What is mold?
Mold is a type of tiny fungus that is invisible to the naked eye. In nature, these fungi are essential for biodegradation, but they can pose serious problems when they multiply inside buildings.
Mold usually comes with a distinctive smell, like moisture, dampness or even soil. These microscopic fungi release spores which cause this particular odour. In fact, inhaling too many of these spores is precisely what can harm human health.
What causes mold?
Mold usually grows on dusty surfaces in our homes or on porous materials on which they feed such as wood, cardboard, fabrics, gypsum boards, and so on. But, in all cases, mold needs a key element to grow and that is moisture.
Every trace of mold means water is present, even in very small quantities. Therefore, your first reaction when you find mold in your home is to look for water infiltration near the affected surface. If that is the case, fix the problem right away. The use of a dehumidifier can also be recommended if the humidity level in your home exceeds 45%.
The most common types of mold in our homes:
One of the most common fungi, the Aspergillus is often found in very dusty corners of buildings.
This fungus tends to grow on fabrics or wooden surfaces. It may cause symptoms like hay fever and/or an increase in the prevalence of asthma.
This species was first known for its role in the creation of penicillin antibiotics. It is also used to make certain cheeses. In our homes, however, its multiplication can cause allergy symptoms.
Black spots caused by Stachybotrys fungi are the most dangerous of common house molds. Its ambient air toxins can cause major breathing problems and even cause bleeding into the lungs in most severe cases.
Health and toxicity
Only a microbial assessment can confirm a mold’s toxicity level, and in small quantities, most mold species are not dangerous. However, any visible trace of molds or odours of excessive moisture should be treated seriously to prevent the situation from getting any worse.
The presence of mold in the indoor environment can lead to the following symptoms:
- Eye, nose or throat irritation
- A runny nose that persists or does not disappear as with colds
- Sinus congestion
- Increased frequency and severity of asthma attacks
- Chronic fatigue
The population most at risk of developing symptoms of mycotoxin poisoning are young children, the elderly and those living with respiratory diseases. It is, therefore, important to be particularly careful with these vulnerable groups.
How to remove mold?
Here are some homemade, economic and ecological ways to remove mold stains:
- All-purpose and multi-surface cleaner:
For most surfaces (walls, woodwork, etc.), mixing equal parts of water and white vinegar is generally effective. Simply spray the surface with a spray bottle and let it work for several hours before wiping with a dry cloth (do not use a brush).
More than one attempt may be necessary to eliminate all fungi. A few drops of lemon juice or essential lavender oil can be added to the mixture to give it a more pleasant smell.
- Bathroom tiles:
To remove the mold that often grows on the tile joints of the bath or shower, simply mix a glass of white vinegar with two tablespoons of baking soda. Brush the surface with the mixture, leave on for at least 10 minutes, then rinse.
This operation can be repeated several times a year.
If curtains, blankets or cushions have been slightly affected by mold and you wish to keep them, you can make your own safe cleaner by mixing toothpaste with a pack of instant dry yeast from the grocery store. Rub the stains with a soft-bristled toothbrush before putting the fabrics into the washing machine.
Although bleach was once recommended for the treatment of mold, it is no longer the case. It is both potentially harmful to the health and the environment.
Finally, if the affected areas are significant (more than 1 m2), widespread, difficult to remove or if the mold comes back after a good cleaning, Health Canada recommends calling upon experts. They can assess the extent of your problem more effectively and undertake the work that needs to be done to solve the issue.
Regardless of the situation, you should always react promptly when you find mold. Early intervention can save you many worries and protect the health of buildings as of their occupants.
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