While some types of fungi can be edible, like mushrooms or yeast, mold isn’t one of them. In fact, it can be harmful to ingest or even inhale.
There are more than 100,000 types of mold that are found both indoors and outdoors. They grow best in damp and dimly lit areas, making attics, basements and bathrooms home to many varieties of this unwanted fungi.
Dangers of mold
Depending on the variety, mold can pose a threat to your home and health. The amount of danger depends on the person. Some people are more sensitive to mold while others aren’t affected at all.
Some symptoms that mold can cause include:
- Nasal stuffiness
- Throat irritation
- Coughing and/or wheezing
- Asthma symptoms such as shortness of breath
- Eye irritation
- Skin irritation
- Lung infections
- Chronic conditions such as cancer, pulmonary bleeding, liver and kidney conditions
How to prevent mold in your home
Mold is an all too common occurrence in homes. Luckily there are prevention tips that will help you get rid of this fungi and keep it out.
Control the humidity
Mold grows where there’s moisture so keeping the humidity levels in your home as low as you can will prevent moisture from building up and settling on surfaces. Aim for a humidity level lower than 50 percent at all times. You can control this by using an air conditioner or dehumidifier.
Fix any leaks
Another way water can enter the home is through a leaky roof, window or pipe. Although this dripping might not seem like an immediate concern, the build up of water will provide mold with the moisture it needs to grow. Fix these leaks as soon as you notice them.
Clean up after flooding
Whether you’ve been hit hard by a storm and your basement is flooded or a pipe burst in your home and turned your bathroom into a swimming pool, it’s important that you clean and dry the area within 48 hours. Once the majority of the water is gone, wipe down all the surfaces with a cloth and use fans to dry out the area.
Ventilate water prone areas
Make sure the areas where you use water daily have a proper ventilation system. Exhaust fans that vent outside should be used in the bathroom, kitchen and laundry room. These fans should be turned on whenever you use water for a long period of time, such as taking a shower.
How to remove mold
There are a few solutions to get rid of mold. When taking on this fungus, be sure that you wear a mask and gloves so that the spores don’t come in contact with you.
One way to get rid of mold is by creating a bleach solution. Mix four cups of water with one cup of bleach in a spray bottle. Spray the solution on the area and use a scrub brush.
Hydrogen peroxide solution
Hydrogen peroxide is a solution that can kill mold and is less harsh than bleach. Use 3 to 10 percent concentrated hydrogen peroxide and spray on the area. This solution will work on kitchen appliances, bathroom fixtures, floors and walls.
Distilled white vinegar solution
Pour vinegar in a spray bottle and spray it on the mold. Let it sit for an hour and then wipe down the area. White vinegar is often used in combination with baking soda for particularly tough mold.
Hire an expert
If you’re dealing with dangerous, toxigenic mold, you’ll want to have professionals handle it. Hire a mold expert who has the proper supplies to rid your home of this fungi.
Types of Mold
The danger of the mold will depend on what type it is. There are three main classifications of mold:
- Allergenic: Causes an allergic reaction such as eye irritation, skin irritation or asthma
- Pathogenic: Can cause disease, it’s often hard to pinpoint this type
- Toxigenic: Produces substances that are toxic and can lead to dangerous or deadly health conditions
To help you identify the kind of mold you have in your home, we have a list of the 12 most common types of mold, their classifications and where they’re found.
Acremonium is a mold that’s commonly found in buildings that have suffered water damage. It’s slow-spreading, making it easier to catch than other molds. This mold begins as a small moist substance and then evolves into a powdery material. The color of acremonium can vary, often appearing in shades of grey, orange, white and even pink.
If you’re able to catch this mold before it spreads, you can get rid of it with a water and bleach solution. Be sure the area is ventilated by opening windows and protect your health by wearing a mask and protective clothing. When sprayed, spores from the mold may be released into the air. Spray the area with the solution and scrub it clean with a soft brush.
There are over 250 known species of Alternaria. This mold variety spreads during dry and windy conditions. It’s commonly found on plants and agricultural products like fruits and vegetables.
Alternaria is found both indoors and outdoors. Outside it can be seen in damp places such as on dead plant material, grass with dew and overwatered soil. These spores can spread indoors and be found in carpets, wallpaper, window frames and air conditioning systems.
To find this type of mold in your home, you’ll need a professional air test for mold and surface sampling. Alternaria can spread quickly so once it’s found, you’ll need to call in the professionals to remove it.
