Frequently asked questions about mold
Do you have questions about mold?
If your question is not answered here, write us at ACM Removal. We will either answer it on this Frequently Asked Questions About Mold page or in one of our blog posts.
What is mold?
Mold is a type of fungus. Under the right conditions, it grows by extending its multicellular strands. In nature, mold serves to decompose dead organic material such as leaves, wood and plants. While individual mold spores and the hair-like bodies of individual molds are too small to see without a microscope, you can see mold growing in colonies on surfaces. It often appears black, blue, red or green. The color of mold is determined by its type, what it is growing on, and the age of the colony.
What is mildew?
Mildew is related to mold. Both are in the fungus family. However, while mold usually has a color, mildew is white. Mildew appears as a thin, superficial growth consisting of minute filaments. While mold grows on dead organic matter, mildew appears on living plants and organic matter (paper, wood, leather). Both mildew and mold produce distinct offensive odors. Both can cause certain health conditions in susceptible people.
Is all mold harmful?
No. Mold has its place in nature. Without mold’s decaying mechanism, our environment would be overcome with dead organic matter. Mold helps to decompose trees, plants and dead animals, returning them to the ecosystem in a different form. For instance, trees turn into soil.
Here are some of the other beneficial uses of mold:
- Mold is used to make life-saving penicillin and other antibiotics.
- Molds are used to make certain cheeses. Mold is the ‘bleu’ in bleu cheese, Gorgonzola and Stilton cheeses.
- Beer and wine are fermented using molds.
- Yeast, another member of the fungus family, enables bread to rise.
- Mushrooms are a form of fungus.
While controlled molds are used in food, pharmaceuticals and other industries, large amounts of mold growing in homes and businesses is a significant problem.
Where does mold grow?
Molds reproduce by means of tiny spores that float through the air. The tiny particles are usually neither visible nor bothersome. They are part of the natural environment and are present everywhere, both inside and outside. Under certain conditions, molds can grow and become a problem. Places such as greenhouses, antique stores, saunas, farms, haystacks, mills, construction sites, flower shops and summer cottages often harbor significant amounts of mold.
What conditions foster mold growth?
Mold spores are everywhere. Mold needs four conditions to grow:
- Water, moisture – Molds thrive on wet and damp materials. When the humidity level is above 60%, there is enough moisture in the air for mold to grow.
- Food source – Mold must have a nutrient source to grow. Mold thrives on dead organic material. This includes wood, paper, wood products, gypsum board, drywall and other items made from wood. It grows on organic material such as skin flakes, dustand animal droppings. The digestive action of mold secretions decomposes the underlying structures of the host material, making the nutrients available. Adhesives, pastes, paints and other synthetic materials can be digested by mold. Although mold cannot get nutrients from inorganic materials such as concrete, plastic, glass and metal, mold can thrive on the organic dirt and dust found on these surfaces.
- Oxygen – Mold needs oxygen to grow.
- Temperature – Molds generally thrive in temperatures between 40° and 100° F. However, given certain conditions, spores can survive and grow in harsher temperatures.
How does mold spread into homes and businesses?
Mold produces spores. Unlike mold, the spores can survive harsh conditions such as excessive sun, heat, cold and water. The spores are easily transported by air and water to new areas. Spores often travel via outdoor air intakes in heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. They are also blown in through open doors and windows. Spores can be carried by people and pets.
Spores that land on surfaces with the right conditions – moisture, a food source, the right temperature, and oxygen – will start to grow and spread. Mold grows by extending tiny roots, or filaments, called hyphae. Under the right conditions, a small colony of mold can grow to cover a large area quickly.
How can you avoid mold growth?
There are several suggestions to accomplish mold-free environments:
- Keep moisture levels low. Use exhaust fans in kitchens and bathrooms. If you are in a humid climate, an air conditioner or a dehumidifier will help.
- Ventilate closed areas. Clothes dryers should be vented to the outside rather than humidifying the inside of the home or business. Air out bathrooms, basements and kitchens.
- Be alert for dampness and wet spots. Check roofs, ceilings, floors, walls and plumbing for leaks. Pay special attention to the basement.
- Keep the environment dry. Any area with a leak should be cleaned and dried as soon as possible. Fix the cause of the leak immediately.
- Avoid using a humidifier. If you need a humidifier, measure the relative humidity inside using a hygrometer. Keep the relative humidity above 35% but no more than 50%. Above 60%, mold grows.
- Do not carpet basements and bathrooms.
- Clean bathrooms and kitchens with mold-killing products.
- Replace or remove soaked carpets.
Remember, you must eliminate the source of the leak, as well as clean up the mold. If the source of the moisture remains, the mold may quickly grow back after initial cleanup.
Is mold dangerous?
