top of page

Household Mold Detection - Seeing What Is and Isn't There

Say the word "pests" and people think about common household varieties such as ants, roaches, and spiders or even mice and rats. But did you know that molds are also considered pests? That's right. Pests are generally defined as undesirable organisms that are detrimental to humans or human concerns.

Some molds produce gases called mycotoxins that can cause sickness and allergic reactions in humans. There are molds, such as wood-destroying fungi, that cause property damage. So it is good to know a few things about mold so you can avoid having a problem in your home.

Molds are fungi that feed on nonliving organic matter. In nature, mold and other fungi are responsible for breaking down dead leaves, plant material and wood. The mold derives energy from these materials by secreting enzymes that break them down into simpler compounds that the mold can absorb. This decomposition is a necessary part of Earth's ecosystem. Molds are ubiquitous; they are found everywhere. Some species of mold can survive in sub-freezing temperatures, while others will thrive in extremely high temperatures of the desert, gaining what little moisture is available from the air.

Some molds can even grow on diesel fuel and other chemicals like anti-freeze. The two most common molds found in indoor living environments are Aspergillius and Penicillium. Given a food source, suitable temperature and elevated moisture or humidity, these molds can begin to grow and flourish on many surfaces within a home. Molds travel from one location to another by releasing spores. Spores are like seeds. They can remain dormant for a very long time. When conditions are right, spores begin to grow into an active mold colony. Most mold spores range in size from 2-20 microns in diameter, although some molds such as Aspergillus and Penicillium can produce spores as small as 1 micron. So just how small is that? A micron is one-millionth of a meter or 1/25,000 of an inch! By comparison, a human hair is about 50-80 microns in diameter.

When mold begins to grow, it forms microscopic, plant-like bodies called hyphae. If enough of these hyphae grow together, they can become visible. We refer to this as the mycelium stage of growth. During this stage, the mold may begin to distribute spores. Stachybotrys is another mold, often referred to as "toxic black mold," that has gotten massive media attention. Stachybotrys is a sticky, slimy mold that grows on surfaces such as drywall, wood, and even the paper on some insulation. Stachybotrys requires chronic or long-term moisture problems. While Aspergillus and Penicillium can begin to grow in only a couple of days, Stachybotrys needs at least 7-12 days of constant moisture, warm temperatures around 70-80 degrees and minimal air movement. Therefore it is unlikely that you will encounter it in your home unless you have an ongoing leak from plumbing, foundation problems, roof or window leaks, etc.

Even then, you may not see it because it tends to flourish in dark areas where it will not be disturbed. Since Stachybotrys is a sticky, slimy mold, the spores rarely become airborne. It grows on wet surfaces, spreading out as the colony gets larger. This can occur under cabinets, behind drywall, under flooring and anywhere else conditions are right. The colony may begin to release spores and mycotoxins into the air as a defense mechanism against other microbes, especially if the mold begins to dry out. These can be transported into the breathable air of the home and create symptoms such as cough, headaches, asthma, rhinitis and other allergic reactions. In some cases, infants or others with underdeveloped or compromised immune systems can have serious, even life-threatening pulmonary complications.

If you have any type of mold in your home, it must be removed.

The visible presence of any mold is an indicator that there may be more unseen hiding elsewhere. Some mold grows as a result of high humidity. Others require liquid water on a surface to germinate. In either case, the problem is water. Keeping your home between 30-50% relative humidity and finding and eliminating water leaks is the best defense against mold. Mold simply cannot grow on a clean, dry surface. If you have a crawl space, it should be kept dry and well-ventilated.

If you think you have a mold problem in your home, you should contact KleenRite. We will come out, assess the situation and help create a plan to remove it and prevent further growth and possible damage. This is better for you, your family and your home.

bottom of page