Signs of Mold in Your House and What to Do about Mold
Are there signs of mold in your house? Can you just see or smell mold, or is it harder to find? Is mold bad for your health? If you do find it, how do you get rid of it? We answer all your questions and more!
Blog information is NOT intended to provide or replace medical advice. NO information on this site should be used to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease or condition.
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What Causes Mold in Your House? Where Did the Mold Come from?
Before we talk about the signs and symptoms of mold, let’s think about what mold is and how it ends up in your home.
From the arctic to equator and all the places in between, mold lives literally everywhere. Molds and mildew are fungi, and grow from microscopic spores that are everywhere in the air. Molds are important for recycling organic matter (such as leaves). The recycling process they perform returns nutrients to the soil, and is important for plants to grow.
In order to grow, molds need four things: oxygen, moisture, a food source, and the right temperature range (ideal is between 77F – 86F). It is difficult to impossible to control the temperature and amount of oxygen in the unconditioned spaces in your home (attic, crawlspace, behind cabinets, etc.). So, let’s think about the things you can control when it comes to mold.
Molds grow inside of their food sources. They penetrate deeply into drywall, carpets, floors, cabinets, underneath kitchen and bathroom sinks, etc. Anything with carbohydrates in it could be considered a food source for molds.
How do I know I have mold vs. mildew?
Mold and mildew differ in the way they grow and what they look like. Mildew is always flat, and may begin white and then turn brown, gray or black.
Mildew is flat and grows on the surface of things. This window can easily be cleaned by the homeowner and the mildew removed. (However, the moisture from the window could be a continuing problem.)
Mold is usually fuzzy and raised above the surface that it is growing on. Mold can be many different colors ranging from white, yellow, green, gray, to black. The biggest difference between mold and mildew is how they grow. Mildew only grows on the surface. Mold grows inside of it’s food source. Mold has to be removed completely not just cleaned.
Moisture is the one thing you can reasonably control when it comes to mold. A dry home equals a home with much less mold and mildew growth. Keeping areas dry, especially areas that use water frequently (like bathrooms), is important to prevent mold growth.
How Fast Do Molds Grow?
Moisture behind baseboards and cabinets, wet carpet tack strips, in crawl spaces, basements, and other hard to reach areas are a ticking mold time bomb. Once enough moisture is present, molds can begin to grow in less than 48 hours! Even with fans going and mopping up the water, it may not be enough to prevent mold growth.
Signs of Mold in Your House – How Do You Know If You Have Mold?
Sometimes you can visibly see or smell mold growing, but other times it is more difficult to detect. Tight spaces such as in attics, behind cabinets, and in crawl spaces are not places people are likely to venture. There are 3 ways to tell if you have mold: 1 you might see it, 2 you will probably smell it, but 3 a comprehensive mold inspection by Branch Environmental will definitely find it! The best way to know if you have mold is to get a comprehensive mold inspection performed. Keep reading to learn more about how you can identify the symptoms of mold in your home.
Signs of Mold in Your House – What does mold smell like?
Do you smell that? Did you forget to wash your gym clothes? Does the dog need a bath? I cleaned everything, and I can’t find the stench! It’s so musty! What could it be?! If this sounds like your home or office, you might have a problem with mold and MVOC’s.
MVOC’s or Microbial Volatile Organic Compounds are compounds created by fungi and bacteria during their metabolic processes. MVOC’s can be detected by simply smelling the air. The smell of MVOC’s has been compared to stinky socks, locker room odor, wet dog, or old cheese. They give off a distinctly musty, moldy smell. There are over 200 compounds that have been identified as MVOC’s. MVOC’s can be dangerous and even toxic to humans. MVOC’s can be mycotoxins or can cause allergy symptoms. It depends on which ones are present. If you smell odors like this, you may have a mold problem in your building.
There are also compounds called VOC’s or volatile organic compounds that can be produced by household cleaners, paints, aerosols, disinfectants, air fresheners, glues, and even furniture. VOC’s are not caused by mold or other microbes, and give off a distinctly chemical scent. VOC’s can cause health problems as well.
What Kinds Of Damage Can MVOC’s Cause?
There have been over 200 different chemical compounds identified as MVOC’s that are produced by fungi and bacteria. The chemicals produced include alcohols, arsenics, benzenes, toluenes, acids, sulfur compounds, and many more.
Signs of Mold in Your House – What Does Mold Look Like?
