While mold and mould are the same thing, mold is used in the US and mould is used by the British and in Australia.
Mould is an unwelcome guest that can silently invade our homes, often without us even realizing it. Its presence not only poses a threat to the structural integrity of our living spaces but can also have adverse effects on our health. In this blog, we will explore the insidious nature of mould, its causes, and effective strategies to prevent and eliminate it from our homes.
Mould is a type of fungus that thrives in damp and humid environments. It reproduces through tiny spores that float through the air, seeking suitable conditions for growth. While mould is a natural part of the environment and plays a crucial role in breaking down organic matter, it becomes problematic when it infiltrates our homes.
The most common moulds found in our homes include Penicillium, Aspergillus and Cladosporium.
Common Causes of Mould Growth:
- Moisture: Mould requires moisture to grow, making damp areas in the home susceptible to its presence. Leaks (foundation, plumbing, appliances, roofs), floods, or even high humidity levels can create the perfect breeding ground for mould.
- Poor Ventilation: Inadequate ventilation can trap moisture indoors, promoting the growth of mould. Areas such as bathrooms, kitchens, and basements are particularly vulnerable.
- Condensation: Condensation on windows, walls, or pipes can provide the necessary moisture for mould growth. This often occurs in poorly insulated or poorly ventilated spaces.
We all know what mould looks like but what about the mould you can’t see? Mould can smell musty so follow your nose to see if you can identify the source of the smell. HVAC systems are a common area for mould, and so is improperly insulated ductwork. If your allergy or asthma symptoms are worse at home, or if you've been having respiratory infections, you might have hidden mould.
If you have any surface abnormalities on your walls such as warping or bubbling, there is a possibility of mould. Moisture can also cause a squishy floor so check for mould under these areas. If your attic insulation is uneven or very lumpy, check your roof for leaks. And finally, check under your carpet for signs of water damage or stains.
At home mould tests are not recommended as they are not reliable and are expensive. Furthermore, there is no existing standard to tell you what a tolerable amount of mould might be.
Exposure to mould can lead to various health issues, especially for individuals with allergies or respiratory conditions, immune suppression, children, seniors and those who are pregnant. Common symptoms include sneezing, coughing, skin irritation, and eye or throat discomfort. Exposure to mould has been shown to contribute to the development of asthma, bronchitis, respiratory infections and eczema. Prolonged exposure may contribute to more severe health problems, emphasizing the importance of addressing mould issues promptly. Be sure to see a health professional.
- Control Indoor Humidity: Use dehumidifiers to maintain indoor humidity levels below 60%. Proper ventilation is also crucial in preventing moisture buildup.
- Fix Leaks Promptly: Address any water leaks or damage immediately. Regularly inspect your home for leaks in the roof, walls, plumbing, or appliances.
- Improve Ventilation: Ensure proper ventilation in areas prone to moisture, such as bathrooms and kitchens. Use exhaust fans and open windows when cooking or bathing.
- Monitor Indoor Plants: Overwatering indoor plants can contribute to excess humidity. Be mindful of the moisture levels in the soil and provide adequate drainage.
- Use Mold-Resistant Products: Consider using mould-resistant paint and building materials in susceptible areas of your home.
- Clean and Disinfect: Regularly clean and disinfect areas prone to mould growth, such as bathrooms and kitchens. Use mould-killing products to eliminate spores.
- Remove and Replace Infested Materials: In severe cases, it may be necessary to remove and replace materials that cannot be adequately cleaned, such as drywall or carpeting.
- Professional Assistance: If the mould infestation is extensive, it's advisable to seek professional help. Certified mould remediation specialists can assess the situation and employ advanced techniques to eliminate the problem.
If you're doing your own clean up, be sure to use safety glasses, a N95 mask and disposable gloves. Use soap and water, not bleach. Bleach doesn't kill the mould roots. You can also add some eucalyptus, geranium, lavender, lemon or tea tree essential oil to your cleaning solution.
The CMHC has an infographic to help you determine if you can clean up a mould problem yourself or if you should hire trained specialists.
The Government of Canada has more information, including step by step cleaning instructions, a guide on what should be discarded and what can be cleaned, mould prevention and how to hire a professional.
Mould is a stealthy intruder that can compromise the integrity of our homes and impact our health. By understanding its causes and implementing preventative measures, we can create a healthier living environment. If mould is already present, prompt remediation is essential to mitigate its effects and ensure a safe and comfortable home for ourselves and our loved ones.