The common household problem which can wreck your home and your health

Black mold is the gift that keeps on giving – not only is it an eyesore that can be tough to get rid of at home, but it can damage your health.

The fungus, which can appear black, green or grey, carries a serious health risk for some vulnerable groups.

Black mold can thrive in winter due to the warm, moist environment indoors and reduced air circulation as we keep out the cold.

If left untreated, it can cause long-term problems at home and with your health, especially for babies, the elderly, and people with skin and respiratory conditions.

Research by B&Q found a third (32 per cent) of people in the UK have some form of mould, damp or condensation in their home, Wales Online reported.

Plus, nearly two thirds (62 per cent) wouldn’t be able to tackle mold themselves and one in 10 say they’d do nothing about it – or only deal with it if it got really bad.

Here’s what you need to know about mold and condensation, and how to get rid of it.

Why you need to get rid of mold

Getting rid of black mold is important to your health and home

With the cost of living rising, many might be tempted to leave it alone, but that could have long-term implications.

“Many problems can arise when you leave mold untreated – not just to your home, but also to your health – so it’s really important people are aware of the risks,” says Susie Spence, B&Q’s director of interiors.

Mold can cause respiratory problems and rashes – although B&Q found one in five people weren’t aware of the potential health implications.

B&Q has teamed up with the housing charity Shelter for the Break the Mold campaign, raising awareness around the dangers of leaving mold untreated, and showing people how to eradicate it permanently.

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How is mold formed?

Mold is most often caused by condensation.

Indoor air quality and ventilation expert James Edwards, from ventilation company Nuaire, says: “People shouldn’t panic at a bit of condensation, but if it isn’t dealt with properly or quickly, it can lead to bigger problems such as black mold , and this shouldn’t be ignored.”

He says it can penetrate walls and get into cavities, causing structural damage – and it can also lead to musty smells, staining, peeling wallpaper, cracked wall surfaces, plaster degradation, warped window frames and mildew on furniture and clothing.

“This can cost homeowners significant expense if not tackled in time,” he stresses.

“But damage to the home is nothing compared to the health risks associated with condensation, damp and mould.

“Exposure to mold spores can also exacerbate eczema, and indoor dampness can promote bacterial growth and the survival of viruses.”

Is damp and mold bad for you?

Mold in the corner of the plastic windows.
Black mold symptoms include sneezing and skin rashes

According to the NHS if you have damp and mold in your home you’re more likely to have respiratory problems, respiratory infections, allergies or asthma.

Damp and mold can also affect the immune system.

This is because molds produce allergens (substances that can cause an allergic reaction), irritants and, sometimes, toxic substances.

Inhaling or touching mold spores may cause an allergic reaction, such as sneezing, a runny nose, red eyes and skin rash. Molds can also cause asthma attacks.

Who’s affected by mould?

Eczema on right arm, left hand scratching the skin.  Girl is wearing a white sleeveless top with flowers and pink pants.
Children are more vulnerable to the health risks of mold

The NHS website says some people are more sensitive than others, including:

  • Babies and children
  • old people
  • Those with existing skin problems, such as eczema
  • Those with respiratory problems, such as allergies and asthma
  • Those with a weakened immune system, such as those having chemotherapy

These people should stay away from damp and mould, it warns.

What causes mould?

Mold can be caused by poor ventilation, not heating your home properly, poor insulation, humidity, and condensation, says Break the Mould.

Condensation is the most common cause of mold, so the campaign stresses the importance of opening windows and heating your home appropriately.

How does condensation form?

James says condensation occurs when warm, moist air meets cooler surfaces – for example, in a steamy bathroom with a cold windowsill.

“This is particularly prevalent in winter as temperatures drop, windows get closed and households turn on their heating,” he explains.

“The excess moisture in the air quickly condenses, and homes are at risk of condensation – experts call this the dew point.”

Water vapor settles on the coldest spots

We produce water vapor every day through routine activities, such as drying wet clothes inside, cooking, boiling the kettle, showering, bathing, and even talking and breathing, explains James.

This leads to increased indoor humidity – and without adequate ventilation, moisture gets trapped. It migrates from wet rooms, settling on the coldest spots on ceilings, walls and near windows – often in the corners of a room, on an outside wall.

“Once the warm, wet air has settled on a cold surface as condensation, it creates the perfect breeding ground for mould, which can be toxic,” he warns.

How to prevent condensation

Windowsill and glass covered in condensation water droplets
Condensation builds up on windows and other cold surfaces

“The best ways to permanently tackle condensation are by keeping a steady temperature throughout the property, keeping the air circulating and extracting excess humid air outdoors,” advises Edwards.

“Households can reduce levels of moisture in the home by drying clothes outside where possible, covering pans when cooking, shutting the bathroom door when showering or bathing, and ensuring extraction fans are switched on.”

How to get rid of mold

To get rid of mold, you’ll need a mask, goggles, gloves, protective clothing, and a floor covering, says TV homes and interiors expert Whinnie Williams.

Spray a mold remover spray onto the affected area, leave it for 30 minutes, and then scrub and wipe the surface with a cloth.

“Once you’ve removed the mould, keep the surface well ventilated and let it dry,” she suggests.

“And to prevent it coming back, paint the area with an anti-mould paint, or if you’re renting, ask your landlord to do this.”

How to prevent mold

Ventilation is crucial, says Williams, so open windows or buy a moisture absorber – drawing moisture out of the air. Mold likes damp, dark spaces, so check behind cupboards and drawers.

“It can appear inside cupboards and get into clothes and shoes, so be sure to check in the corners on the inside, too,” she advises.

It’s also important to keep furniture at least two inches away from the walls, to provide space for ventilation.

What if you rent your home?

The Break the Mold campaign says mold problems in a rented home are often a landlord’s responsibility. Renters should check what’s causing the issue and talk to their landlord before doing any work themselves.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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