September 22, 2009

Mold Happens

Vestina F. Crayton, Extension Specialist, Pinellas County Extension

For those of us who love sunny days and sandy beaches, Florida is the perfect place to live, work, and play. Not only does Florida provide one of the best environments for water and sunshine loving people, it also provides the perfect place for mold to live, work, and play.

What is mold?
Mold is a type of fungus. It needs warm temperatures, moisture and nutrients to grow and thrive. In order for mold to reproduce, it must produce spores. These spores are released into the atmosphere and are circulating almost all the time. This means, the risk of breathing in these spores is high.

Mold is a fact of nature. Implementing the following four control measures will help minimize mold problems:

*Temperature Control - Keep your indoor temperature below 77 degrees. The optimum temperature for mold growth is between 77 and 86 degrees.

*Moisture Control - Moisture can originate from outdoors and indoors.
o Although you can not control outdoor sources, you can make sure water spills are dried immediately or within 24-48 hours.
o Consider the relative humidity (RH) level. Keeping the RH level below 60% is best. You can purchase a budget-friendly ($10-$50) RH meter from your local home improvement or hardware store.

*Particulate Control – Mold, like any living organism, needs a nutrient source to survive. Soap scum, dirt, and organic materials found in paper products provide a smorgasbord for mold. Dusting, vacuuming with a HEPA filter and cleaning with environmentally preferable products frequently will keep the particulates under control.

*Ventilation – Introducing outside air into your interior spaces is an option if the nighttime temperature outside is 55 o F or below. Check your local forecast. If you live in a naturally humid climate, use air conditioning.

Moisture Removal
Alternating between cycles of heat and air conditioning will help take the moisture out of the air.

*Use 80 o F for the heat followed by two to three hours of 65 o F air conditioning. Continue repeating the alternating cycles until optimum indoor air quality is achieved.

*Dehumidifiers can be used. See the Energy Star chart below for a quick operating reference.According to Energy Star “Dehumidifier capacity is usually measured in pints per 24 hours and is determined by two factors: the size of the space that needs to be dehumidified and the conditions that exist in the space before dehumidification. Use the chart below to estimate the capacity you are looking for.”

Condition without DehumidificationArea (Sq. Feet)
Moderately Damp (space feels damp and has musty odor only in humid weather) *1014182226
Very Damp (space always feels damp and has musty odor. Damp spots show on walls and floor.)1217222732
Wet (space feels and smells wet. Walls or floor sweat, or seepage is present.)1420263238
Extremely Wet (laundry drying, wet floor, high load conditions.)1623303744

* Numbers indicate the capacity in pints per 24 hours. Read the label to determine what capacity you will need based on the area.

Tips for Rooms in the Home

*With all the shampoos, conditioners, body washes and skin exfoliating products we use it is important to clean and dry our bathroom surfaces. The residue and soap scum buildup provides a buffet for mold and mildew

*To keep the relative humidity low, take cooler showers. This can also help to reduce the amount of energy required to heat the water for that must have hot-shower.

*Identify and repair leaky pipes
*Wherever water comes in contact, apply caulking to keep the water out. Such areas would include around the perimeter of the sink.
*Consider louvered doors to allow the flow of air.
*Moisture absorbing material such as desiccants can be used. However, it may not be practical if high humidity is a problem in the rest of the home.

According to the experts, homeowners should check their water heater, washing machine hoses, and bathroom tile grouts for water leaks. These are the main three areas for water damage in the home (Lankarge, 2003).

For Renters
Report all leaks to the appropriate personnel-building owner or manager. Although there are no federal standards for mold or mold spores to measure compliance, sampling can be done to ensure adequate removal and remediation. Sampling should follow the guidelines issued by a professional organization such the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) and the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH).

Hyun-Jeong, L., Pearl, V. (2007). Moisture Control in Your Home. Part 1: The Basics. UFIFAS EDIS publication FCS3256

Hyun-Jeong, L., Pearl, V. (2007). Moisture Control in Your Home. Part 2: Room by Room. UFIFAS EDIS publication FCS3257

Hyun-Jeong, L., Pearl, V. (2007). Basic Mold Prevention. UFIFAS EDIS publication FCS3255

United States Environmental Protection Agency

Energy Star

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