What To Do When You Find Mold in Your Basement
Although you might find mold unsightly, there’s another big problem with it – it’s dangerous. Mold can cause respiratory problems, as well as fatigue, confusion, and sleep disturbances. Therefore, as you can see, it’s not merely an aesthetic concern.
Here is some information on identifying it, to begin with, as well as how to treat it and if you need to enlist the help of professionals.
Common Causes of Mold
If you’re wondering how mold takes hold or appears in basements, look no further than inclement weather – flooding is a major cause of mold growth, since standing water and damp interior features like carpet or furniture can all serve as prime culprits and places for mold to grow and thrive.
A similar issue, water leaks, can cause mold to appear. Situations like leaky pipes, faulty appliances, or clogged basement drains can all be the cause of a mold outbreak.
Lastly, a less obvious culprit, high humidity, can be the root cause of mold in the basement. This is especially true in humid climates like those found in the Southern and Midwestern U.S. If the problem exists year round, it could be worth installing a fan or avoiding appliances like humidifiers or air vents.
How to Identify Mold
It’s possible to obtain a mold testing kit, easily available online. However, if you’re fairly positive about the presence of mold, it’s always worth enlisting the help of professionals to identify whether the type of mold present in your house is especially dangerous.
In general, molds fit into one of two categories: allergenic and Mycotoxin/black. Although allergenic molds are at best a nuisance, unless you’re asthmatic or extremely sensitive, black molds are extremely hazardous to humans and pets and should be removed immediately.
Regardless of the category, the CDC actually recommends that all molds should be removed. So basically, no mold is good mold, but for the proverbial record, there are five types of indoor molds to know, according to The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS):
- Alternaria: This type of mold can cause serious diseases in crops like cereals, oil seeds, and fruits, and it most often appears as black spots sometimes surrounded by red margins.
- Aspergillus: This fungus is common both indoors and outdoors. Although many people can withstand its presence in the air around them, people with weakened immune systems can develop an infection called Aspergillosis, which is potentially dangerous.
- Cladosporium: This mold most often appears as round brown spots, and it tends to occur in places indoors with high levels of moisture or condensation. It also does well in colder environments, and it is often found in bathroom areas like shower curtains, window sills, and ceilings.
- Penicillium: This mold appears as green or white patches, and it’s also used in the development of the antibiotic penicillin.
- Stachybotrys chartarum: This is also known as the toxic black mold, although also the most common household mold. It appears black to greenish, in color, and it is fast-growing, as well. It tends to thrive on damp surfaces like walls that have been water-damaged, such as in basements.
How to Treat & Eliminate Mold
A variety of methods exist for cleaning and eliminating mold in your house, but it’s wise to try more natural treatments before moving on to heavy duty sanitation methods:
- Essential Oils: a number of different essential oils have antimicrobial properties. Try one or a combination of the following to start, mixing the oil extract with equal parts water to dilute it. Before you begin, spray the mixture onto affected surfaces using a water bottle; let it sit for at least five minutes and then scrub the area with a washcloth or heavy duty sponge.
- Grapefruit Seed Extract
- Tea Tree Oil
- Clove Oil
- Pine Oil
- Lavender Oil
- Eucalyptus Oil
- Vinegar: White vinegar is another natural multi-purpose cleanser that can be used to treat mold outbreaks. Try pouring vinegar onto affected surfaces and waiting at least five minutes before scrubbing the area and wiping it away.
- Hydrogen Peroxide: Another low-toxicity cleanser, hydrogen peroxide can be mixed with equal parts water and sprayed onto the area with a mold outbreak. Allow it to sit for at least ten minutes before using a scrub brush to clean the mold from affected surfaces.
- Borax: Mix one cup of Borax with one gallon of water. Apply the Borax mixture to areas affected by mold and then scrub using a sponge or a scrub brush. Borax also deodorizes, helping to eliminate musty odors.
- Bleach: Be sure to avoid using bleach on fabric or carpets, but it is an affordable and simple cleaning option for killing mold and all related spores. Use bleach on hard surfaces like tiles, bathtubs, and other areas affected by mold. Just be sure your basement ventilation is good, as bleach can be toxic if inhaled for long periods of time.
- Concrobium: Concrobium is a mold removal chemical approved by the EPA that is non-toxic, but it can be expensive. It can also prevent the recurrence of mold spores, when used to treat mold-infested areas. Concrobium can be used on a wide variety of surfaces, unlike bleach, such as wood, plastic, stone, and tile.
- High-Efficiency Particle Absolute (HEPA) Vacuums: HEPA vacuums can be used to remove mold, as well as mold spores, from walls. HEPA machines also work well to prevent mold growth in high-humidity areas.
How to Prevent Future Mold Outbreaks
Although challenging, it is possible to prevent recurring mold outbreaks in your basement. Try the following preventative measures, to get started:
- If you live in a high-humidity area, install a dehumidifier and a humidity gauge to monitor moisture levels (moisture should stay below 60% at all times).
- With the help of a professional, fix any leaks or cracks in your home and basement. Have your sump pump checked to ensure it is running properly, as well.
- Filter and clean the air in your home and basement using a negative air pressure machine. It should filter all the air out of the room using a process called ducting. Ducting should also filter out all mold spores that can cause future outbreaks, as well.
- Mix paint with mold inhibitor, then paint the walls of your home and basement.
- Ensure your gutters and drains are not clogged and that all water is deposited far from your home. Also, make sure the area surrounding your basement slopes away from the foundations of your home.
If any of the above preventative or treatment measures seem too daunting for you to tackle on your own, contact us to help keep your basement dry and free of future mold outbreaks.