Molds produce allergens, irritants and, in certain types of mold, toxic substances called mycotoxins. Exposure occurs when mold, mold spores or toxins enter your body by inhaling (breathing), ingesting (eating) or absorbing it through your skin.
How much mold exposure causes health problems?
At this time, definitive levels of toxicity have not been established. Mold exposure affects every individual differently. People with allergies, asthma, emphysema and weakened immune systems are more likely to be affected. Those with organ transplants, undergoing chemotherapy, and those with infections such as HIV and AIDS, are also more likely to experience the negative effects of mold exposure. There is scientific evidence linking mold exposure to upper respiratory tract symptoms such as coughs and wheezing in otherwise healthy individuals. If you have concerns about your health, consult your healthcare provider.
What are the most common reactions to mold?
Molds have the potential to cause health problems. Allergic reactions to mold, both immediate and delayed, are common. Exposure can cause one or more of the following symptoms:
- Respiratory problems
- Nasal congestion
- Eye irritation
- Skin irritation
For those with asthma who are allergic to mold, exposure can trigger an asthma attack. Other severe reactions include fever and shortness of breath. In people with obstructive lung disease and compromised immune conditions, infections can develop in the lungs
What is “toxic” mold?
According to the National Center for Environmental Health, the term “toxic black mold” is not accurate and has no scientific validation. Not all black molds are toxic – but some are harmful to people, pets and plants. Mold that produces toxins can come in a variety of colors, not just black.
Should you test for mold?
The Centers for Disease Control does not recommend testing for molds. That’s because all mold, toxic or not, needs to be removed from indoor environments.
How do you remove small amounts of mold?
In most cases, small amounts of mold can be removed from hard surfaces by thorough cleaning using a fungicide, soap and water. If that’s not available, white vinegar is a good alternative.
Absorbent or porous materials such as ceiling tiles, drywall and carpet may have to be thrown away if moldy. Sometimes after mold is removed and the surface has completely dried, a residual stain remains. Walls with such stains can be covered or painted using a mold-resistant paint.
What is different about mold on walls, ceilings and flooring?
Mold hidden behind walls, ceilings and flooring presents a special challenge. Since the growth is concealed, the mold can become widespread before it is discovered. Once exposed, it is possible to release large amounts of mold and spores into the environment if one is not careful.
Therefore, mold removal must be done properly. In situations where there is a risk of high exposure and ongoing mold issues, it is advisable to call in a mold specialist such as ACM Removal to properly remediate the situation.
How can you prevent mold after a flood?
A rapid response is extremely important to prevent mold after a flood. Quick action saves time and money. Unfortunately, in cases of widespread flooding, there’s often no way to get things dried out in a short time frame. Vendors may not be available right away. Since mold begins growing within 24 and 48 hours, here are things to do until professional help arrives:
- Clean up standing water immediately if possible.
- Remove soaked baseboards, drywall, wall insulation, carpet and other items that are wet. Allow air to reach the covered areas to begin the drying process.
- Run fans and dehumidifiers to dry everything out.
- Try to keep the flooded areas – especially basements – below 50% humidity. Humidistats are inexpensive and can help you monitor humidity levels to prevent mold growth.
- Unless the wood is rotten, wall studs can be dried. They do not need to be removed.
As soon as possible, seek a qualified mold specialist such as ACM Removal–Kansas.
When is it advisable to work with a mold removal professional?
There are several situations in which a mold removal professional is recommended:
- Mold continues to reoccur after cleaning, indicating a more extensive problem.
- You have large areas, or an extensive amount, of mold.
- There is concern that the mold is affecting occupants’ health.
- You cannot manage the cleanup properly on your own.
A professional mold removal company has the knowledge and experience to get rid of mold and to prevent it from spreading. Such companies use currently accepted mold removal and remediation industry protocols to keep your environment safe. They adhere to all federal and state guidelines.
Be sure to check that your mold removal professional has the right credentials, training and experience to do the job correctly.
What is the proper process for getting rid of mold?
At ACM Removal, we follow four steps in properly remediating mold. First, the extent of remediation is determined. We review any inspection reports and do a site visit as necessary. Upon acceptance of a proposal, our experienced professional team removes the mold. If necessary, a sealed containment structure is constructed with a negative air pressure ventilation system. This prevents contaminated air from escaping in the surrounding work site. The material is then properly disposed in a KDHE-permitted landfill to protect the environment. In the assurance step, a project summary document or third-party verification is provided. Learn more about the four-step mold remediation process – Inspection, Removal, Disposal, Assurance.
Contact ACM Removal now for safe mold remediation.
Let ACM Removal–Kansas ensure your home or business is free from mold. For more information, a complimentary proposal and to schedule services, contact us now at 316.684.1800.