There are many common varieties of aspergillus mold including Aspergillus niger, Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus fumigatus. These molds range from a yellow-green color to blue-green hues. They usually have a cotton or wool texture.
This type of mold typically produces allergic reactions, but its effects can accelerate to more serious conditions such as Aspergillosis, a type of lung disease. If you identify aspergillus in your home, you can apply a chemical or antifungal treatment to get rid of it.
Aureobasidium ranges in color from a menacing black to softer cream or pink hues. This mold is commonly found in bathrooms and kitchens, growing in the tile grout or caulking.
To prevent Aureobasidium from spreading, it’s important to be diligent about cleaning the home. When cleaning, wear gloves and a mask so the spores don’t infect your lungs or react with your skin.
Colonies of Chaetomium are found in damp and humid locations such as buildings that have suffered some sort of water damage. They also grow on materials that have cellulose such as drywall, wallpaper and wood.
Chaetomium mold can have both allergenic and pathogenic effects. The fungal spores cause hay fever, asthma and sinus issues. This type of mold also contains mycotoxins which have been said to be teratogenic or carcinogenic.
This type of mold is found in areas that don’t get sunlight and have poor ventilation like basements or attics. Cladosporium has a velvet texture and is olive-gray in color. It causes an allergic reaction, especially in infants. It is also known to cause infections in the fingernails, toenails and eyes.
Because these fungi can cause serious infections, it’s recommended to have an expert handle it. It should also be taken care of as soon as possible otherwise it will spread quickly throughout your home and become an even larger threat.
Fusarium can be found in a variety of colors, from tans and whites to brighter pinks and purples. Fermented fusarium, also called Quorn, is used as a meat substitute by many vegetarians and vegans.
While this fermented version is edible, the traditional fungi that grow in your home can produce allergic symptoms. Fusarium is fast-spreading and can cause structural damage within your home. With that being said, a majority of this mold is not found in the home but located in the soil. It commonly impacts wheat, barley and maize fields, in addition to ruining produce in home gardens.
Mucor is a yellow or white mold that has a cotton texture. It’s often found in the air in schools, offices and homes. From house dust to dirty carpets, this mold can find a home nearly anywhere.
Although this mold is common, it’s a relatively low-risk unless you have a pre-existing disease. If you’re already sick, this mold can worsen your symptoms and cause pulmonary infections, gastrointestinal infections or cutaneous infections.
Penicillium can be identified by its musty odor. It’s often found in blue-green, white, yellow or pink hues and has a powdery texture. It can be found where there’s indoor moisture and often contaminates leather and cloth items.
By studying penicillium, scientists found a component of the fungi that could be used to treat infectious diseases. This is how penicillin, an antibiotic commonly used to treat a variety of diseases, was created.
While penicillin has beneficial properties, penicillium can cause allergies, including hay fever and lung inflammation.
Commonly referred to as “black mold” or “toxic mold,” Stachybotrys can cause severe illness. Green-black in color and sticky to the touch, this fungus is found in damp places throughout the home. Bathroom ceilings, wet carpets, laundry rooms and basements are often home to black mold.
Stachybotrys is toxic and long exposure to it can be deadly. In the 1990s, Cleveland had an outbreak of infant pulmonary hemorrhage that was associated with black mold, causing 12 fatalities. Since then, people have become very cautious of the mycotoxins that Stachybotrys produces. If found in the home, professionals should be called in to remove it immediately.
This white and green mold might be hiding in your carpets, wallpaper, wooden furniture, floors or the soil in your garden. It will cause any wood to rot and can harm the structural integrity of your home.
In addition to being a danger to your home, Trichoderma can be a risk to you and your family. Symptoms include sneezing, asthmatic attacks, coughing and lung infections. The genus Trichoderma longibrachiatum is toxic to humans.
Found in shades of brown, black or grey, Ulocladium can live in the ground as well as in the air. Because of its fluffy texture, the wind can easily catch onto spores and carry them into your home. It also grows in homes with previous water damage.
Ulocladium can be ingested through food or inhaled. Once in the body, it affects the respiratory system, producing asthma and hay fever symptoms. To remove this type of mold from your home you’ll need to do a complete cleaning with antimicrobial chemicals. It’s also beneficial to add a dehumidifying system in your home so that the mold doesn’t return.
When you’re looking for apartments, be sure to check the lease for clauses about mold and clarify what maintenance is provided by management. Some landlords may hold you responsible while others will take on this liability. If you find mold in your current home, be sure to get it inspected and removed as soon as possible.