Combating Mold and Mildew in Your Cleveland Home

If you’ve lived in Cleveland for any amount of time, or at least through the summer, then you already know how humid it can get in the summers. But while you are out enjoying some time in the sun, you could have quite a mold and mildew problem growing in your home that you won’t discover until later in the year.

The funny thing about black mold is that we discovered it in 1837, but it only became widely known in the 1990’s when the nightly news started reporting about it. While found everywhere, it is especially prevalent in regions of the country with hot, humid summers. It also shows up during the winters when homes are more closed off and prone to trapping moisture inside.

The EPA says that our indoor environment could actually be two to five times more toxic than our outdoor environment. In fact, in some cases the air measurements indoors have been found to be 100 times more polluted.

According to Dr. Lauren Tessier, a naturopathic physician who specializes in treating mold-related biotoxin and other complicating illnesses, “This can be harmful—airborne particles less than 1.0 microns are easily breathed into the respiratory system, where they can cause irritation and potential allergic reactions.”

About Mold & Mildew in Cleveland

Mold is a fungus that is commonly found in normal household dust and is in just about every home in the world. The problem comes when found in large quantities which can present a real health hazard. Coughing, wheezing, respiratory problems, or even neurological issues are all symptoms of severe mold inhalation.

Mold typically looks like black, blue, red, or green slime or fuzz.

Mildew is another type of fungus that grows on flat surfaces and often looks like soft or powdery white dust. It prefers organic materials such as wood, paper, textiles, walls or ceilings. Mildew may also be a shade of yellow, brown, or black.

Both mold and mildew can have strong odors that are probably familiar to anyone who has gone into a home that hasn’t been opened up in a long time.

Where Does Mold & Mildew Commonly Grow?

While mold and mildew can grow just about anywhere, they prefer dark and damp surfaces that don’t get a lot of air movement. This makes areas of the home, such as kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and basements the ideal growing locations.

Other areas that may be harboring mold and mildew include:

  • Crawlspaces
  • Attics
  • Walls
  • Or even your HVAC system

Ideal Conditions for Mold & Mildew

The best growing conditions for mold and mildew are between 77 and 87 degrees fahrenheit with 62-93% humidity. They also need a food source of organic matter. This is why the late summer months in the midwest are ideal growing conditions for an infestation to start.

Following the summer explosion in growth, the winter also poses a problem because homes are closed and we spend more time indoors. Between showers and running laundry, the high humidity can be kept up all winter long. In addition to this, winter storms can cause leaks that add more moisture to your home.

How to Prevent Mold in Your Cleveland Home

The best prevention for mold and mildew in your home is ensuring proper ventilation all year long. This could include running exhaust fans in bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms; or keeping windows open when it makes sense. (Did you know that gas appliances produce moisture as a result of the combustion process?!)

In attics, basements, and crawl spaces, ensuring that there are proper vents and exhaust fans can go a long way to preventing mold and mildew growth.

Air Conditioners and Dehumidifiers are the next best strategy for preventing mold in your home. According to the EPA, you should set your air conditioner to around 70 degrees fahrenheit, and humidity indoors should be set between 30% and 50%. (And don’t forget to empty those drip pans frequently!)

Other strategies to prevent mold and mildew growth in the first place include:

Speaking of air conditioners, covering cold surfaces such as cold water pipes and A/C ducts with insulation can also go a long way to preventing condensation from building up in your basement.

Clean, dust, and disinfect frequently – Frequently cleaning your home can go a long way to managing any potential mold growth that may already exist, as well as preventing new growth.

Prevent water from entering your home – This should seem obvious, but preventing water from getting into your home in the first place can often be the best way to reduce harmful mold growth. This could look like repairing foundation cracks, fixing plumbing leaks, inspecting your roof and chimney for damage, or even cleaning the gutters often!

For folks who don’t have a full basement slab, covering dirt floors with a vapor barrier can be one often overlooked strategy that will pay off in the long run. With how much rain we get here in Ohio, there is a lot of ground moisture that may be getting into your home if you don’t properly seal your basement or crawlspace.

Directing water away from your home – This is another strategy for mold prevention that is often overlooked and could cause water to seep into your basement or walls. Grading the ground around your home will go a long way to moving water away from your foundation, as can extending your downspouts so that they don’t deposit water right at the base of your walls.

Leak-proofing windows and doors – Those winter storms are no joke. Wind can drive rain and snow into every little crack and crevice that are left exposed, so making sure to weather-seal all windows and doors can be a big factor in reducing moisture in your home.

And finally, don’t let wet items stay inside – It might be common for little ones to throw off their wet jackets and leave them on the floor, or to hang up your own coat on a hook near the door to dry, but this is prime mold and mildew growing conditions. If your bathroom has an exhaust fan, this is where wet clothing should be hung up to dry. The same goes for wet towels!

Cleaning Mold & Mildew

If you think you already have a mold or mildew problem, the first step is to call a professional to check it out. (Please note, Summit Maids is not a mold or mildew remediation company and we will not enter homes that are known to have a mold problem) Small amounts of mold or mildew may be possible to tackle on your own with some basic tips:

Step one is throwing out any clothing or other items that have a moldy or musty smell. Even washing these items on high heat will not remove the mold, so careful disposal is the best solution.

Next, you can try sanitizing the affected area using some simple household items.

Bleach is always a good idea, but if you want to stick to green cleaning methods then Cleveland News 5 recommends a solution of vinegar or hydrogen peroxide, while we have found that tea tree oil is often the best cleaning solution and the most natural of the recommended cleaning solutions. 

Spraying this cleaning solution on the affected area and then wiping with a rag should kill the spores, and then ensuring proper ventilation will prevent future growth.

Using air purifiers with HEPA air filters (or adding HEPA filters to your existing HVAC system) will remove any spores from the air and dehumidifiers will remove excess moisture from the air and help to prevent future breakouts.

Conclusion

Combating mold and mildew in your Cleveland home may be a never-ending battle, but the tips and strategies outlined in this article should help you to either make headway in removing mold already inside, or prevent it from growing in the first place.

If you know your home has has water leaks in the past, or you smell a mildew-y smell when entering, there may be hidden mold or mildew that you cannot see. In these cases, a professional remediation company is the best course of action. But if there is just a little growth due to the common causes of mold and mildew outlined above, then you may be able to handle the situation yourself with a few simple cleaning techniques. 

Remember, prevention is the best way to combat mold and mildew. Frequent cleaning of your home, removing sources of moisture, and keeping your home at the proper temperature will all ensure that you never have to worry about mold or mildew in your home.

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