Mold is usually a black, white, brown, green, gray, or yellow, fuzzy growth. Sometimes you can see it. Sometimes you can’t because it is hidden in the dark recesses of your home. Places like attics, crawlspaces, basements, behind cabinets, inside floors, etc. are great places for mold to grow.
It’s not easy to see mold, but if you have any water leaks in your home, you are much more likely to find it! Flooding is of course a major problem, but usually people notice when pipes have burst or flood waters have invaded their homes. These are dramatic events!
However, tiny cracks in pipes and hoses, and clogs in drains can become a nightmare if forgotten long enough. Tiny leaks over a long period of time can cause as much or more damage than flooding water type events. Because they go unnoticed, tiny leaks can cause more damage than most people realize. Remember we talked about how mold has plenty of food sources in your home? All it takes is that tiny bit of extra moisture and mold starts growing. In most cases it starts within 48 hours!
The main sources for mold growth in homes are water leaks from faucets, roofs, hot water heaters, ground water damage and even sewer backup. Find the water leaks and find the source of the problem.
Is Mold Dangerous?
In one word… Yes.
All molds have the potential to cause irritation and allergy symptoms. It is important to note that the longer you are exposed to the mold, the more pronounced your symptoms become. At first, it might just be allergy symptoms, but over time (weeks, months, years) mycotoxins build up in your system, and can make you sicker and sicker.
Not all molds are toxic, but many are. Mycotoxins can cause health problems ranging from poisoning to cancer. You can be affected by mycotoxins even if you are not allergic to mold.
Toxic Black Mold?
Before we go any further, let’s clear up the confusion about ‘toxic black mold.’ When you read about ‘toxic black mold’ it is kind of misleading. The thing is… dangerous and toxic mold is not just black, it can be many different colors. Toxic molds can appear to be green, yellow, brown, and black. Any of the colors you see could be producing mycotoxins. You can’t tell if mycotoxins are present just by looking or smelling. You have to perform a laboratory test.
So, What is a Mycotoxin?
Mycotoxins, literally ‘fungus poison’ in Latin, are secondary metabolites that can be produced by molds, and are not living organisms. Mycotoxins are a byproduct of mold. Not all mold spores produce mycotoxins, but some do. So the molds that produce mycotoxins are the ones that could be categorized as toxic or poisonous.
So, where is the line between an allergic mold and a toxic mold? That line is defined by the presence of mycotoxins, and is NOT defined by color. Mycotoxins are invisible and cannot be detected just by looking at the mold growth.
What Do Mycotoxins Do?
These chemical substances can cause many health problems ranging from mild to severe. Even if you are not allergic to mold, you can be affected by mycotoxins.
Mycotoxins can be absorbed by the body in a number of ways including: through the skin, the airways (inhalation), and through the intestinal lining (ingestion). Detrimental health effects caused by mycotoxins can range from “acute poisoning to long-term effects such as immune deficiency and cancer.” Chronic disease sufferers, such as people with immunosuppressive disorders or underlying lung disease may be more sensitive to molds and mycotoxins in their environment.
The main ways people and pets become poisoned by mycotoxins include breathing contaminated air or eating contaminated foods. Simply breathing contaminated air can introduce the mycotoxins into your lungs! Foods such as apples, cereal grains, coffee beans, nuts, spices, dog and cat food, and more can become contaminated with fungi that produce mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are NOT something you want in your home! Keep reading to learn how you can remove them.
To learn more about mycotoxins in foods check out the World Health Organization’s article: Mycotoxins.
For more about how mold affects your pets check out our article: Mold and Pets – 10 Things You Most Likely Didn’t Know.
To learn more about how mold can affect your health, check out our post: Health Effects of Black Mold.
Please remember that this blog is NOT intended to replace medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
Signs of Mold in Your House – What Do You Do If You Find Mold?
So, hopefully we have convinced you by now that you don’t want to live with mold! Now that you’ve found it, what do you do?
Removing mold can be a DIY project, but it’s a good idea to know when to call the professionals. Our tips for mold removal help you know what to use, and what not to use to clean away mold. Here at Branch Environmental, we can help you remove the mold safely. We want to help you get back to living your best life in a clean mold-free home!
Step 1 – Get a Professional Mold Inspection
Mold is a difficult thing to find. Step 1 should be a comprehensive mold and indoor air quality inspection. Mold is sneaky. It hides inside of it’s food sources, so you have to remove all of the surrounding materials to completely remove the mold. You need a thorough inspection (like ours) from the top to the bottom of your home. If you have mold in one area, you may also have it in several others. It is difficult to remove all the mold if you don’t know everywhere it’s located.
