Is that icky black growth in the corner of the shower mold or mildew? Either way, it could spell trouble ahead for your health. Some people are more sensitive than others to exposure from damp-dwelling organisms and can get sick with allergic or asthmatic reactions.
Mildew is a type of mold which is a fungus. It tends to grow on flat, moist surfaces.
Generally speaking, all molds grow best in warm, damp, dark, and humid conditions. It spreads and reproduces by making spores. Once at home, molds will spread like the dickens from surface to surface.
Airborne microscopic fungal spores drift in the air until they settle someplace suitable for growth. Mold becomes visible when enough spores reproduce and form clusters.
Mushrooms are a well-known type of fungus. All fungi are nature’s composters, helping to reduce natural materials back to the earth, recycling their component nutrients – outdoors, that is.
Inside, molds can become a real problem, especially during a rainy season or spell. When mold is present on a surface, it usually first appears in irregular spots. Left unchecked, mold can damage a building’s structure and cosmetic appearance. It can also cause illnesses related to allergies and asthma.
Spores come from outdoors but hitch-hike on clothing and pets to gain access to your deepest, darkest corners. People who live in areas of high humidity – Florida, Home of the Deadly Black Mold springs to mind – are well-advised to conduct periodic checks for the presence of mold.
As mold grows, it extends long hair-like filaments that can appear fuzzy to the human eye. Mold comes in many different colors: black, white, gray, blue, green, brown or yellow.
Mold’s job is to decompose everything it comes in contact with. As it works on organic materials inside your home – soap residue, dirt, food particles, and such – it is literally rotting away those materials. Sometimes, that process creates a musty smell that can be quite strong and a potent trigger for an allergic or asthmatic reaction.
Mold can appear where you least expect it, in attack insulation and mattresses as well as shower curtains and tile. Once detected, wage all-out war on mold. Take no prisoners. Bleach will literally wipe it out.
Bleach kills mold on contact and neutralizes the spores and allergens from mold, too. Bleach (liquid chlorine) works very well on non-porous surfaces such as glass, tiles, bathtubs, and countertops. But for porous substances such as wood and drywall, bleach will only kill the mold spores growing on the surface and leave behind an actively-growing culture within the material. This is what rots solid walls, ceilings, and floors.
Before applying bleach, open windows and turn on exhaust fans. Wear rubber gloves and keep the fumes away from your eyes, ears, nose, and throat. Mix one cup of bleach per gallon of water, a ratio of about 1:10. Put the solution in a labeled spray bottle or dampen a disposable cloth or sponge with it. The bleach and water will both evaporate or you may choose to wait up to 30 minutes before rinsing with plain water.
Let the area dry completely. Towel as needed. Set up fans.
Prevent mold by repairing leaks, exhausting moisture with fans, installing a dehumidifier or air conditioner, opening interior doors to increase airflow, clean air conditioning and refrigerator drip pans, and reduce condensation by adding insulation to cold surfaces such as exterior walls, floors, and windows.
The exact number of species of fungi that exist today is unknown but estimates range from tens of thousands to perhaps three hundred thousand or more. However, some of the most common molds known to produce allergic reactions are:
If you suspect a mold sensitivity, a professional healthcare provider can administer an allergen-specific test.
Infants and children, elderly people, pregnant women, and people whose immune systems are weak are at higher risk of developing allergic reactions associated with exposure to mold, which include:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Dry, scaly skin
- Itchy eyes, nose, and throat
For people who are both allergic to mold and have asthma, exposure to mold may cause:
- Chest tightness
- Shortness of breath
The experts say to keep indoor humidity below 60 percent to reduce outbreaks of mold and mildew. A device called a hygrometer measures atmospheric humidity and can be purchased online or from a hardware store.
Mold and mildew are nothing to sneeze at. Stay on top of the situation before mold ruins your day – or your health and home.