It is a simple, happy day in your home. The weather has been sort of iffy, but it is warm and sunny other days. You decide to get a head start on spring cleaning because the mood just seems right, but there is a sinister feel in the air. You slowly move back your wardrobe, feeling the behemoth pull against the carpet as your anxiety rises. There you see it. The fungal invaders have made a home on your eggshell white wall, feasting on the dust that collected over the year. The disk represents something menacing; some sort of unwelcome organism that set up shop in your most private quarters (without a single penny paid in rent). You may feel sad and betrayed; betrayed that the humidity and warmth that you so value repaid you in this way. Take a few seconds to breath (maybe not in the room with the mold) and accept that this is just the course of life, man. Fortunately, there are solutions. Before we get into tackling the problem, let’s get educated.
What is Mold anyway? The marvelous disks of stale odors come from a class of fungus that are pretty much everywhere. Mold is a simple catch-all term for this grouping and mildew is frequently used interchangeably. The known types range in the hundred thousand, which makes sense because they give off a huge number of spores that can spread quickly. The variety makes mold difficult to combat, but it certainly isn’t impossible (otherwise, I would be out of a blog post idea). Interestingly enough, the scientific community hasn’t really come to a consensus on whether mold is directly responsible for respiratory problems. The issues could just as easily come from the dark, wet environment that makes mold so comfortable. Rather not take the chance, wouldn’t you say?
Why does it grow? Don’t feel down on yourself because you’ve encountered mold. It is literally everywhere. You go about your life inhaling the spores like there’s no tomorrow; the problems arise when it is concentrated in one area. The mold thrives in climates with a high humidity (South Carolina is a wonderland) and high temperatures coupled with darkness and stagnant air. Anyplace that might have organic materials is prime breeding ground for mold and mold spores. Mold food can come in the form of clothing, dust or paper.
So, what’s the problem? Aside from the potential health risks, mold can cause a variety of inconveniences that you would rather live without. The mold collecting on walls or ceilings is not aesthetically pleasing (and probably doesn’t add to the rustic charm). Paper, leather or clothing can be stained by the infestation and the conditions that grow mold can lead to damage to books.
Now that you know what’s going on, let’s talk about solutions.
The tactic to combating mold is dependent on the severity of the problem. The first step in the process is assessing the current state of affairs, like a chess tactician that spends the next several hours staring intently at the game pieces. If the situation is severe enough, you may want to consider getting professional help. In most situations, you should be able to just wipe the mold away with a damp cloth. The dampness is important because it prevents the spores from being brushed into the air. Over the course of several days, spray the infected spot with watered-down bleach or vinegar to keep it from resurfacing. Allow for plenty of sun exposure if this is possible, as mold hates ultraviolet light.
In the more extreme cases, you will want to have a few things at your disposal. Buy a new box fan and some work clothes (if you aren’t happy throwing away some of your old clothing). If you are concerned about inhaling the spores, most hardware supply stores will sell respirators for a reasonable price. Wear long sleeves and keep the bleach or vinegar mixture handy. Perform the same basic task that I outlined above, using careful and controlled strokes to keep the mold contained. To help with spreading, turn off your heat or air and close the ducts. This will prevent any loose spores from getting around the house. Keep the new box fan in the room for ventilation (it will also help with the smell). It is very difficult to clean off spores from objects, so you may want to trash the fan when the cleanup is finished. If any carpeting was exposed, wrap it up and place it inside a plastic bag for disposal. When the infected spot is looking like it’s old self, follow up with the bleach/vinegar mix. Leave the room sun-exposed and well ventilated. For people that are having a reoccurring mold problem, humidity is almost certainly to blame. Dehumidifiers can be a bit pricey, but may save you money in the long run.