Discover where mold can occur in your home and the safest ways to remove it.

Healthy living begins with each breath of clean air. And if there’s mold in your home, you could

be getting sick without even knowing it. Where there’s moisture, there’s the possibility of mold growth, which spells trouble, especially for people with allergies and respiratory conditions. While you can’t do anything about the air outside your home, there’s plenty you can do to ward off this pesky problem inside.

 An ounce of prevention

The best way to prevent mold from knocking on your front door is to control moisture where and when it occurs. The two rooms in the home that generate the most moisture are the kitchens and bathrooms. And getting rid of that damp air – like steam from the bath, shower or stovetop – is only possible if you vent it all the way outside.

In many homes, range hoods and bathroom vents only carry moist air to the attic, where it can quickly turn into mold and mildew. Once there, spores can grow all over the insulation, pipes and wood surfaces, like a time bomb ticking right over your head. The best way to combat this is to ensure vents expel that moisture all the way to the outside of the home.

An easy way to prevent mold in the bathroom is just flipping the vent switch and letting it run. The rule of thumb is to run your vent fan during bathing, and for 15 minutes afterward to make sure the damp air is gone.

It’s easy to monitor the level of humidity throughout your home with a hygrometer or moisture meter. These inexpensive digital devices are available at your local home center usually for less than $10. If the level gets above 50 percent a dehumidifier can help reduce it quickly.

Most other sources of mold in the home come from leaks and standing water. From the roof to crawlspaces beneath the floorboards, water can get in anywhere, so it’s important to repair leaks where they happen. That includes caulking and weather stripping windows, checking all plumbing for drips and looking for standing water around and under your home.

The best way to prevent mold from knocking on your front door is to control moisture where and when it occurs

Any flooding inside or outside the home should be taken care of immediately to avoid mold growth. Clogged pipes can cause standing water issues, too. Regular inspection of HVAC drainpipes, gutters and downspouts will get the moisture flowing away from the home and its foundation.

 Hide and seek

So where could mold be hiding in your home? Mold can grow anywhere, and some of the most common types found in your home are easily recognizable, because they look, and often smell, gross. Greenish-black mold commonly grows on material such as wallpaper, cardboard and wallboard, and white to gray colored mold can be found on decaying wood and water-damaged drywall.

And while you’ll likely find mold in the bathroom, kitchen and laundry room, it can grow in other less-obvious locations, too. Attics, basements and crawlspaces, including insulation, can contain mold, as can HVAC registers and ductwork, and the surface of windows and pipes.

Mold can grow unseen under wallpaper, drywall and ceiling tiles, and if hidden mold is suspected, have your house inspected by a professional. You may not see it in these spots, but you’ll smell it. If you think there might be mold in your HVAC system, do not run the unit until the problem has been solved. Otherwise, you might find yourself making an unwanted trip to the doctor’s office.

 Be the terminator

A small area of mold is fairly easy to clean yourself. If you’re dealing with a larger area you might want to consider having it handled by a professional.

Everything you need to remove mold safely can be bought at a local hardware or home store. You’ll need nonporous rubber gloves, an N-95 respirator, goggles without ventilation holes, warm water, detergent, bleach, an antimicrobial cleaner, a bucket and towels.

Small areas of mold can be cleaned up with warm water and detergent. When dealing with larger areas, you can use bleach in a solution of 1 cup per gallon of water. But bleach is only going to work on nonporous surfaces, like tile and laminate, and don’t ever mix it with other chemicals.

If mold is growing on a porous surface, like drywall, you must use an antimicrobial cleaner exclusively. And if it is blooming on upholstery or carpet, toss those items in the trash because mold is basically impossible to clean from such materials.

When you’re done cleaning treatable surfaces, make sure you dry them completely. There should be no visible mold, or moldy smell, if a surface has been cleaned properly.

The thing to remember about mold is that a good offense is truly the best defense. If you prevent it before it can grow, you can head off most issues before they cause damage to your property or, most importantly, your health.

Learn about the harmful effects mold can have on your body. 

Danny Lipford is a 38-year veteran remodeling contractor and media personality known to audiences as host of the Emmy-nominated and nationally-syndicated home improvement TV show and nationally-syndicated radio show: Today’s Homeowner with Danny Lipford. Danny served as the home improvement expert for CBS’s The Early Show and The Weather Channel for more than a decade. Danny has made more than 170 national television appearances, has been a longtime contributor to Better Homes & Gardens magazine. To learn more about Danny and his Today’s Homeowner brand, visit todayshomeowner.com (HYPERLINK).