Dealing with Mold
In the most humid months of the year finding mold in your home is not uncommon. It is recommended by Health Canada to clean up mold quickly to avoid health risks, regardless of mold species, along with addressing the underlying causes. While professionals can test the number of mold spores in the air and the type of mold, this is not usually required. There are mold spores all around us most of the time, indoors and out. Concentrations of mold spores vary greatly from day to day and different people have different sensitivities to it.
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) classifies mold amounts like this:
SMALL: 1 to 3 patches, each less than 10 square feet.
MODERATE: more than 3 patches or patches of up to 32 square feet.
EXTENSIVE: patch(es) larger than 32 square feet (seek professional advice)
If you find small or moderate amounts of mold, clean the surface with water and dish detergent(wear rubber gloves and a dust mask), then find the underlying cause.
Factors which influence the growth of mold:
The most important factor is the amount of moisture in the air, along with temperature, air circulation and light.
Most molds thrive at warmer temperatures. When combined with high levels of humidity, temperatures of 70 to 75° F will cause mold to develop.
Air circulation will help prevent mold growth as circulation helps control moisture levels through evaporation. Using a HVAC (heating/ventilation/air conditioning) system can solve all these problems. If no HVAC available fans can be installed to improve air circulation. They are best placed near outside walls and close to floor level. Portable dehumidifiers can be used for localized problems. Although you can invest in several units, portable dehumidifiers tend not to be as effective in large spaces as a centralized HVAC system with humidity control.
Sunlight generally inhibits mold growth. University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences mold information page says: Open the drapes in order to let sunshine in the room and leave the bedroom doors open in order to help air circulation.
The Virginia State Library observed a direct connection between the rate of mold growth and the presence of light during several outbreaks in its libraries between 1978 and 1980. It was found that more light meant lower growth rates.
Room by Room
Research done at the University of Florida indicates that although mold can (and does) occur in every room in the house, bathrooms, closets and bedrooms are areas that most commonly experience mold problems. Here are some tips from experts to control mold in each room of your home.
Many signs can indicate a bathroom moisture problem. Paint or wallpaper may be peeling. You may see water on windows or condensation on walls or toilets. Water may be seen dripping from vents. Keep bathrooms clean, even tiny amounts of soap scum or body oils from showering can support mildew growth.
Use cooler water for showers. Cooler showers put less moisture into the air and use less energy. Some people keep a window squeegee in their showers and take a minute or two after showering to squeegee excess water into the drain.
Use your exhaust fan to vent out humid air during and after your showers. Turn on your exhaust fan as soon as you start to shower, and allow it to run for about fifteen minutes after you finish. After that, turn it off; you do not want to bring too much outside air into the rest of the house.
If you are battling a serious mildew problem, you may want to carry wet towels to a rack in the garage or on the porch to dry.
Moisture can get into closets much more easily than it can come out. Anything damp you put into a closet, even a little moisture in shoes or clothing, can add to moisture problems.
If the closet is in the bathroom, keep the door closed when shower moisture is present.
Open shelving (plastic-coated wire) is best, it allows air circulation.
Many people like to sleep with their windows open. When the humidity is high, too much moisture can come in. Moisture is also produced when we breathe while we sleep.
Don’t open windows unless the outside air is dry.
Air must be circulated in the bedroom. If there is no return air duct in the room or if neither air conditioning nor heat is being used, the bedroom door should be left ajar at night.
Smoke and cooking oils can settle on walls and furnishings and provide a soil on which mold will grow; another reason to use that range hood exhaust fan.
Don’t over-water your plants, and watch for mould in plant pots.
If you rent, there is a limit to what you can do to correct mold problems. Landlords will normally help to deal with mold problems but information on dispute resolution in landlord/tenant issues is available if required:
In New Brunswick:
In Nova Scotia:
Selecting a mold free apartment:
Avoid basement apartments which tend to be damp.
Look for apartments with working kitchen and bathroom fans.
Avoid apartments with old carpets, or ask the landlord if carpet could be removed.