Monday, November 14, 2011

The Dirty: Black Mold

The unwanted intruder, creeping in behind your walls until one day - the tell-tale sign - a mass of tiny black dots.  Ugh!  Black mold.  It definitely looks gross but even grosser is what it does to the health of people who live with it.

While most of the data associated with black mold exposure is correlational, Health Canada states that mold exposure does seem to lead to "wheezing and shortness of breath, symptoms of asthma, and allergic reactions."  Some reports associate longterm exposure with reduced immune functioning, which is especially worrisome for vulnerable populations such as senior citizens and young children whose immune systems are already fragile.  While I am most definitely an empiricist and have a strong belief in the solidity of experimentation proving causation I am also a pragmatist.  In other words, get rid of black mold. 

As a house cleaner I have to say that I see more black mold in people's homes than I am comfortable with, hence my reason for writing this post.  Often clients will ask me to clean mold and I am happy to do that but I always let them know that I am only able to clean visible mold - and that there is bound to be more lurking behind what is visible.  So what to do?  Here are my recommendations drawn from the Health Canada resource:
  • Keep your house dry.  Moisture build-up is my continual rant (usually just in my head but sometimes it leaks out in my posts and to my clients).  After you have had a shower, keep the door open and the fan on!  Keep glass doors open to let your shower dry out quickly.  Hang up your bathmat so it has a chance to dry between uses.  Don't put household items away wet.  Excess moisture in the home is like giving mold an invitation to party at your house.  
  • Check probable areas regularly.  There are several hot spots in the home for mold buildup.  These include bathrooms, under sinks, basements and laundry rooms.  Several times a year do a quick check of these areas so that if you notice a problem you can correct it quickly. 
  • Call in an expert.  If you keep cleaning mold away and it keeps returning then you probably need to actually bring someone in to deal with the problem properly.  This can include anything from fixing a structural issue to fixing a leaky pipe to making sure your house is ventilated properly.  Get an expert!  I found a great article written on black mold by a local Vancouver company Genesis Restorations.  The article lists criteria to use when selecting a contractor and I found it very useful.
 As I mentioned earlier in this post, I see a lot of mold in the homes I clean.  I'm not sure if people are unaware of the dangers of leaving this problem unaddressed or they think that it will cost a lot to get it fixed.  The longterm cost in health problems will be much steeper than just dealing with your current mold situation.