Mold prevention

Molds are a type of fungus. They are common in the natural environment, where they serve a positive function by speeding up the decomposition of dead plant material. 

Molds reproduce by sending microscopic spores into the air. These spores are smaller than a human hair and are not able to be seen with the naked eye. Because mold spores are tiny enough to float on the wind, they easily spread outdoors.

But how do they get inside your home? Even if your home is sealed well, spores can enter when doors or windows are opened. Mold can also be carried indoors on your clothing, your shoes, or even your pets.

Preventing Mold

It’s not a matter of keeping mold spores out of your home, but rather keeping the mold spores already inside your home from growing. Preventative steps are outlined below, but here’s a spoiler: managing the level of humidity and moisture inside your home is how to prevent mold and mildew growth.

The Mold-Free Home Checklist

Benjamin Franklin famously stated, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When discussing mold in your home, Franklin’s words could not be more true.

This might seem to be a long list, but vigilance will save you time, money, and hassle in the long run.

Use this checklist to lower your chances of having to deal with mold growth inside your home.

  • Dry clothes outdoors. If you line-dry your clothes, be sure to do it outdoors. Drying clothes release moisture into the air, which will raise humidity levels inside your home if done indoors.
  • Employ filters. Using air filters or purifiers in your home will help to remove mold spores that are present. These can be especially helpful in damp areas like attics, basements, and bathrooms. HEPA filters are recommended, as they are able to remove more than 99% of pollutants.
  • Empty appliance drip trays on a regular basis. Your air conditioner, dehumidifier, and refrigerator may be equipped with drip trays to hold excess moisture. Prevent mold from growing in drip trays by emptying them regularly.
  • Improve insulation of cold surfaces. Properly insulating attic floors, basements, ceilings, exterior walls, and windows will decrease the potential for condensation. If you do find condensation in your home, dry it right away to prevent a potential issue.
  • Inhibit mold growth by cleaning with bleach or similar products. A solution containing 8 fluid ounces of bleach in one gallon of water will kill mold on surfaces.
  • Inspect fittings, hoses, and pipes frequently for signs of water leaks. Catching leaks quickly will allow you to avoid moist conditions favorable to mold growth.
  • Install carpets only in areas that don’t get damp. If carpets become wet and remain that way for more than two days, they will need to be removed to eliminate mold.
  • Keep air moving using exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens. Stagnant air can lead to higher humidity, which can lead to a mold problem.
  • Invite sunlight. Mold loves to grow in the dark. Opening your curtains will let light in and also allow heat to dry moisture.
  • Maintain humidity levels between 30% and 50% using air conditioners or dehumidifiers. This range of humidity is ideal for discouraging mold growth. Humidity levels above 60% create a danger zone for a mold problem. Hygrometers are readily available to purchase at home improvement stores and can provide a reading of your home’s humidity level. If your home is large, you may need to use more than one dehumidifier to manage humidity levels.
  • Open windows when bathing or showering. This simple habit can help keep indoor humidity from reaching a hazardous level. If your bathroom does not have a window, open the closest window and leave the bathroom door open to allow the damp air to escape.
  • Prevent leaks by maintaining your roof. Roof leaks can create areas of dampness in hard-to-see and hard-to-reach areas, potentially creating a place where mold can thrive.
  • Protect ceilings and walls by adding mold inhibitors before painting. It takes just a few minutes to mix the paint and inhibitor well, but this investment will pay off by discouraging mold growth on painted surfaces.
  • Remove leaves and other debris from gutters. Your gutters are designed to move water away from your home. If they are plugged up, water can accumulate. Mold can grow in your gutters if you don’t clean them out regularly.
  • Replace hoses for dishwashers, refrigerator icemakers and water dispensers, sinks, toilets, washers, and water heaters every five years. These hoses are not expensive, and taking this preventative action will help you to avoid more problematic age-related leaks.
  • Swap out carpets for area rugs in potentially wet areas. Basements and bathrooms are prone to dampness. Carpeting can’t be removed for drying, but area rugs can.
  • Use your air conditioner. Keeping the inside temperature below 70 degrees Fahrenheit will keep most molds from growing.
  • Vacuum and dust weekly. This simple act will remove mold spores that get into your home. If possible, use a vacuum equipped with a HEPA filter.
  • Water houseplants only as much as needed. If plants are overwatered, the soil around them becomes a prime location for mold growth. If you do find mold there, repot the plants using sterile soil.
  • Wipe bathroom walls after bathing or showering. Wet surfaces can provide ideal conditions for mold growth. 

The Flood/Water Damage Checklist

What should you do if you have been careful, but your home has sustained water damage? You must act quickly! Mold can begin growing in just 48 hours. Follow this checklist to give yourself the best chances of stopping mold problem before it’s too late. 

  • Stop the source of water as soon as possible. If it is a flood, this may be beyond your control. If it is a leak, turn off the main water valve quickly. It’s important that you know the location of your main water shut-off valve in advance so you will be prepared in this type of emergency.
  • Document the damage. Make a list of everything that has been damaged, and take photos and videos of the items. This will be helpful if you are able to file an insurance claim. 
  • Eliminate excess water and humidity. Wipe up pooled water and turn on your air conditioner or dehumidifier to dry out the area. Take wet items to a secure area outdoors to dry. Make sure items that can’t be removed (carpets, padding, upholstery, etc.) are dry within 48 hours to prevent mold growth. If you cannot remove excess water and humidity yourself within 48 hours, seek professional assistance.
  • Dispose of moldy items. Use bags that you can close securely to prevent mold spores from escaping.
  • Use bleach and water to clean all areas with water damage. This includes air conditioning units, closets, floors, heating units, shelves, and floors.
  • Contact your insurance agent to determine possible coverage for mold damage. Every homeowner’s insurance policy is different, so it’s ideal to be familiar with your coverage before you find yourself in this situation.