Managing Mold

by Lawton Brothers | Mar 15, 2021

It’s estimated that mold causes billions of dollars in damage to our homes and health each year. This is especially problematic in Florida, where the dew point and relative humidity are the second highest in the nation (following Hawaii and Alaska, respectively). The key to mold control is moisture control, according to the EPA. The two main ways of controlling moisture are repairing leaks and preventing condensation. The latter is much easier said than done, as the ideal relative humidity for moisture control is 50% (much lower than the average humidity in Florida of 74%).

Since most air-conditioning units only dehumidify as a byproduct of cooling, they will not maintain desired humidity levels on a daily basis where conditions are hot, humid, and rainy. Generally speaking, this is the typical weather forecast in Florida, making mold a common staple in our businesses and households. 

Cause for Concern

There will always be some amount of mold in your facility, though most often in the form of spores and pieces of mold cells. The presence of mold in the air is normal and should not raise alarm. However, the growth of mold indoors and increased exposure can cause a variety of health problems and building damage.

There are four different health problems associated with mold exposure: allergic illness, irritant effects, infection, and toxic effects. Most individuals will experience allergy symptoms when exposed to too much mold. This causes congestion, sneezing, and red, watery eyes. Those susceptible to mold may have increased symptoms similar to hay-fever, and those with chronic illnesses or immune issues are at increased risk of infections, viruses, and bacteria. 

Identifying Mold

Mold growth is typically noticed due to the earthy or musty smell that accompanies it. Once this ‘forest’-like scent is noticed, you should begin your search. Start where the mold odors are first or most strongly noticed and check in and around air units for standing water and leaks. Look for visible growth of mold and signs of water damage. Mold can come in a variety of colors and textures, but most often it will look cottony/velvety or rough/leathery with a range of colors including gray, white, brown, green, and black. This will likely appear as a staining or fuzzy growth on furniture or building materials (especially woods and papers). 

Removing Mold

Once you have identified the source(s) of the mold, it’s time to remove it. Mold should be cleaned as soon as it appears by someone free of symptoms and allergies as close contact can exacerbate illness. Small areas can be cleaned with soapy water or a commercial mildew cleaner. Gloves and goggles are required, while a mask or ventilator may be necessary for prolonged exposure or more volatile molds. Once the area is cleaned, it should be thoroughly dried and any cloths or sponges used should be discarded.

In most cases, you won’t need a disinfectant or fungicide to kill mold, but you will need to remove all mold that is discovered. Even dead mold is viable for months afterward and can repopulate once conditions are right. Any pieces that are believed to be infested with mold should be promptly replaced. 

Preventing Mold

Water is the key to preventing mold growth. Common molds only need 24 hours to take hold in standing water, so it’s important to clean up and dry any spills immediately. Dry out any materials in the building including carpets and vent moisture outside when necessary (during cooking, showering, or other high humidity activities). Use an air conditioner or dehumidifier to reduce humidity levels indoor and keep them below 60%. 

Questions?

Managing and preventing mold can be a walk in the park once you know what to look for. If you’re unsure, you can always give your local Lawton Brothers a call. With certified experts and experience in the field since 1946, you can be sure that your business is in good hands. Give us a call today at: 800.432.0813. 

More resources:

Florida Department of Health

FSEC Energy Research Center

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