The presence of mold in your home can cause many problems from poor health to rotting home materials. It grows in damp areas like kitchens, bathrooms, and crawl spaces. Leaks in the home, whether from plumbing leaks or holes in the roof are also a source of moldy enviroments as well as humid climates which naturally invite mold growth.
Another, often overlooked, mold source is when there is a flood in the home. Anytime large amounts of water have been spilled onto surfaces in the home you should quickly dry the area and affected materials. An overflowing toilet that gets carpet wet is a good example of this. Another common situation is partial or complete flooding of a basement. Flooded basements almost always result in mold growing under the carpet and in the wall insulation and drywall that has been water soaked.
Wherever you have found mold you should take steps to remove it as soon as possible. This article teaches you some basic techniques to locate, identify, remove and control mold.
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Mold can grow on most surfaces like plastic shower curtains, painted surfaces, tile and stone as long as it has a food source. Food sources include organic materials such as paper, wood, leather, drywall, insulation and food etc. You will most often find it in damp or wet areas like widow sills, showers, bathrooms, kitchens, flooded parts of the home and around water leaks in the home.
The most common first sign of mold is a musty smell. If you have a musty smell you should investigate until you find the source. Finding the source of the smell can be tricky if it only happens sometimes. This happens when water gets on or under a surface only sometimes, like when a floor is mopped or when condensation forms on a window sill or a roof leaks during a rain storm.
When looking for the mold, remember that it can be behind the surface you are looking at. For instance it can be inside a wall or under tile and linolium. Hopefully your mold problem is on the visible surface where it is easily cleaned with bleach or other chemical. If it is under the surface then you will need to remove the material to get rid of the mold.
This is a picture of mold under a ceramic tile. Once water and mold get behind a material like tile it is hard to get rid of it without removing affected tiles, cleaning everything and re-installing the tiles.
Mold comes in alot of colors but is often black or chalky white.
The best way to control mold is to stop moisture. You must completely fix the water and or moisture problem before the mold can be stopped or the mold will just grow back. How the water source is stopped depends on what it is. It may a leaky pipe, roof, window, refrigerator, or simply a part of the bathroom that never dries out like the corner of a shower.
The first line of defense against mold and your body is a respirator. Use a respirator or mask that is rated to filter out mold spores. This mask is the N-95 which is rated for mold spores. Masks are necessary if you are sensitive to mold or have an alergic reaction and are cleaning up a large projects
You may also want to use rubber or laytex gloves when working with the chemicals to remove bleach.
For the purposes of this article we will classify mold cleanup into two categories:
Non porus surfaces like tile are the easiest to remove mold from. You can use a solution of 3/4 cup of chlorine bleach per gallon of water to soak the mold area and then scrub it off with soapy water. Use as spray bottle to apply the bleach solution or scrub it on with a scrub brush or cloth. Make sure to use rubber or latex gloves and wear clothes that you don't mind getting bleach spots on. If you have a constant water soaked area like a shower then taking care of the mold is a daily process, like spraying with a "mold removing" shower cleaner after each use.
Cleaning up mold on a porus surface like wood is a little tougher. Mold has roots (mycelia) and chlorine bleach does not penetrate into wood or other porous surfaces enough to kill the roots. There are commercial products made for treating building materials like wood, drywall, tile and stone. These products penetrate into the pores and remove mold.
Chlorine bleach does NOT remove mold out of porous materials like wood and drywall. To clean porous materials you need to use a chemical designed to get to the root of the mold. Most home stores like Home Depot or Lowes have chemicals like "Concrobium" that are designed to get to the root of mold inside porous materials. They can also be used with a fogger that can be rented where the products are sold. A fogger puts the chemical into the air and allows it to get to areas that cannot be wiped down like behind and under walls.
Be sure to read the labels on any mold cleaning product before purchasing. Some products are used to clean on hard surfaces, some are made to clean porous surfaces and others are made to simply remove the stains from mold. Make sure the product you are purchasing is intended for the use that you need it to perform. Also, make sure that you follow the instructions on any mold removal product including safety precautions, application steps, clean up, and disposal.
When water damage is heavy or extensive, like a flooded basement or a leak that has gone on for some time it may be necessary to completely remove the materials. This is a description of some of the projects:
Flooded Basement: Mold grows quickly in flooded basements. Basements are by nature a confined area that is surrounded by natural earth that is damp so when basements flood it is hard to get the moisture out quick enough to stop mold growth. If you have a flooded basement you must get the water pumped out and then the materials like carpets vacuumed and then fans on them to dry them out within 24 hours. Any walls, especially ones with insulation in them will most likely need to have the drywall taken off to above the water line and repaired.
To repair basement walls you must:
Attic And Wall Leaks: Water coming into the home thru the roof or walls is an area that can be hard to remedy. Be sure to stop the leak before cleaning up the mold or the problem will be back within days. Hidden cavites, like walls and enclosed ceilings should be opened up to visually inspect the damage so that you can determine whether to remove the materials or clean them.
Saturated Materials Behind Tile Or Stone: This is most common in and around tubs and showers. If water gets behind tiles and mold grows behind the hard surface the only way to clean it is to remove the hard surface material and deal with the mold and the material that it is growing on, usually drywall or concrete. A short term solution would be to let the tile or stone dry out for a week and then caulk the joints and seal the stone, be careful with this because this does not remove the mold it only seals it in.
image credits: Courtesy epa.gov.