Mold 101

Mold can be harmful or helpful depending on where it grows

Mold needs moisture to grow

Mold does not grow on dry materials

Mold growing inside the home can affect the occupants

Occupants can learn to recognize mold

What are molds?

Molds are microscopic fungi, a group of organisms which include mushrooms and yeasts. You encounter mold every day. Foods spoil because of mold. Leaves decay and wood lying on the ground rots due to mold. Molds may be useful to people such as Penicillin, which is obtained from a type of mold.

Molds are undesirable when they grow where we don’t want them as in our homes. 270 species of mold have been identified in Canadian homes. Mold in homes may be different from the ones outside the home.

Molds will grow if we provide them with moisture and nutrients. If things are kept dry, mold does not grow. Moisture accumulates within the home where there is not enough ventilation to expel that moisture.

Molds are a concern as they damage materials by staining; paper and cardboard disintegrate; fabrics are damaged and there can be health concerns such as allergies and illness.

Inspect your home to see if there is mold. Discoloration is a sign of mold, but not all discoloration is caused by mold. Mold may be black, white, red,
orange, yellow, blue or violet. Dab a drop of household bleach onto a suspect spot. If the stain loses its colour or disappears, it may be mold. You can also suspect mold by the musty or earthy smell, but not all mold smell


What do you do if you have mold?

That all depends on how much mold you find. A small area can be cleaned using a detergent solution, household rubber gloves and a dust mask. If you ignore a small area, it may become larger over time. A small patch is no larger than 1 sq. meter. A moderate problem is when there are more than three patches smaller than a sq. meter or a total of about the size of a 4 X 8 sheet of plywood. At this point it is recommended a professional be brought in because you need to determine the source as well as cleaning it up in an effective manner. When deciding if you need a professional use the following factors:

Is there a lot of mold?

The home is very damp and moist?

Mold keeps coming back after repeated cleaning.

A family member suffers from asthma, respiratory or other health issues.

Your CMHC office can identify persons trained as Indoor Air Quality Investigators. The trained person can identify the problem, the sources and recommend solutions.

As much as you may have heard, bleach cannot be relied upon for disinfection. Reasons include the fumes being harmful, but also chlorinated effluents can be harmful to the environment. Where you have washable surfaces, scrub with an unscented detergent, then sponge with a clean, wet rag and dry quickly. In the case of drywall, clean the surface with a damp rag using baking soda or a bit of detergent. If the mold returns and the source has not been identified, get professional help for this and for larger mold problems.


How do you prevent mold?

Keep the home dry

Find and fix water leaks

Discard clutter and excess stored materials

Clean and maintain your home regularly

Encourage lifestyle practices that reduce moisture

Mold-proofing includes the following steps:

In the basement or crawl space, reduce the amount of clothes, paper and furnishings stored there; dehumidify the lower levels during the warm months; regularly clean and replace furnace filters (use a pleated one inch filter). In the laundry remove lint every time you use the dryer, don’t hang your laundry indoors; dry your laundry tub and washing machine after each use. In the bathroom, check the fan to ensure it exhausts to the outside; use the fan every time you shower and let it run for a few minutes when you are finished; take short showers; wipe down the shower walls and the tub. The kitchen should have the exhaust outside and use it always; minimize open boiling. Elsewhere, operate a dehumidifier during the warmer months and reduce the number of potted plants in the house – soil is a good place for mold.

Finally, ordinary vacuums capture large particles only and small mold spores pass through the vacuum into the area. HEPA vacuums have special filters that capture small particles. A central vacuum cleaner which exhausts to the outside also removes spores looking for a place to spawn a new patch of mold. The need for HEPA or external exhaust vacuuming increases with the severity of the hold problems.


Contributed by:

Jim McLachlin, Broker

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