How to Prevent Mold Growth in the Winter
Mold spores are all around us, but the growth of mold can be prevented.
Mold needs moisture, warmth, and food in order to grow in your home. When you deprive mold of moisture, warmth, and food, you will stop it from growing, but you won’t kill the mold that is already there. The mold spores will stay dormant and start growing again if they get moisture, warmth, and food. So, it’s important to prevent mold from growing in the first place.
If you live in a climate where you need to heat your home frequently, mold can start growing in the winter on your home’s inside walls, especially on the surfaces closest to the outside of your home. Moisture that travels through the air from your basement, bathrooms, or kitchen may condense when it comes in contact with a cold wall. One thing you can do to prevent mold growth is make sure your walls are well-insulated. Well-insulated walls can prevent condensation and mold, as well as cut down on your heating and cooling bills.
Here are some other steps you can take to prevent mold growth during the winter:
- During the cold season, make sure that your indoor humidity level is below forty percent. If you use a humidifier, as many of us do in the winter, make sure it does not produce an excessive amount of humidity.
- Remove possible sources of mold growth by regularly vacuuming and cleaning. Pay close attention to bathrooms and other areas of your home that are likely to generate a lot of moisture.
- Use area rugs or washable floor surfaces rather than wall-to-wall carpeting in areas or rooms that have a moisture issue. It’s not usually a great idea to have carpeting in your entryway, for instance, if you live in a cooler, wet climate.
- Paper, books, and clothing are sources of food for mold, so don’t store them in humid parts of your home, such as your basement, especially close to the floor or walls.
- Leaks in your roof or windows need to be repaired as soon as possible.
- Make sure that your gutters and downspouts are clean and that the area under your downspouts is graded so that water from the roof flows away from your foundation. If necessary, extend your downspouts.
- In the bathroom and kitchen, use exhaust fans or open windows when producing moisture, such as taking a hot shower. Exhaust fans should be vented to the outdoors and not to an attic or crawl space.
- Make sure your clothes dryer is vented to the outdoors.
- Consider getting a dehumidifier for your basement. The cool basement floor and walls can be a source of moisture build-up, and a dehumidifier will control the humidity level and make it harder for mold to start growing.
- Make sure your attic is well insulated and ventilated.
- If you have a crawl space under your house, cover the soil in the crawl space with waterproof polyethylene plastic, also called a vapor barrier. If your crawl space has vents, close the vents in the summer and keep them open in the winter.
- If you have water problems in your basement or crawl space, clean up affected areas as quickly as possible and call an expert.
Preventing Mold in the Winter
The wet season in the winter months is one of the best times of year for molds to grow and expand. Often mold is contained near sources of water where it can easily grow and reproduce. As it grows, mold can breakdown and compromise the integrity and strength of the source in which it lives.
Mold spores are microscopic and are naturally found in the air we breathe indoors and outdoors. When large amounts of spores grow, one’s health may be compromised. Mold can be killed, but if it is not removed properly, it can remain in the area just cleaned and the dry spores can be released into the air. Mold remediation services can help eliminate the mold in your home and personal items affected by water damage.
Prevention, however, is what will help keep your lungs healthy and homes and buildings strong. We’ve put together a few tips on how you can help thwart mold from infesting your home that are efficient and realistic:
General Home and Building Maintenance:
- Keep all areas clean.
- Make sure there is good air circulation. Use an exhaust fan or open a window when showering, cooking, and washing the dishes.
- Prevent mold and water damage by turning off the water flow to broken appliances and pipes.
- Replace cracked or defective mortar in basements. If you find your basement is wet or has water leaking into it, inspect the outside drainage systems.
- Spread moisture-barrier materials in crawl spaces over the soil. Heavy roofing paper or plastic film made of polyethylene can be used for this. Make sure there is good ventilation in the crawl space and, if possible, do not enclose it. One may need to use a fan to blow out humid air from under the building.
- One can get rid of humidity or dampness within a building by heating it for a short time. After heating, open up the doors and windows, or use an exhaust fan, to let out the air that is moist.
- If there are freezing temperatures, take measures to insulate pipes inside and out to ensure they will not crack and/or burst.
- Make sure all the seals on the windows and doors are not compromised and in good-working condition.
- Clean and repair roof gutters regularly.
- Make sure the ground around your building slopes away from the foundation so water does not collect around or enter in to it.
- Act quickly if you see condensation on windows, pipes, or walls inside a building. Dry out the area and determine if the source of the condensation is from a leak or the result of high humidity.
Mold Allergies and You
Mold is a family of organisms that are found throughout nature. Unlike plants, mold needs food and water sources in order to thrive. This food source is often in the form of a carbohydrate material, such as wood or cellulose.
Mold grows in units called mycelium and reproduce through the formation of spores. Spores frequently become airborne, and like pollen can cause allergic disease.
What Types of Diseases Can Mold Cause?
Mold has well-known associations with human disease. People can develop fungal infections of various types, especially those with poorly functioning immune systems. Fungi are also known to produce toxins, which have been blamed for causing various diseases.
Molds can also cause severe immune reactions as a result of colonizing (living in, but not causing an actual infection) the lungs (hypersensitivity pneumonitis) and the sinuses. Molds are also well known to cause various allergic diseases, such as allergic rhinitis and allergic asthma.
Which Molds are Known to Cause Allergies?
There are thousands of types of mold, however, only a few of these are currently available for allergy testing. The following are the most likely causes of allergic disease based on the types of mold spores collected in the air:
- Alternaria is a common outdoor mold; allergy to this mold can be associated with severe asthma.
- Cladosporium is the most common airborne outdoor mold.
- Aspergillus is a common indoor and outdoor mold; also associated with allergic
- Penicillium is a common indoor mold; allergy to which is not associated with antibiotic allergy.
- Helminthosporum is more commonly found in warmer climates.
- Epicoccum is found in grassland and agricultural areas.
- Fusarium is a commonly found on rotting plants.
- Aureobasidium is a common outdoor mold, commonly found on paper, lumber and painted surfaces.
- Phoma is an outdoor mold, especially common during wet periods.
- Smuts are abundantly found in areas of agriculture.
- Rhizopus and Mucor are commonly found on decaying leaves and damp indoor areas. Airborne forms of these molds are less common.
- Yeasts are commonly found in the air during wet periods in agricultural areas. Allergic disease to Candida albicans is controversial, despite some people having positive allergy testing to this type of mold.
What Times of the Year Does Mold Allergy Occur?
In colder climates, molds can be found in the outdoor air starting in the late winter and peaking in the late summer to early fall months (July to October). In warmer climates, mold spores may be found throughout the year, with the highest levels found in the late summer to early fall months.
While indoor molds can occur year-round and are dependent on moisture levels in the home, indoor mold levels are higher when outdoor mold levels are higher. Therefore, a common source of indoor mold is from the outside environment, although can also be from indoor mold contamination.
What Measures Can Be Used to Decrease Indoor Mold Levels?
- Prevent outdoor molds from entering the home by keeping doors and windows closed and using air conditioning equipped with allergen-grade air filters
- Control indoor moisture with the use of dehumidifiers
- Fix water leaks in bathrooms, kitchens, and basements
- Ensure adequate ventilation of moist areas
- Clean (or replace) contaminated surfaces with diluted a chlorine bleach solution (one part household bleach in 9 parts water), while using proper protective gear (mask and goggles)
- Utilize HEPA-filters on vacuums or as a stand-alone air filter
- Limit indoor houseplants, and ensure those that are present are free of mold on leaves and in potting soil
For more information: https://www.verywellhealth.com/mold-allergy-83231