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How To Stop Mold From Growing In Your Home

How To Stop Mold From Growing In Your Home

By Laura BourlandRise Writer
Sep 30, 2020

Taking the time to check your home for mold and moisture regularly will help prevent it from growing. Mold can grow anywhere in just 24 hours, but mold prevention is uncomplicated with a bit of forethought. A leak-free and well-ventilated home can reduce the likelihood of mold development. Technologies like dehumidifiers, HRV, and ERV can help remove humidity from areas, including the bathroom, laundry room, and kitchen.

Table of Contents

  1. What Is Mold?
  2. What Conditions Does Mold Grow In?
  3. What Is the Difference Between Mold and Mildew?
  4. What Does Mold Smell Like?
  5. What Does Black Mold Look Like?
  6. What Are Mold Symptoms, Allergies, and Health Risks?
  7. What Happens if You Ingest Mold?
  8. Where Is Mold Most Commonly Found?
  9. Can a Water Leak Cause Mold?
  10. Can Mold Grow in Humid Climates?
  11. Common Moisture Problems That Can Cause Mold
  12. How Do You Naturally Clean Mold?
  13. Can I Remove Mold Naturally?
  14. How Do I Prevent Mold Growth in My Home?
  15. Can Dehumidifier Prevent Mold?
  16. Does Proper Ventilation Prevent Mold?

What Is Mold?

Mold is a fungus that will grow both inside and outside of any structure and can cause various problems, including health conditions and structural damage. Mold can form in many shapes, sizes and could appear flat, bumpy, or hairy. When disturbed, mold spores can disperse around an area and attach to new surfaces. In the right conditions, mold can grow in as little as 24 hours.

What Conditions Does Mold Grow In?

Mold thrives in warm, humid, and dark conditions, a severe threat to any home near the ocean, lake, river, or large body of water. While it may seem overwhelming for those in humid climates, mold is entirely preventable, given the proper attention.

What Is the Difference Between Mold and Mildew?

It's easy to confuse mold and mildew as they both thrive in warm, humid areas rich with moisture. The first noticeable difference between mold and mildew is that mold is slimy or fuzzy, grows underneath surfaces, and is green or black. Mildew is usually on damp surfaces, is white, yellow, or gray in color and powdery.

What Does Mold Smell Like?

While mold does not produce a strong smell, it's usually described as musty, wet clothing, earthy, or even rotten wood. If you experience these smells in your home, it's essential to inspect the area for signs of mold. If you're unable to find the source, ventilate the site to allow fresh air in and dry up any moisture.

what does black mold look like
Black Mold. Photo Credit: The Home Depot

What Does Black Mold Look Like?

Black mold thrives off moisture and is very dark, greenish-black in color. It's often slimy, exhibits a musty smell, and may not spread as quickly due to its need for moisture.

What Are Mold Symptoms, Allergies, and Health Risks?

Mold is not only an unsightly visitor in the home, but if left untreated, mold growth can lead to the following medical conditions:

  • cold or flu
  • stuffy nose
  • wheezing
  • fever
  • shortness of breath
  • fatigue
  • postnasal drip
  • red and itchy eyes
  • dry skin

Allergies to mold exhibit similar symptoms such as itchiness, sneezing, congestion, runny nose, and dry skin. Symptoms are generally more severe if we breathe in mold spores.

Patients undergoing treatment for or recovering from more severe conditions, including cancer, are especially susceptible to complications under a weakened immune system. Mold is also tied to the development of asthma in children. It can cause asthma attacks if not adequately removed from living spaces.

What Happens if You Ingest Mold?

The thought of ingesting mold is often worse than actually ingesting it. Nonetheless, there are dangerous molds out there that can negatively affect your health. You should limit your contact with mold by using protective equipment while cleaning.

Where Is Mold Most Commonly Found?

Mold is usually in common areas in the following locations throughout a home

  • bathrooms
  • kitchens
  • attics
  • basements
  • inside walls and
  • under cabinets.

