Prevent Mold to Protect Your Home and Your Health

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Mold is not only unsightly, if left untreated, mold can threaten the structural integrity of your home and cause health problems. Mold is a natural part of the environment that cannot be eliminated, but mold spores can be prevented by controlling the conditions which allow them to grow. Mold requires a food source, moisture, appropriate temperature, and oxygen to develop.

Many of us are unaware that our homes are inviting mold. Many materials, including: wood; textiles; paper; leather; and surfaces covered with organic matter, provide food for mold. Moisture in your home can be generated from a leak, flood water, or high humidity. While you may not be able to control all of the food sources for mold, you can control moisture.

It is important to maintain a moisture balance inside your home. The EPA suggests keeping indoor relative humidity below 60 percent; ideally between 30 and 50 percent. You can measure the relative humidity by using an inexpensive moisture or humidity meter available where hardware is sold.

Locating and eliminating the causes of excess moisture are best ways to prevent mold growth. Some common sources of excess moisture include: leaky pipes and faucets; not using exhaust fans; poorly maintained or poorly sized air conditioning systems, clogged gutters, building leaks, and poor water drainage around the foundation of the home.

Temperature can also impact the amount of moisture in the air. Condensation is a common source of moisture. You can

reduce condensation by adding insulation to surfaces with cool temperatures and increasing the flow of heated air throughout your home.

Movement of moisture in and out of your house can contribute to increased moisture levels. Decrease this flow by sealing air leaks around windows, doors, air register grilles, plumbing fixtures, and electrical outlets. Sealing HVAC system air duct leaks and installing vapor barriers in the crawl space are also important preventative measures.

Air circulation and ventilation affect the amount of moisture in your home. You can increase circulation and improve ventilation by installing heating and cooling system vents and ceiling fans, using exhaust fans to remove excess moisture at the source, keeping interior doors open, leaving supply vents open and free from obstruction, and installing attic vents.

Bathing, cleaning, cooking, washing dishes, and doing laundry raise the humidity level in your home. Reduce indoor humidity by decreasing bathing water temperature to minimize steam and by turning on exhaust fans when bathing and while cooking. Venting appliances to the outdoors and using a dehumidifier also reduces indoor humidity levels.

Preventing mold is much easier and more cost efficient than removing it. By preventing moisture problems that can cause mold to grow, you are protecting the health of your family and the structural integrity of your home. Getting a home inspection to find and correct moisture problems is your best method of attack.

For more information about causes, prevention, and removal of mold in your home, contact Lisa Smith, at lfsmith5@ncsu.edu or 252-531-6198.

Written By

Lisa Smith, N.C. Cooperative ExtensionLisa SmithExtension Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences Call Lisa E-mail Lisa N.C. Cooperative Extension, Martin County Center
Posted on Apr 1, 2021
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