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

2012 March 14

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.

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.

11 Responses leave one →
  1. Randi Farina permalink
    March 14, 2012

    Laureen,
    We agree with you.. controlling the moisture will control the mold. Great tips to keep mold under control. Even being specialists, we suffered a leak in the roof that went undetected for over a year, until it settled in the wood floors and started doing damage. An in-home inspection is also recommended once a year, to make sure their is no moisture hiding behind the walls. Now I have the house expected after every rainy season!

  2. search engine optimization permalink
    March 20, 2012

    Very nice concept about controlling mold growth. Please give us more tips.

  3. max permalink
    April 6, 2012

    Do you recommend getting basement dehumidifers in order to help control mold growth?

  4. gloria carter permalink
    April 13, 2012

    I have lived in this house with mold for about 8 years, I just find out that is why I developed a bad case of upper respiratory problems. I am always weak,and breathing is so hard for me recently i had to use an oxygen. I just found out it is all in my house. I am moving,do people get well after i leave a house with mold?

    Thank you

  5. June 20, 2012

    This is an excellent article on controlling mold growth. Getting your home regularly inspected is a great idea to avoid costly repairs.

  6. July 15, 2012

    Gloria,
    In my experince with my clients, I have found most of the time my clients get better after the mold is properly removed or they move out of the house. You may not have a full recovery; it depends on how much mold you was exposed to and how weak your immune system was before the mold started to cause you problems. Your body is telling you to there is something wrong, if a person listens to their body they usually will live a healthy life.

  7. Jason Renwick permalink
    February 4, 2013

    Thank you for this article which I can show my clients especially where ACT QUICKLY is highlighted.
    So many people could avoid all the inconvenience of a mold issue with this one piece of advice.

  8. Symmetrize Team permalink
    July 7, 2013

    Thanks a lot for the detailed blog on mold growth

  9. Adrienne permalink
    November 3, 2013

    I just found mold growing in a bedroom that is rarely entered. How is that possible?

  10. Joseph Piodos permalink
    January 22, 2014

    Molds are multi-cellular (consist of more than one cell) filamentous fungi usually having a fuzzy or cottony soft appearance when they grow in areas in your homes. They may be white, dark or in any color. They produce spores usually asexually and in large numbers which means they arise and inherit from a single parent. Asexual reproduction is the primary form of reproduction for single-celled organisms such as bacteria and fungi. They are light, resistant to drying and can easily spread through the air and contaminate any areas.
    More often, a moldy smell might be the only clue that there is a hidden mold growth away from your house. Never ignore mold odors if you can’t see any mold or else this might be the main reason of illnesses within your family. You should thoroughly inspect your home before any mold problems get worse. You can find out how to inspect your house for mold

  11. Joseph Piodos permalink
    February 18, 2014

    Molds are part of the natural environment. In outdoors, molds play an important part in nature by breaking down dead organic matter such as fallen leaves and dead trees, etc. But indoors, mold growth should be avoided and prevented. Molds reproduce by means of tiny spores; the spores are invisible to the naked eye (only on microscope) and float through outdoor and indoor air and contaminate areas. Mold may begin to grow indoors when mold spores land on surfaces that are wet or areas with moisture. There are many types of mold, and none of them will grow without water or moisture. So, moisture plays a great part of it.
    They attack usually on foods but they also attack non-food items like leather, wood and porcelain. Do you notice your allergic reactions are worse when you’re at home but you feel better when you go out? Well, expect it. If so then it’s especially likely you could have mold. Don’t go weary of staying in one place. Find a way for mold detection

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