Tips to identify, clean and prevent mold outbreaks in your home and in your HVAC system.
Mold, although it makes us shudder in disgust, can be a real problem in Washington State and throughout the Puget Sound region. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air is two-to-five times more polluted than the air outdoors, and as the rainy season continues in the Northwest, moisture accumulation will support mold growth.
Molds are very common indoors as the mold spores spread easily and can cause severe damage to the structure of a building. Rental units, especially those with structural damage that trap moisture and enable mold growth, may become unlivable if not treated and cleaned correctly.
What is mold?
Mold is a type of fungus that grows on damp surfaces, and there are many different varieties and colors. There are over 100,000 known species of mold. You may even find different kinds of mold in different parts of your home.
Mold can grow on walls, pipes, ceilings, tubs, sinks, showers, window casings, refrigerators and even clothes stored in dark, humid places.
What are common types of mold found in the home?
Black mold is most likely to appear in areas of the home that are predominantly humid, warm and damp. Crawlspaces and basements that may have leaks or other sources of moisture are often prone to black mold growth. Black mold is readily identifiable by its color, whereas most other molds are green or gray in color.
Black mold can cause a variety of allergic reactions and health problems. In most cases, depending on the length of exposure and the amount of spores inhaled, symptoms can include headaches, irritation of the eyes, fever, sneezing, rashes, chronic fatigue and chronic coughing. In cases of prolonged exposure or cases intensified by an allergic reaction, a person may suffer more extreme symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and bleeding in the lungs and nose.
There are more than one hundred types of mold that are commonly found inside the home that can appear green in color. Some of the more common types of green mold include:
Aspergillus – this mold can appear green, brown, yellow or grey and is often found growing on and inside walls.
Cladosporium – this mold can appear green, brown or gray and can grow in cool climates as well as warm places. It is often found growing on walls, cabinets and carpets that have gotten wet.
Penicillium – this mold appears in a bluish-green color and is frequently found growing on wet carpets, in wet insulation and on wet mattresses.
It can be difficult or impossible to identify mold just by its appearance, since the color of mold can vary depending on a number of factors, including the type of material on which it is growing.
How do I remove mold?
It is impossible to get rid of all the mold and mold spores inside your home; some mold spores can be found floating through the air and in household dust. Mold spores will not grow if there is no moisture present. Indoor mold growth can be prevented by controlling the moisture indoors. If there is mold growth in your home, you must fix the water or moisture problem and then clean up the mold. If you clean up the mold, but don’t fix the moisture problem, then the mold problem will come back.
Water, a household detergent and a little elbow grease can be used to remove mold from most surfaces. However, mold is oftentimes stubborn and may keep reappearing even after subsequent cleanups. The microscopic mold spores stay in the air and keep reproducing rapidly when moisture is abundant. Mold can be dangerous, so make sure to use proper safety precautions such as safety gloves and a mask or respirator if you decide to clean it up on your own.
If you suspect that the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system may be contaminated with mold, consult an HVAC professional before taking further action. Do not run the HVAC system if you suspect or know that it is contaminated, as it could spread mold throughout your home.
How do I prevent mold?
The best method of preventing mold from infesting your home is to reduce the levels of moisture indoors. Proper air conditioning and ventilation in areas particularly susceptible to outbreaks, such as the shower and kitchen, is the best answer.
Why does mold affect the ventilation system?
Your air conditioner works to ventilate your home by recycling air. When warm air is loaded with moisture, it creates the perfect environment for mold growth. The mold spores can attach to the inner part of a ventilation system and can affect the way the system works.
The good news is that not all air conditioning systems are attacked by mold. If you find that yours is, consider replacing it or talk to an HVAC professional to reposition it. Poor placement can contribute to mold growth on your HVAC system.
With any luck, you won’t find a mold infestation in your home HVAC, but if you do, make sure to call a professional to help.
Think you may have a mold infestation in your HVAC system? Contact MM Comfort Systems to help with your Heating and Cooling needs throughout the Seattle area.
MM Comfort experts can help you with repairs and servicing of your current HVAC system or help you choose the best heating and cooling options for your home, no matter how big or small it may be. Call us at 425.533.9058 or use our online contact form to arrange for a free heating and cooling consultation.