Mold especially loves to grow on wood, drywall, cotton, paper products, cardboard, ceiling tiles, untreated paint and wallpaper, insulation, carpet, and even upholstery.

basement flood
Photo Courtesy of Basement Systems

Can a Water Leak Cause Mold?

Several conditions can cause water leaks, but mold will undoubtedly take hold if not located and remedied quickly. It's essential to do a regular check of all rooms and spaces in your home to identify any potential leaks to prevent mold growth. Major culprits include hidden pipes inside your walls, under cabinets, and in rooms not used daily (think: basement, attic).

Roof leaks are another common cause of mold. Think of slow water drips into your attic not discovered until months later when you go up to retrieve stored boxes.

In the case of home flooding from a natural disaster or household accident, it's essential you clean and dries the space to prevent mold growth. For extreme flooding, you may be best off hiring a professional cleaner.

Can Mold Grow in Humid Climates?

Homes in humid climates and near large bodies of water are the most susceptible to mold problems. Still, any home with collecting moisture is at risk. 

Mold will grow in any environment with a humidity level of over 55%. To discourage mold growth, ensure your home is adequately ventilated, providing moisture and humidity a means for escape.

Common Moisture Problems That Can Cause Mold

Mold and Wet Clothes

Clothes hung to dry inside or left wet will release moisture into the air, creating humid conditions. When doing the wash, always move wet clothes to the electric dryer or an outside clothesline immediately to prevent mold growth. Wash left wet for more than 24 hours should be re-washed, as it will likely have grown mold already.

Mold and Humidifiers

While helpful in treating dry skin and cold symptoms, humidifiers can increase humidity to unsafe, mold-festering levels in the home. To prevent this, always keep humidifiers set to under 55%.

Mold and Condensation

In cold weather, condensation may develop on pipes, concrete floors (even those covered with carpet!), and single-pane windows. Reduce condensation and clean up any moisture collection to prevent mold from growing.

Mold and Poor Ventilation

Homes without proper ventilation for moisture to escape will likely experience recurring mold problems. Check for appropriate ventilation in your clothes dryer vents outside the house and any damp spaces like basements, kitchens, and bathrooms.

naturally clean mold
Natural Mold Cleaning Supplies. Photo Credit: DIY Network

How Do You Naturally Clean Mold?

Bleach is the most common go-to solution. Contrary to popular belief, bleach is an ineffective way to clean and prevent mold from growing again. It is unable to penetrate porous surfaces and kill mold at the roots. A simple process involving vinegar with additional hydrogen peroxide treatment is a safe, natural, and highly effective way to clean and prevent mold.

Can I Remove Mold Naturally?

To treat mold naturally, you'll need the following items:

  • Spray bottle
  • Rubber gloves
  • Scrub brush
  • Mask
  • White vinegar (optional: tea tree oil or citrus seed)
  • Baking soda (quarter tablespoon)
  • Water
  • hydrogen peroxide (3% concentration)

To treat mold naturally, add vinegar to a spray bottle and apply it thoroughly to the mold. The solution should saturate the area and set it in for 10 to 15 minutes. To reduce the pungent scent of the vinegar, you can dilute it with water; however, diluting the vinegar will make it less effective. It's recommended to treat and clean mold while wearing a protective mask to prevent inhaling mold spores.

After 10 to 15 minutes, wipe the treated area with a cloth and water. Once the room is clean, apply the mixture of baking soda and let it stand for another 10 minutes. White vinegar will kill the most common species of mold; baking soda will assist in killing different species of it. Baking soda also helps to absorb moisture and helps keep mold away.

If the moldy area is porous, add hydrogen peroxide to a spray bottle and apply it to the site. Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is water with an extra oxygen molecule, making it a powerful oxidant. Next, scrub the area with a scrub brush for 1 to 2 minutes and wipe the surface down.

dryer ventilation
Photo Courtesy of What to Expect

How Do I Prevent Mold Growth in My Home?

