mildew is generally grey or white, and can be found growing on a flat, moist surface – such as in your shower!
Mold can be green or black (or some of both) in color and may have a raised or ‘fuzzy’ appearance. Mold may be harder to clean, depending on the amount present, and can also quickly destroy or stain the surface it grows on.
Effects of Mold and Mildew on Health
While some people do not experience any adverse effects from exposure to mold and mildew, others – especially those with compromised immune systems or allergies – can develop a variety of conditions.
These conditions are largely centered in the respiratory system, and may include:
- Nasal stuffiness
- Coughing or wheezing
- Eye irritation
- Skin irritation
- Throat irritation
- Lung infections
- Shortness of breath
- Asthma attacks (for those who have asthma)
You may have heard about ‘testing mold’ prior to cleaning. Testing mold identifies the type of mold, the concentration present, any hidden mold, and many other benefits. However, you generally do not need to test your mold prior to cleaning. You already know you have a mold problem if you can see or smell it!
How to Clean Mold and Mildew
The most important thing for you to do when cleaning mold from your home is to determine the cause of the problem and fix it. If an environment ideal for mold exists in your home, then mold will return!
Cleaning mold is a straightforward process, but it’s important to take precautions to minimize the spread of spores.
- Non-ammonium cleaner or a bleach solution
- Wash cloths or paper towels
- Plastic bags
- Mold barrier solution (optional)
- Face mask (optional)
- Dehumidifier (optional)
- Spray mold or mildew with non-ammonium cleaner or bleach solution.
- Scrub and remove mold and mildew starting from the top and moving downwards, changing towels regularly.
- Rinse the area with clean water (a spray bottle works best) and let dry.
- If necessary, repeat until the mold and mildew are gone. There may be some discoloration, in which case you can purchase a stain remover at your local hardware store.
- If desired, apply a mold barrier solution once you are done cleaning. This will deter mold from returning in the future.
Other Helpful Tips:
- Keep pets and children out of the area to be cleaned
- Seal off the room as best as you can to prevent spores from spreading to other parts of the house
- Don’t use ammonia based cleaning products in conjunction with bleach, as this will result in a poisonous mix
Tips to Prevent Mold and Mildew in Your Home
Mold can be found just about anywhere that moisture is located: carpets, walls, wood, food, paper, and more. The key to preventing mold and mildew from growing in your home is to deny them a place to live. This means being attentive to moisture problems and cleaning mold as soon as you find it.
- Prevent condensation by adding insulation to piping, windows, walls, and floors. This will be especially helpful during colder months!
- Reduce the humidity in your home and keep levels to 30 – 60%. A dehumidifier is a great option for a humid place like Florida!
- Thoroughly venting your bathroom and laundry room, using exhaust fans while running your dishwasher or stove, and keeping air circulating will help reduce the humidity levels in your home.
- If your mold is the result of a water leak, fix the leak as soon as possible to prevent recurring problems.
- If your home has an area with consistent moisture problems (such as a bathroom or basement), don’t install carpet. Instead, install flooring that is easy to clean and dry – such as concrete.
With some vigilance and preventative measures, you can keep your home mold and mildew free!