It hides out of sight, it can make you sick, and the smell never fully goes away. It’s unpleasant and it’s easier to keep it out of sight and out of mind than address it, but it’s time to talk about mold. First, the part that we can talk about without having to crack open a Biology textbook: Dark+wet=mold. It’s a living fungus that will grow and spread until it’s properly cleaned, and yes, different types of mold require different cleaning techniques, because of course they do. If you find or suspect mold you can test to see how bad it is, and from there decide whether or not to hire a professional mold removal service. The unsightliness alone is enough to warrant action, but it’s what goes unseen that really has to be noted. A billion dollar cold remedy industry will treat your chronic allergies and sinus infections, but the dirty secret that’s easy to ignore is that the source of those mysterious symptoms is more than likely dirty mold. Different species of mold prefer different environments, have different ways of entering your home, and produce different health problems. It should be noted though, that the presence of mold in a mold test doesn’t mean you have to instantly panic. Mold spores are everywhere. Literally everywhere. The problems arise when too much mold gathers in one place and forms a colony. It’s not even the mold spores themselves that affect us. In the way that we breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide, mold spores breathe in oxygen and breathe out mycotoxins. “Mycotoxin” has the word toxin in it for a reason, but it’s only when these mycotoxin levels get too high that they can hurt people. The key to cleaning up mold is to clean up ALL the mold. If it isn’t done thoroughly and carefully it will just grow back. Ventilation and humidity control are the best defenses to it growing in the first place. So let’s face this thing together and combat some of the mystique around the problem of mold, even if it might require that Bio textbook.
It’s proper name is Stachybotrys chartarum, and it doesn’t care if you aren’t able to pronounce it. It’s one of the most dangerous species and it’s why most mold is assumed to be “black mold”. Not all mold is black and not all mold that appears black in color is Stachybotrys chartarum, but if you do have a genuine case of black mold, it requires immediate attention. It’s favorite environment is behind wallpaper. Carefully wrap any infested wallpaper in a plastic bag before moving it so that the spores don’t spread around the house on their way to the trash.
Penicillium sounds familiar because it’s the mold that scientists used to create penicillin, but that’s the only good thing penicillium ever did for us. It’s fast-spreading and can also be green in color. It likes to live in your carpets, so if you see a spot it likely means there is a colony underneath. Carefully wrap any carpet you’re throwing out and inspect the floorboards. If it has spread to the floorboards you’ll have to replace those too or else it will just grow back onto your new replacement mold-free carpet.
Alternaria is happier living outdoors than indoors, but in the summers it can build up in high concentrations outside nd will be attracted to humid indoor environments. It especially likes spoiling agriculture, so keep an eye on your plants for thi mold that causes severe asthma. A different mold called Cladosporium is very similar and even more airborne, so if there’s mold in your HVAC or window frames, it’s likely one of these two.
Finally, some good news. The pink mold in your bathroom isn’t actually mold, it’s a bacteria called Serratia marcescens. It can cause poor health but it’s nowhere near as dangerous as the serious molds. If you’re comfortable handling it yourself, just scrub it with vinegar, bleach, or a store-bought anti bacterial product. The smooth non-porous surfaces in most bathrooms mean an easier clean up than most mold jobs.
Many species of mold appear white when they are new, or depending on the material they are growing on. If it’s new you’re in luck, because newer colonies are the easiest to clean. But if you really hit the jackpot, then that stuff in your basement that looked just like white mold on first inspection isn’t mold, isn’t bacteria, and isn’t even alive. It’s just a salt deposit on brick or masonry called efflorescence. It isn’t harmful to you or to the building. Spray it with water and scrape it off.