Dealing with mold and mildew

Published 6:24 am Monday, February 26, 2018

Mold and mildew are two fungi that may appear from time to time in your home. They can trigger allergic reactions or asthmatic complications for certain people, so prompt removal is critical to protect your family’s health.

Both mold and mildew are types of fungi that grow in moist environments, spread easily and live on various surfaces. Mildew is a type of mold that usually has flat growth and remains on the surface. Mold contains multiple identical nuclei and grows in patches of various colors and can penetrate beneath the surface of an infected material.

If you notice mold’s musty smell, locate the source and quickly fix the problem. Mold growth requires moisture and high humidity, so lowering the humidity level in your home is essential to stopping its spread. You can reduce the humidity level in your home by running a dehumidifier, air conditioner or furnace. If you use a humidifier in your home, shut it off or adjust it if the relative humidity level gets higher than 50 percent. Repair any plumbing leaks immediately and eliminate as many sources of moisture as possible. Increase air circulation in problem areas, and use exhaust fans vented to the outside when taking showers or cooking. Unvented kerosene or gas heaters produce moisture from combustion and you should not use them where mold is a problem.

Email newsletter signup

Many times, with the proper safety equipment, you can successfully remove small areas of mold in your home. When removing mold, use a N95 or N100 respirator with a NIOSH approval No. TC-21C or TC-84A. Wear eye protection, rubber gloves and clothes that you can remove and quickly wash. Remove mold from hard surfaces by scrubbing the area with dish detergent and water. Rinse the area with clean water and quickly dry the surface. It is impossible to completely remove mold from porous surfaces so it is best to discard these materials.

Seek professional assistance for mold removal if the moldy area is larger than 10 feet, has significant water damage, is in your HVAC unit, was caused by sewage or other forms of contaminated water, or if you have health concerns that prevent you from removing the mold.

For more information, contact the Harlan County office of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.

Lora Davidson is the Harlan County Extension agent for family & consumer sciences. Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability or national origin.