The company you choose for the inspection should offer a comprehensive mold inspection that you pay for, not hand over a price without truly investigating the problem. Your inspector should define the extent of the necessary work and what may or may not need to be done. The inspector should talk you through all your options and tailor a plan that fits your needs and your budget.
Check out our post: Do You Have Mold? How to Choose Between a Paid or Free Mold Inspection to learn about a problem we solved for a homeowner that was NOT mold.
Step 2 – Can I clean the mold myself or do I need a professional?
Mildew (mold’s cousin) is usually easy to remove and is easily a DIY project. Mold however is a different story.
You may wonder if professional help is really necessary. Customers often ask us, “Can I clean the mold myself or do I need a professional?” Our answer depends several factors including:
- how extensive the mold problem is
- what building materials, furnishings, and belongings are affected
- where the mold is located
- whether or not you mind being in confined spaces such as your crawlspace, basement, or attic
If you’re familiar with our blog, you know that the first thing to do when cleaning mold is to fix the moisture problem that led to the mold growth. Until you fix the moisture problem, mold will continue to grow and spread.
Mold is great at hiding in hard to detect locations such as in drywall and insulation. If the area of mold covers more than about 10 square feet, there is a good chance the mold problem is more than an isolated issue.
If the area of mold is less than 10 square feet, you may be able to handle it yourself. To get all the details check out our post: Black Mold vs Mildew – 7 Common Misconceptions and When to DIY. We give you all the details on how to safely clean the mold or mildew yourself.
Know When To Clean And When To Call
It’s not hard to take care of mold as a homeowner, but it’s a good idea to know when to call in the pros. If you smell a musty odor in your home you can’t identify, or have health problems associated with mold, it’s time to call in the professionals. If an area of mold covers more than around 10 square feet, there is a good chance the mold problem is more than an isolated issue, and it’s time to call the professionals.
Especially if you don’t live in our service area, check out our post: How to Choose the ‘Best’ Black Mold Removal Company. We help you know all the questions to ask and give you all the correct answers.
The company you choose should know all the answers to the questions in our article. Don’t get scammed! Get smart! Always ask a lot of questions before hiring anyone to work on your home.
The Branch Difference
At Branch Environmental, we see each mold inspection as an in-depth investigation, not an opportunity to hand over a guess-based estimate of work. If you think you may need a mold inspection, get in touch with us, and we’ll get down to the source.
Call Branch Environmental. We’re experts not only at mold removal, but at determining and remediating the underlying causes. From hidden mold sources to major contaminants, we can identify exactly what is going on in your home and rid it of environmental toxins, often for good.
Branch Environmental – Because nobody should live or work in a building that makes them sick.
For more information go to:
- Black Mold vs Mildew – 7 Common Misconceptions and When to DIY – Branch Environmental
- Black Mold Affects Home Value – What to do about it for Buyers and Sellers – Branch Environmental
- How to Choose the ‘Best’ Black Mold Removal Company – Branch Environmental
- Mold from a Water Leak? – Everything You Need to Know – Branch Environmental
- 10 Things You Need To Know Today About Black Mold From a Water Leak – Branch Environmental
- Top 6 Types of Water Damage and How to Avoid Them – Branch Environmental
- Mold Allergy Avoidance – How to Stay Well – Mold Allergy Inside & Outside – Branch Environmental
- When Mold Is Worse Than Allergies – Branch Environmental
- Mycotoxins – World Health Organization (WHO)
- Basic Facts about Mold and Dampness – Center for Disease Control (CDC)
- Mold and Pets – 10 Things You Most Likely Didn’t Know – Branch Environmental
- The Health Effects of Black Mold – on Adults, Children and Pets – Branch Environmental
- What’s that musty smell? MVOC’s – Branch Environmental
- Volatile Organic Compounds’ Impact on Indoor Air Quality | US EPA
- What should I know about formaldehyde and indoor air quality? | US EPA
- Do You Have Mold? How to Choose Between a Paid or Free Mold Inspection – Branch Environmental
- Black Mold vs Mildew – 7 Common Misconceptions and When to DIY – Branch Environmental
- Mold Exposure Symptoms – Branch Environmental
- Cleaning Mold: DIY v. Professional – Branch Environmental
- Black Mold on Carpet – 12 Things You May Not Know and How to Deal With It – Branch Environmental
- Master the Skills and Knowledge Needed for DIY Black Mold Removal – Branch Environmental