Preventing mold from growing in your home requires regularly checking for mold and immediate and thorough clean-up when spotted. 

  1. Do a weekly mold check: the best way to prevent mold from growing in your home is to check for indicators like leaky pipes and moisture buildup. Once a week (or more!), do a complete walkthrough of every room in your house, checking under cabinets, dark corners, and unused spaces.
  2. Clean and disinfect immediately: When you find mold or water, it's crucial to clean it up right away. Commercial cleaning products, bleach, and good old soap and water will all do the trick (although we recommend sticking to natural cleaning products). The key is to completely clean away all mold spores to prevent re-growth and leave the space bone dry.
  3. Air it out: an aired out home is less likely to grow mold. Increase ventilation where mold problems exist and open windows, when possible, to allow rooms to air out completely.
  4. Remove carpet: carpet is a big no-no in humid spaces as mold can develop between the carpet and concrete foundation, creating an invisible problem. Carpet should never be in damp areas like basements, kitchens, and bathrooms. Dispose of any carpeting that does come into contact with mold or sits wet for more than 24 hours.
Foundation flood
Photo courtesy of Altra Dry

Prevent Water Build Up Around House Foundation

Another commonly overlooked cause of mold is external home landscaping. Take a walk around your house on a wet day and inventory any water collecting around the foundation. A yard or garden bed that slopes inward will often drain water towards your home. Also, note any ditches forming and rain gutter run off to help direct water away from your house.

Remember, the longer the water sits, the higher the chance it'll develop mold. While most molds are easily cleanable, standing water left for several days may foster more dangerous and toxic molds. Thus, increasing the cleanup required and potentially creating a bigger problem.

dehumidifiers clean mold

Can Dehumidifier Prevent Mold?

Dehumidifiers work to reduce home humidity by drawing moisture out of the air and into a bucket to be emptied. Dehumidifiers are available in many sizes, and you must choose a model designed for the size room you intend to use it in. A small dehumidifier won't stand a chance in your large basement.

Dehumidifiers will detect the home humidity level, and you can set it to your desired level. For mold prevention, set your dehumidifier to maintain an internal humidity level below 50%. Good, house dehumidifiers start at $130, increasing in price for larger sizes.

Heat recovery ventilator
Photo courtesy of PrimeX

Does Proper Ventilation Prevent Mold?

Most home heating and cooling systems recycle inside air, meaning any bad air already in your home will continue to recycle. In the case of mold growth, that toxic, mold-infested air will cycle through your HVAC system, increasing the likelihood of medical complications. Luckily, ERV and HRV technologies are available to help bring clean, fresh outside air into your home.

Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERV)

Energy Recovery Ventilators are currently in many new construction homes in warmer climates in the United States. For older construction homes, ERV technology can be installed for as little as $1500 and climbing upwards of $4000.

ERV technology works by pushing dirty inside air out of your home and drawing clean, fresh air in using fans. Most installations are designed to bring polluted air from key spaces like bathrooms, laundry rooms, and the kitchen and push clean air into living spaces, including bedrooms and main living rooms.

ERV technology sucks in warm outside air and processes it through the central device, cooling it before reentering the home.

Heat Recovery Ventilators (HRV)

Heat Recovery Ventilators are also in new construction houses in colder climates across the United States and Canada. HRV works similarly to ERV devices, pushing old air out of the house and sucking in clean air. The significant difference here is that HRV heats the new air before distributing it throughout the home, a welcome exchange for those living in colder climates.

Both ERV and HRV devices should be professionally installed to ensure proper ventilation.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2021-05-18T12:13:26+0000
Laura Bourland

Article by:

Laura Bourland

Laura grew up in the California suburbs, far removed from environmentalism, but nature always has a way. She uprooted her life in 2015, moving to the countryside of Washington to live a more sustainable and simple life on 12 acres. She and her fiancee are learning on the job as they attempt everything from gardening and natural pest control to eco-friendly building and home improvement.