Controlling Mold Growth Indoors During Spring Cleaning and the Rest of the Year

By Laureen Burton

Spring is around the corner and with the season’s warming weather we often open up our windows and take on the task of spring cleaning. As a toxicologist for EPA’s Indoor Environments Division, I’m often asked if I have any indoor air quality tips that people might use during spring cleaning.  One step people might not think of  is to check for excess moisture that could lead to mold growth and take steps to prevent mold from becoming a problem in the home.

Remember, the key to mold control is moisture control.

Molds are everywhere in the environment and can grow on virtually any organic substance where moisture and oxygen are present. There are molds that can grow on wood, carpet and insulation. Mold growth will often occur when excessive moisture accumulates in buildings or on building materials.  If the moisture problem remains undiscovered or unaddressed, not only can the damage from mold growth be costly, but it can affect your home’s indoor air quality and the health of people sensitive to mold, too. Potential health effects and symptoms associated with mold exposure include allergic reactions, asthma, and other respiratory complaints.

To avoid that, here are some tips you can use:

  • Clean and repair roof gutters regularly.
  • Make sure the ground slopes away from the building foundation, so that water does not enter or collect around the foundation.
  • Identify and fix plumbing leaks and other water problems immediately.
  • If you see condensation or moisture collecting on windows, walls or pipes dry the wet surface and reduce the moisture/water source.
  • When water leaks or spills occur indoors – ACT QUICKLY.  If wet or damp materials or areas are dried 24 to 48 hours after a leak or spill, in many cases, mold will not grow.
  • Scrub any visible mold off hard surfaces with detergent and water and dry the area completely.
  • Keep air conditioning drip pans clean and the drain lines unobstructed and flowing properly.
  • Keep indoor humidity low.  If possible, keep indoor humidity below 60 percent  — ideally between 30 and 50 percent — relative humidity.  Relative humidity can be measured with a moisture or humidity meter, a small, inexpensive instrument available at many hardware stores.

For more information and links to EPA mold guidance, please visit our mold website. Happy spring cleaning!

About the author: Laureen Burton is a chemist/toxicologist with EPA’s Indoor Environments Division where her work for the last 15 years has addressed pollutants and sources in indoor air.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.