Mold and mildew refer to tiny microscopic fungi that exist nearly everywhere. Fungi do not require light to survive, since they do not perform photosynthesis. Rather, they reproduce through microscopic spores.
Mold and mildew often appear as brown, green or black spots, and usually cause a musty smell. Mold and mildew typically grow in damp locations, like basements and showers. Some common indoor molds include Alternaria, Cladosporium, Aspergillus and Penicillium.
Mold Health Effects
Fungus causes respiratory symptoms in some people, including coughing and wheezing. Other symptoms of exposure can include eye or skin irritation. People with asthma may experience an asthma attack when exposed to fungus. People who are sensitive to mold should avoid areas that commonly have high levels of mold, including saunas, antique shops, flower shops and greenhouses.
Fungus test kits are available, but the Center for Disease Control (CDC) does not recommend testing fungus in the home or workplace; any kind of mold or mildew should be eliminated.
Remove small amounts of mold or mildew on nonporous objects by cleaning them with soap and water or bleach diluted with water. Wear gloves and protective eyewear when using bleach, and never mix bleach with ammonia.
Porous objects that have been contaminated with mold or mildew, like cardboard, paper, ceiling tiles, carpet or upholstery should be removed and replaced.
If environmental conditions remain the same, however, mold will quickly reappear. Changing the conditions in one’s home or workplace is the only way to prevent the growth of mold and mildew.
Preventing Mold and Mildew Growth
Prevent fungal growth by keeping one’s home clean and dry. Remove all clutter and dust, since fungi can survive on small amounts of dust or dirt. Use a dehumidifier, if necessary, to lower humidity. Humidity should be kept between 40 to 60 percent. Fans and air conditioning also help increase air circulation, which prevents fungal growth.
Fix anything that leaks, like a cracked wall, leaky roof or broken appliance. Always clean up water spills immediately, and never put wet clothes or shoes in closets before they have dried completely. Do not use carpet in wet areas like bathrooms or near washing machines. Consider adding mold inhibitors to paint.
Mold and Mildew in Homes
Mold and mildew represent a common problem in homes, schools and workplaces. Mold can cause health issues and damage objects, but it is easy to remove and control. Check for mold growth frequently, especially in damp locations like bathrooms and basements; catching fungal growth earlier makes cleanup easier.