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Dealing with Household Fungus

Tuesday, September 22, 2020   /   by Earl Gaddi

Dealing with Household Fungus

Other than the unwelcome incursion of fungus, nothing stains a beautiful home interior. The reputation of mould carries with it more than just an unsightly appearance, it can cause serious illness, and expensive repairs can result if left unchecked. Let's take a closer look at what the mold is, how to stop it, and if you encounter it at home, what to do.

What is mould?
Mould is the term used to describe fungus that grows on food and in damp environments in our homes, presenting in patches of dark grey, green, black or white. Although spores exist naturally in our environment and are ever-present in the air we breathe, when conditions are right for their growth, they can become a concern in our homes.
Mould and mildew are often used as two distinct terms, though both describe fungi which we find in our homes. The difference is mildew grows on surfaces causing only cosmetic damage, while mould (referring to toxic fungus) spreads more easily, penetrating building materials and can cause structural damage, and severe illnesses.

What are common causes of mould incursion?

We know mould prefers damp environments, but it doesn’t take much to create a suitable scenario for incursion. Most common causes of mould incursion are:
  • persistent humidity;
  • leaky pipes;
  • a leaky roof;
  • condensation build-up;
  • poor ventilation;
  • wet laundry;
  • flooding; and
  • damp basements.
Be cautious when it comes to the previous flooding. Years can pass with no issues, but as soon as the right humidity conditions occur, dormant mould spores can reactivate.

How can you detect mould?

Detecting mould can be tricky because it’s not always visible. It’s only when it blooms and spreads that it becomes easily detectable. Dank, musty, or mildew odours are good indicators of possible mould problems.
Mould spreads, so be sure to check all rooms in your home, especially dark and damp areas like the basement. Also check under the carpeting, flooring and behind wallpaper or drywall.
But what if I can’t see or smell any mould? If you or your family members have a persistent allergy, cold, or flu symptoms that subside when away from the house for any length of time, it could be an indicator of mould in your home. While mould test kits can be purchased, it’s a good idea to seek a professional to investigate further.

Dealing with mould

If you’ve discovered a small spot of mould, it’s possible to address it safely on your own. Use warm soapy water to help get deeper into semi-porous surfaces then use undiluted white vinegar to neutralize the bacteria that causes mould spores.
Large or widespread incursions, require a mould remediation professional, and it’s best not to disturb it further. If you attempt this scenario solo, there is a risk of spreading the spores, feeding the mould—cleaners are often diluted using water which is what mould eats!—causing further structural damage. You can also miss something and have to remediate again or become ill from breathing in the spores.

An ounce of prevention

As the old adage goes—there are some key things you can do to keep mould incursions out of your home, saving you a pound of cure down the road.
Do not allow wet materials to sit: Mould needs less than 48 hours to start growing, so never leave damp laundry or towels lying around. 
Keep household surfaces clean: Quirouette recommends giving surfaces in your home—especially around sinks, tubs, and tiles in your kitchen and bathroom—a good cleaning, disinfection, and drying. Leaving dry surfaces after each cleaning is key.
Reduce moisture levels in your home: Always run the exhaust fan during and after showering in your bathroom or when cooking in the kitchen to minimize moisture levels.
Stow your belongings securely: Store seasonal items in secure bins with tight-closing lids to keep moisture out. Be sure to store any gear or boxes in a way that allows adequate airflow between them.

Maintain your plumbing: Monitor your plumbing, and repair or replace as needed to prevent leaky or weeping pipes.
Optimize airflow in your home: Keep furniture away from walls and open windows when possible to allow natural airflow through your home. Make sure any confined spaces, like your attic or crawl spaces, are well ventilated so moisture does not become trapped.

Reduce moisture in the basement: If the humidity is more than 50%, it’s advisable to run a dehumidifier or install a foundation drain. Keep an eye out for foundation cracks and repair without delay—this is especially important if you own an older home. Installing insulation and thermal or storm windows helps keep basements warmer and drier. 

Mould is certainly nothing to ignore, especially when it comes to your household’s health and well being. If you keep a keen eye on your home with periodic inspections, maintenance, and prevention measures, you will have more reason to rest easy. If by chance your inspections lead to a well-deserved renovation, then check out these eco-friendly tips for waste removal.