According to the International Center for Toxicology and Medicine, about 70% of homes contain mold. Even if your home is unaffected, it’s only one leak away from a serious infestation. Mold is an inevitability for homeowners.
What’s the big deal? Mold can devour your home’s insulation, drywall, and almost anything else. Early detection is your best method of preventing tens of thousands of dollars in household repairs.
And the good news is it’s easy to identify early on. Don’t let the damage spread right under your nose. Here are five ways to identify mold in your home.
1. Identify Mold vs. Dirt
Mold commonly takes on a black or grey appearance. In the early stages, this coloration can slip under the radar of inexperienced homeowners. That’s because it oftentimes looks like dirt or even scuff marks.
Once it’s progressed, mold is more noticeable thanks to its telltale clustering. But by then, it’s already had time to damage the surrounding area and possibly cause health complications, such as allergic reactions.
If you see a discolored patch that looks like dirt on a wall, floor, or ceiling, it’s time to put it to the test.
Dilute a small amount of bleach with water. You don’t need more than two or three tablespoons of combined liquid.
Next, take a swab or Q-tip and apply your bleach mixture to a portion of the dirty area. A quarter-sized patch should do the trick. Once you’ve cleaned the area, forget about it for a few days.
If it’s dirt, the clean patch should remain clear unless you dragged In more filth. Mold, on the other hand, will regrow over the clear patch.
2. Search for Moisture
Fungus thrives in dark, humid conditions. It’s these household areas that deserve the most attention: Places like bathrooms, cupboards, and basements.
Mildew growing in your shower may be unsightly, but it’s not a dangerous mold. You’re looking for the big clusters surrounding a recent leak.
From time to time, get your hands on a flashlight and examine all visible plumbing for unchecked moisture. Of course, leaks can occur almost anywhere in your home — even behind the walls where you can’t see them.
Discolored patches in paint are often a sign of a leak beyond the drywall. Sometimes this water pools behind the paint, especially if the water is dripping in from overhead. You’ll want to have the professionals check for mold in ceiling recesses if this ever happens to your home.
And if there’s any confusion as to whether a dark patch is dirt or mold, just look for the gleam of water. Even a droplet can push dirt and dust away. But mold will hold its ground.
3. Pressure Test the Area
Where there’s rot, there’s water. And where there’s water, there’s mold.
Mold alone doesn’t destroy your home. But since it requires a constant stream of water to grow, mold is often accompanied by rotted wood. Dirt-like patches around rotted areas of your home are almost certainly a species of mold.
What does rot look like? Inside your home, you’ll notice severe discoloration to paint or wood floors. Get your hands on a sharp object, such as a screwdriver, and apply a steady amount of force to the area.
If it gives way without much effort, you’re dealing with a water leak. And that means the mold isn’t far behind.
It’s not all wood, though. You can also find rot in your insulation and ductwork. Use your tool or gloved hands to examine the material.
Is it soft or crumbling? Water has crept its way in. You’ll want to contact a professional mold removal company to clean and dry the area before the mold has a chance to spread.
4. Follow Your Nose
Most people associate mold spores with a musty smell. To some extent, that stems from unchecked moisture and rot. But really, it’s the mold itself you’re smelling.
If something smells strange, try to find the culprit by following your nose to the mustiest corners of your home. It’s a good idea to clean the surrounding area even if you don’t see anything suspicious. For example, give the basement a firm scrubbing from time to time.
When the musty scent remains or quickly returns after a thorough cleaning, mold is at play.
5. Scrutinize Your Allergies
Not everyone reacts to mold the same way, and different types of mold can cause varying health complications. But respiratory issues are the most common.
Worsening allergies or asthma are clear signs that something is amiss with your indoor air quality. This may not be unusual during the spring or early summer, but it’s worth some consideration if you’re still coughing and sneezing in the chill of winter.
Sometimes people have such serious allergic responses that they come down with flu-like symptoms. If your cold just won’t go away, it may be time to pull out the flashlight and look for signs of mold growth.
Identify Mold for a Healthy Home
Since there’s no such thing as a good mold, don’t try to identify mold beyond a simple test. Most types of mold – even black mold — rarely cause long-term side effects. If you’re concerned about adverse health effects from mold, go see your doctor.
Don’t wait if you identify the signs of mold in your home. For small growths, a brush and a bucket of bleach can do wonders. For anything else, leave the work to the professionals.
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