Mold is a jerk. Period. It grows fast, doesn’t need fancy accommodations, and absolutely wreaks havoc on anything it touches or gets near.
Mold doesn’t care if you are wealthy or living far below the poverty line. It doesn’t care if you are old, young, or somewhere in between. Mold doesn’t care where you were born, where you live, or who your family is.
Mold is very difficult to get rid of. It is the definition of an unwanted guest. As such, mold prevention is key to steering clear of the train wreck mold leaves in it’s wake.
I could write a novel about all the misinformation circling around about mold. There are a lot of things you don’t know about mold. Trust me. When I was going through my coursework to become a mold inspector there were a few things that made my jaw drop (like the fact that mold can grow on jet fuel! Say what?!)
Today I am sharing 7 things you don’t know about mold but probably should. These are things I see as important and also facts about mold that I feel most people don’t have a solid understanding of. The mold basics are also things I see misrepresented on websites and by remediation companies just trying to get your business.
So let’s get down to it shall we?
7 Things You Don’t Know About Mold But Probably Should
1. There are two types of mold. Viable mold and non-viable mold.
This isn’t to be confused with species of mold or categories of mold. Those are totally different parts of the mold story. Let’s take a look at what I am talking about.
Molds are living organisms that require a food source and moisture to stay alive. Take away one or the other and mold can’t survive. As long as mold has a food source and a water source, it can live indefinitely and cause significant damage to anything it comes in contact with.
Viable mold is also known as:
- Active mold / active mold growth
- Live mold
When mold loses its food or water source it goes dormant. This means that is does not continue to grow and spread and cannot cause further damage to your property. The bad news is, as mold dies it dries out and starts to release spores into the air at a highly accelerated rate. Mold spores – dead or alive – have the same health effects on people and animals. In a lot of ways, non-viable mold is more dangerous than viable mold since it is often written off as “safe.”
Non-viable mold is also known as:
- Dead mold
- Inactive mold
- Cremated mold (yes, apparently it’s a term)
2. There are no Federal guidelines specifying what constitutes an unsafe level of mold.
Yes, you read that right. As it stands now, unsafe levels of mold are completely undefined. This means that anyone, anywhere, in any profession can define how much mold is acceptable or unacceptable. In my professional and mold-experienced opinion, any level of indoor mold is unsafe and not acceptable.
A lack of Federal guidelines makes it very difficult for a tenant to hold a landlord responsible for mold related health issues. It allows insurance companies to deny mold related claims. It gives mold remediation companies the ability to create arbitrary guidelines for mold levels in clearance testing. It gives doctors an excuse to overlook mold as the root cause of health issues or to downplay the severity mold related illness.
3. If you see mold, you don’t need to spend money on tests to identify it.
Mold is mold. Sure, some species of mold are more dangerous than others and some species produce mycotoxins which can be deadly. But the bottom line is if you see mold you need to remove it. All mold must be removed and done so in the proper way regardless of the species. This brings us to #4.
4. 95% of the time you need to do more than just “clean” visible mold or remove mold off of something.
Cleaning or removing surface mold doesn’t always get rid of the mold problem. 95% of the time if you have visible mold on the surface of something, you also have mold that has rooted inside that same something. This means that you need to discard the moldy item (like a moldy end table) or replace the moldy building materials (like a moldy under-sink cabinet). Surface mold is the tip of a very dangerous iceberg.
In addition to that, if you have visible mold you most likely have air born mold spores floating around. So you need to “scrub the air” in your entire home using HEPA air purifiers. Your air ducts will need to be cleaned. Fogging with EC3 mold solution is also advised.
Remember – you need remove mold at the source AND fix the leak or eliminate the water source.
Any mold event larger than a 3X3 area should be handled by mold remediation professionals. I very rarely suggest that anyone try a DIY approach to remediating a medium to large scale mold problem.
Let’s talk about the 5% of the time when you can just clean mold off of something. What falls into that category?
- Toilet mold
- Shower mold / bathtub mold (includes tile and grout)
- Washing machine mold
- Outdoor mold
- Mold growth on plastic or metal furniture
Did the words plastic and metal grab your attention?
5. Mold can grow on ANYTHING.
While mold grows most easily on porous, organic materials (like wood, wallpaper, and drywall), it can grow anywhere a spore lands. Plastic, metal, and glass are not immune to mold growth.
The reason mold can grow on non-porous surfaces is that it can survive on dust and debris that collect on those surfaces. A little dust + a little moisture = mold’s happy place even on your grandmother’s China dishes.
6. Over 50% of indoor mold is caused by issues with high humidity and lack of ventilation.
Sure, leaks and floods are responsible for a LOT of catastrophic mold growth. But high humidity and lack of ventilation in an indoor environment are responsible for most cases of room-specific mold growth. Think about your bathroom. Bathroom mold is so common. That’s because there is usually higher humidity, a consistent water source, and a lack of air flow or ventilation.
This is why it is important to monitor humidity throughout your house (check out my top picks for humidity meters) as well have use exhaust fans in the bathroom (this is my personal favorite), when cooking, and in the laundry room. Also open windows and use fans to move air around your home.
7. Mold doesn’t smell.
Bet that caught you off guard! Mold spores are odorless. It is the byproducts of mold (like mycotoxins) that create a scent.
This means that “mold” can smell like a lot of things. It can be a typical musty odor. It can also smell like cat urine. My moldy house smelled like burnt chorizo.
For a complete list of all the smells associated with mold, check out my post on What Does Mold Smell Like?
And there you have it! 7 Things You Don’t Know About Mold – but now you do!
What have you learned about mold that surprised you or caught you off guard? Please share as I always find it interesting to get other people’s experiences in the comments.