In Alabama, dealing with humidity is a way of life. It’s part of what we must put up with in exchange for living in a mild Southern climate. But humidity can bring problems along with it, including mold, and boy does mold enjoy our warm winters and even warmer summers!
A properly controlled HVAC system should help to regulate the humidity levels in your home, but sometimes there is a little too much moisture hanging around. That extra moisture creates the perfect breeding ground for many types of mold. If it can find a dark space to grow in, even better!
Besides being gross, however, mold can bring along some significant health hazards, especially if you are one of the lucky people who are allergic to the mold itself or the spores. If you find yourself with a mold problem, the first thing you should do is identify the type of mold you are dealing with. Knowing your enemy will help to determine the best way to get rid of the problem.
Mold vs. Mildew
A lot of homeowners believe that mold and mildew are the same things, but there are some fundamental differences. Think of them as brother and sister – they are both fungi and enjoy the same warm, moist growing environments. Both are at home in human households. But mildew tends to grow on the surface of whatever material it is attached to, making it slightly easier to eliminate. It tends to be light colored and powdery, although it can change color over time.
Mold, on the other hand, tends to look fuzzy or even slimy. It is also a sign of a larger infestation, bringing with it more concerning health risks than mildew. Depending on the type of mold in your house, a professional may be a necessity for ridding your home of the infestation.
Either way, both mold and mildew can cause respiratory problems, so it is a good idea to nip the problem in the bud if you find either type of fungi growing in your home.
Common Mold Types
- Alternaria – This mold tends to be gray, brown or black and loves to grow on walls. It’s especially fond of showers or spaces around windows where it gets a steady supply of moisture. It can be dangerous for those who are allergic, causing breathing problems and possibly asthma attacks in some people.
- Aspergillus – Coming in an array of colors including green, yellow, gray, brown and black, Aspergillus is one of the most common molds found in homes. Aspergillus is a fan of textiles, preferring to grow on paper, clothing and other fabrics, although it will also grow on walls. It’s less harmful than some other molds, but for those with weakened immune systems, the symptoms of exposure can include respiratory infections.
- Cladosporium – This dark-colored mold (usually black or green) is a little different – it’s a fan of growing in cooler environments, but it still needs a lot of moisture to survive. This one is likely to be somewhere in the basement and enjoys both wood and textile surfaces.
- Penicillium – This blue-green mold has a strong musty odor and isn’t picky about the materials where it grows. If a water source available to provide a damp environment, Penicillium will happily live there. For people who are allergic to penicillium, an infestation can cause a host of respiratory problems, including some that are severe.
- Stachybotrys – This is the one we have all heard of – the dreaded “black mold.” It has a reputation for a reason. The mycotoxins produced by Stachybotrys can cause a host of chronic health problems including infections, breathing problems, fatigue, and depression. It’s also not picky about its living environment – if there is a constant source of dampness, it will thrive. This mold requires a professional for removal, due to the health problems it can cause.
How to Identify What’s in Your Home
For a quick test to see if you are dealing with mold or mildew, try a little bleach. Put a drop of bleach on the mildew or mold and wait five minutes. If the spot lightens to white, you are most likely dealing with mildew, which you can eliminate with commercial cleaners. If the place stays dark, you are likely dealing with some type of mold and should probably call in a professional for help.
To determine exactly what type of mold is growing in your home, testing kits are available at most hardware stores or online. Regardless of the kind of mold, you will still likely need the help of a professional to eradicate the problem completely. Identifying mold by sight likely won’t be an issue for the pros – after all, they do this for a living! They’ll be able to outline a plan for getting your home healthy again.
The number one prevention tip for mold and mildew is decreasing the humidity. Water is required for fungi to grow, so if your home tends to be very humid, it’s time to find out why. An HVAC tech can evaluate your home’s climate system to see what improvements can be made to keep moisture out of the air. If the problem isn’t in the climate system, or if you rely on a window or mini-split units that cannot keep the air dry, it’s time to consider a dehumidifier.
Routine inspections and cleaning of your home are also important. Be sure to clean and check under sinks and around other water sources routinely. You will be able to easily identify any leaks quickly if you have a regular cleaning schedule, which means small problems will stay small. Removing sources of moisture means that mold has no place to call home, which will keep the air quality in your home high and healthy!