How to Address Mold and Mildew Problems

Mold and mildew can grow in many areas of your home. Mold and mildew can grow on many types of surfaces including tile, caulk, wood, paper, carpets, drywall, painted surfaces, concrete and insulation.  Unaddressed, mold and mildew can present serious health risks and can cause damage to property.

Unfortunately mold problems are not always visible. Mold can grow behind walls, within furniture, behind appliances and in other our-of-sight areas. Musty odors and water stains are indicators of hidden mold problems. When mold is discovered in a home or workplace, it can become airborne. Airborne mold spores can trigger allergies, asthma and other healthy related problems. Some types of mold are toxic and can be hazardous. To address this problem, it is necessary to clean up mold and mildew that are already present, and then control moisture content in the area to prevent recurring growth.

Test to Determine the Type of Mold 

Some types of mold and mildew present more health risks than others. Prior to taking any action to remove existing mold and mildew, it is best to determine the types or mold present and their concentrations. This will enable you to determine the potential hazards that the mold presents and provide guidance about the best ways to remove the mold and prevent recurrence.

Mold Screen Check Kits are an effective, DIY way to test your home or workplace for the presence of allergenic and toxic mold. Using materials supplied in the kit, mold samples are collected and are sent to the lab for analysis. The lab tests for hundreds of types of mold, which are then identified and with concentration levels determined. You then receive a very comprehensive report with detailed information about the genus of the molds present, their concentrations and guidelines about levels that are considered manageable.

Remove Existing Mold and Mildew

If you observe moisture accumulating in certain areas, physically dry the area as much as possible with towels, mops or a wet / dry vacuum. Then use a portable dehumidifier, fans and good ventilation to dry the area as quickly as possible. Materials that absorb a lot of moisture such as furniture, carpeting, and ceiling tiles may need to be discarded if they have significant amounts of mold or mildew present.

If the mold covers a relatively small area of a hard surface, or is in enclosed areas such as bathrooms and shower stalls, you can clean the area yourself using a mild detergent and water, a disinfectant or commercially available mold removal products. Remove and replace damaged or moldy caulk and grout. Wear long sleeves, long pants, rubber gloves and eye protection. Also, wear an N-95 respirator to avoid inhaling potentially hazardous airborne mold.

While most mold and mildew problems are relatively easy to repair or resolve through increased ventilation and the use of a dehumidifier, mold and mildew can also accumulate behind walls, where moisture has slowly been absorbed or introduced through miniscule cracks or hidden plumbing leaks.

Prevent Ongoing Mold and Mildew Growth

Mold can rapidly grow in areas with occasional or sustained high humidity levels such as bathrooms, laundry rooms, basements, near windows and doors, and on poorly insulated surfaces along outside walls. Different solutions are needed depending on your specific circumstances.

  • For Laundry rooms be sure that your clothes dryer vents to the outdoors and not into any enclosed area such as the basement, crawl space or attic. Dryer booster fans can be used to enhance moisture removal and accelerate the drying process, reducing energy costs in the process.
  • For bathrooms, laundry rooms and other enclosed areas, good ventilation is essential to remove moisture as it is generated. Ventilation fans that exhaust outdoors should be used as needed to quickly remove moisture before it can build up. Use only mold and mildew resistant caulk in shower stalls and around sinks, bathtubs and other plumbing fixtures.
  • For larger areas, such as basements and crawl spaces, use waterproofing products on the walls if possible. Use room dehumidifiers, making sure that they either emptied regularly or drain directly to a properly functioning floor drain.
If you live in a humid climate or if humidity issues are present through much of your home, a Whole House Dehumidifier may be a good investment for you. Whole House Dehumidifiers mount directly onto the air ducts used to by your heating and air conditioning system. As air circulates through the house, humidity is efficiently removed. Such units can take the place of multiple room dehumidifiers and should be used along with good ventilation and dryer booster fans.