Mold can grow even in a seemingly clean house. Signs of mold usually appear in areas with ideal conditions for fungi habitat. Even when you don’t notice it, mold still spread spores that cause health problems.
Knowing mold signs is important for homeowners. Spotting small mold problem gives you clues to clean it and fix the root causes.
Here is everything you need to know about spotting mold signs.
A. Common Signs of Mold
How to tell if you have mold?
Even before you can see it, mold emits a noticeable musty odor. It usually becomes prominent in moist and poorly ventilated areas, such as bathroom, basement, or space under the sink. Mold aroma can also appear from an enclosed wall, signifying hidden moisture problem such as leaking.
You can also spot the visual cues. The early stages of mold growth appear as small specks, with black, bluish, or greenish surfaces. Depending on the types, you may notice yellow, brown, or reddish spots. If the mold grows uncontrollably, you may see fuzzy or slimy masses.
What does black mold look like? This “infamous” mold first appears as dust-like black specks. You might think of it as regular dust spots until you wipe the specks with your finger and find out that they don’t budge. When growing, black mold develops fuzzy surface, with bluish or greenish specks.
B. Surprising Places in Home to Find Mold
Why knowing what does mold smell like is important? Because mold can grow on surprising or difficult places. Sometimes, the only way to spot it is by smelling, which leads you to the problematic spots.
Bathroom, basement, sink, and ceiling room are obvious places to find mold. However, make sure you take time to check these places and objects:
1. Washing machine
Washing machine, especially the front-loading type, has mold risks in its cylinder and rubber gasket (between the lid and the opening). The warmth and moisture create an ideal place for mold to grow.
2. Fans and air conditioner
Mold may grow on the fan blades or air conditioner grill. Mold on a ceiling fan can be hard to spot because of its position.
Mold can grow on brush bristles, especially if the brushes keep getting wet. Toilet brush and toothbrush (even electric brushes!) are prone to mold growth.
4. Blender and food processor
Blender and food processor can develop mold if not properly cleaned. Mold may appear on blades, behind the lid, or at the bottom of the beaker.
5. Chew toys
Chew toys get a lot of contact with saliva, which is a breeding ground for bacteria and moisture. If not cleaned properly, chew toys (both for pets and babies) can develop mold.
6. Behind the floor/wall
Hidden spots behind the floor and wall can be breeding places for mold. It can happen if there is moisture or plumbing problems that you don’t notice.
Potted plants can also become ideal habitats for mold. Some mold species grow in the soil, which can spread to the plants, pot, and finally on the areas around it.
C. Symptoms of Mold Exposure
Mold exposure symptoms often appear before you notice the presence of fungi. The symptoms appear as the reactions of the immune system after you inhale spores. Some people experience the symptoms immediately, while others may feel them after several days, weeks, or even months.
Common symptoms of mold exposure include:
- Sneezing and runny/stuffed nose
- Wheezing breath
- Postnasal drip
- Red, itchy, watery eyes
- Itchy throat
- Red, itchy nose
- Skin reactions (dryness, rashes, redness, itchiness)
People with preexisting conditions, such as asthma and dust allergies, may experience aggravated symptoms when getting into contact with spores. For example, asthmatic people may suddenly experience tight chest and wheezing or short of breath.
D. Testing Your House for Mold
Mold testing is the realistic way to spot fungi before it grows too large. Nowadays, you can find a DIY testing kit with a price range between USD40 and USD100. You can collect samples before sending the result to the associated professionals in the kit package. However, self-testing kit does not provide reliable results. The kit itself cannot immediately identify dangerous bacteria and fungi.
The best way is to call Industrial Hygienist (HI), a professional term for mold inspector. In the US, a professional HI must have mold inspector certification. For example, NAMP (National Association for Mold Professionals) certificate is approved by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Mold inspectors with NAMP certificates understand specific ways to spot mold in specific rooms and surfaces.
Professional also knows how to test for mold in different parts. For example, checking vents, air conditioner, and wall cavities are more difficult than bathroom walls, kitchen, and enclosed attic. Professionals can conduct testing for more difficult areas, with accurate results. The costs range from USD300 to USD1,025, depending on the house size and the numbers of difficult searching spots.
E. Getting Rid of Mold for Good
How to get rid of mold once you spot it?
If the moldy area is small, no more than a few square feet, you can scrub it away. Use one part of bleach and eight parts of water. You can also use detergent, white vinegar, and a lot of water to brush the mold. Here are the typical steps:
- Open all windows, doors, and vents for air circulation
- Wear disposable gloves, mask, goggles, and clothes you can throw away
- If there are smaller objects or furniture items that got moldy, take them out for later cleaning
- Scrub the moldy area with the bleach solution. Keep spraying the surface to prevent spores from flying
- Rinse the vinegar and repeat the process until the mold disappears
- Repeat the scrubbing and splashing if necessary
When you clean the furniture items outside, make sure to cover the windows and vents with paper or plastic. It keeps the spores from flying back into the house. If you want to throw away a moldy object, wrap it with plastic twice.
Signs of mold can appear as a musty smell, dark specks, and fuzzy or slimy growths. You need professional mold testing service to determine fungi presence at home. Hiring professionals is the best solution for detecting and cleaning mold, keeping it from coming back.