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Mould spores are always present in all buildings, although normally at very low levels. Mould problems arise in buildings when conditions of excessive moisture allow mould to grow beyond these low levels.
In our daily lives we are regularly exposed to low concentrations of mould, mostly airborne which we breathe in with no apparent effects. In healthy individuals, low level exposure to moulds normally does not cause health problems. However sensitive individuals can develop allergic reactions to moulds, ranging from minor hay fever like symptoms, to debilitating allergic responses, especially if exposed to high concentrations of airborne mould particles. Invasive fungal infections are much rarer and often linked to individuals with underlying health issues.
For impacted areas the early identification of mould problems, as well as the extent of the problem is important for determining the required remediation. Minimising mould in your home ensures your family has a safe and healthy living space.
Here are five DIY solutions which can help protect your loved ones from mould.
Mould is a living organism that can grow quickly when indoor conditions are conducive, easily spreading to all areas of your home. Left untreated, mould can damage building materials, home contents and building structures.
Mould can grow on most building materials including ceilings, carpets, glass and wood or in heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. While nutrients, oxygen, moisture and appropriate temperature are all essential for mould growth, Moisture availability is an environmental factor that controls mould growth in any environment.
Like all organism’s mould requires moisture to live. Mould can grow in conditions of intermittent water availability, with growth slowing or suspending until moisture is again available to the organisms. Under conditions of water ingress into a building or high atmospheric moisture, mould growth can establish over a period of time.
Excess moisture leading to mould growth can be generated by factors such as poor building design and construction, poor building maintenance and insufficient or inadequate ventilation, plumbing leaks, poor drainage, and excess moisture from bathrooms, and laundry areas.
Maintaining a clean and tidy home with minimal dust, is an important first step to reducing the occurrence of mould. Mould spores will often settle in the dust in a building, and when sufficient moisture is available, they will begin to thrive.
Vacuuming and removing dust behind furniture, including under beds is a crucial step to minimising mould in your home.
Step 1: Decide whether the extent of mould in your home needs professional assessment. A good rule to use is if the area is greater than 1m2 you should call a professional.
Step 2: Wear a mask and gloves when dealing with actual mould growth.
Step 3: If the surface is dry, you should vacuum the area first to reduce the affected area.
Step 4: You can use a variety of cleaning methods and products to clean surfaces. If the surface is non-porous then generally cleaning with hot soapy water is sufficient. If the surface is porous, then you should consider throwing the item away. Cleaning mould growth from porous surfaces is rarely successful.
Step 5: Make sure the area is clean and dry
Step 6: Monitor for new growth once every month or two.
When using these steps, it is important to contact a professional if the mould persists.
Ventilation appears to control mould growth by affecting the ability of mould to establish on a surface. This may occur by airflow physically removing airborne mould from an area before the mould has had a chance to settle on a surface or by disrupting the process where humid air may condense on an exposed surface therefore reducing surface moisture for mould growth.
Thus, a poorly ventilated area will increase the chances of mould growth establishing in that area by allowing mould spores to settle on surfaces and allowing moisture to condense on the surface. Proper ventilation will prevent moisture from accumulating in your home.
With that in mind, keep your windows and doors open whenever possible to allow fresh air inside. Open windows on opposite sides of a room promote cross-ventilation, greatly increasing airflow and removing excess moisture.
You should always use exhaust fans in the bathroom to keep air moving while eliminating moisture. Exhaust fans will pull the steamy air from the room so it doesn’t condense on the walls or tiles.
You may want to move your furniture and appliances periodically, allowing the area to be cleaned before putting the items back in place. This method will also help prevent mould growth from moisture buildup.
Condensation from atmospheric moisture forms when moisture air meets cold surfaces. Water vapour in the air turns to liquid and condensation forms. The temperature where this occurs is called the dew point temperature.
As an example, condensation will form when warm, moist air contacts a cooler surface causing the air to be reduced to the dew point temperature. Condensation can be visible, such as on a window in wintertime, or occur at a microscopic level, not visible to the naked eye but sufficient moisture to encourage mould growth.
In many buildings there can be significant temperature changes during part or all of the day. Environmental conditions can be such that interior surfaces in cooler areas of the building may regularly reach the dew point temperature. In contrast warmer areas of the building, interior surfaces will be much less likely to be cool enough to reach the dew point.
Mould loves humidity because it’s the prime environment to allow their spores to multiply. Humidity levels refer to how much moisture is in the air. Your interior air may be humid because of poor ventilation, leaks, or condensation. If it’s humid outside, some of that air may enter your home. Bathrooms and kitchens naturally have higher humidity levels.
You can control your home’s humidity levels by ensuring proper ventilation in all rooms, especially using exhaust fans in the bathroom and kitchen. You can use dehumidifiers to reduce moisture from the air in rooms with poor ventilation. Wiping windows dry when condensation is evident will also reduce the risk of mould growth, particularly on windows and plantation shutters and curtains.
Leaks allow water to get inside your home, which can lead to mould growth. The water can linger in the air, increasing humidity to prevent mould. You’ll also have areas with prolonged water exposure, making them a breeding ground for mould spores. Leaks are often hidden, staying unnoticed until they’re severe. This gives mould plenty of time to grow and spread.
You can check for leaks with routine maintenance and regular house inspections. Check plumbing and your roof regularly, as these are common spots for leaks. Look for water stains and drips in your home.
If you have a leak around your pipes or water fixtures, you’ll want to shut off your water as you work to repair the leak. For roof leaks, you can cover the area with a tarp while you wait for a professional repair. You may also have leaks around doors and windows, so check the seals and ensure everything closes completely.
Insulating your roof space will reduce the risk of condensation in your home and often deter mould from growing on ceilings and cornices. If your roof space is poorly insulated, warm indoor air will often condense on ceilings in your home. The condensation may be microscopic, but if this condensation occurs frequently, then mould growth can occur.
Insulation will also regulate your home’s humidity levels by minimizing heat transfer. Your home will stay at a more comfortable temperature and have reduced moisture in the air, reducing the risk of mould growth.
Contact a professional if you have any questions or need help with