First things first:
How can you tell the difference between mold & mildew?
Mold and mildew are closely related fungi. You can see mold as a black, brown or green fuzz that is found on rotting food or other plant material. But you may also find it on tile, plastic, in your homes’ insulation or even sheet rock. If you’ve got a powdery pattern of black or dark grey spots on your clothing, leather, ceilings, books, papers, plants, floors, furniture, etc., that most likely is mildew. Plus it smells swampy or musty.
Even in dry climates, mold can develop in some unusual (or usual places) in your home. Generally, the bathroom tends to be a common breeding ground for most mold. Hot baths and showers leave a mist on walls and floors that doesn’t dry up very fast and can seep in. Compound that with poor ventilation and you’ve got prime real estate for mold.
A basement is also a favorite spot that mold likes to hide. It’s dark, it’s damp and most people won’t discover it for a long time. The cause is usually a water leak from an exposed pipe or in the wall/foundation. That means it’s party time in the basement.
So let’s talk about how to deal with mold & mold outbreaks prevention.
There is something in your kitchen, right under your nose that is a natural mold fighter. White vinegar. Pour it straight into a spray bottle & spray a healthy amount on the moldy surfaces*. Let it sit for at least an hour. If you have an exhaust fan (like in the bathroom) or a regular fan, let it circulate the air during that hour. Open a window to help mute the vinegar smell.
After at least an hour, wipe up the moldy surfaces with hot water- make sure you get every speck. The area must be thoroughly dry or you’ll be back at it again before too long! (Of course by now, you might have a desire for a nice salad with Italian dressing….)
Get in the habit of cleaning or lightly spraying those vulnerable surfaces with the vinegar spray to ward off mold growth.
- Try to get fresh air into the bathroom after bathing; if you have an outside window, open it for a bit to let the steam out.
- Dry your tub/sinks after using them; water is water and left on surfaces, it will contribute to the humidity in the room.
- If you live in a damp area, you might want to think about investing in a dehumidifier or some other product designed to dry up the air a bit.
*If you have antique copper or oil rubbed bronze fixtures, consult with a plumbing supply professional, as vinegar may be too strong and discolor surfaces. If you have concerns; a reputable plumbing supplier is happy to give you cleaning suggestions.
Where does it start?
High humidity plus the cooler temperatures in the basement produces a lot of condensation. Condensation collects on cold metal pipes, cold concrete basement floors (even if there is carpet over the top) and on walls.
One of the biggest causes of mold in the basement is flooding. If a house is flooded, water runs down to the basement and stays there long after the other rooms have dried.
If your basement gets flooded, unless you have a professional disaster restoration company take care of the damage, there is a high probability for mold growth.
Dangerous molds like toxic black mold (Stachybotrys chartarum) can start to grow after a flood. These molds need materials to be very wet for several days to begin growing.
If your house does get flooded, immediately clean & dry everything as soon as possible. Get rid of any standing water. Use fans, dehumidifiers, air conditioner, or anything that will get air circulating through the house to remove any moisture in floors & walls. Furniture, carpeting and drapes will have to be removed and cleaned professionally with chemicals to kill mold.
It’s strongly recommended that any drywall that gets wet be cut out and replaced, even when other parts of the home are completely dry.
Any item that cannot be readily cleaned & dried should be thrown out.
A final thought: Mold & mildew has been known to compromise the structural integrity of a home.