For many years we've heard the advertising for cleaning products promising to remove mold and mildew. Relatively recently though, we've all be made aware of the health hazards of toxic mold. We've heard stories of people losing their lives after being exposed to black mold in their homes. But there is a lot of confusion about just what black mold is. This article aims to clear up misconceptions and present facts regarding mold and mildew.
Mold and mildew are two terms that are often used interchangeably. The truth is that there is a difference between mold and mildew. Both are types of fungus, and the difference lies in what that fungus is. Mildew is a powdery or downy fungus. The powdery kind is caused by a type of fungus called Ascomycota and the downy kind is caused by a fungus called Oomycota.
There are many types of mold, and many of them are black in color. Some of them are completely harmless. Others produce toxins called mycotoxins. The most dangerous strains of mold are Chaetomium and Stachybotrys chartarum. The latter is the strain of mold that is often called black mold. Stachybotrys grows on building materials such as drywall, insulation backing or wallpaper. Because mold thrives in moist environments, your bathroom can be an excellent home to Stachybotrys if it begins to grow there.
The fungi that cause mildew are not generally harmful, although they can be fowl-smelling and visually unappealing. This is especially true if they are allowed to grow uninhibited. There are also many forms of mold that are not harmful, as mentioned previously. The harmful molds are quite serious though, and excessive inhalation can result in death. Symptoms of mold exposure include respiratory distress, difficulty swallowing, a burning in the lung and throat, bladder or kidney pain, dark or painful urine, balance problems and many other ailments, depending on the strain.
Mold and mildew thrive in moist environments. The easy way to keep mold from ever beginning to grow is to eliminate as much moisture from your house as possible. This includes fixing leaky roofs, ensuring a good seal around doors and windows and patching any holes or cracks in the building. Humidity is also raised with the use of hot water, which causes steam. This is particularly troublesome in a bathroom during showers and baths. For this reason it is important to use a ventilation fan to remove the steam from the room before mold and mildew can take root.
There are many cleaners out there that can kill mold and mildew. They are usually all that is needed to rid yourself of mildew, but are only effective on mold if they are used early in an infestation. Scrubbing the surface with these cleaners works until the mold has taken root and made its way deeper into the surface on which it has made its home. Chlorine makes an excellent killer of mold if applied directly, but like other cleaners can only work on the surface. Mold that has permeated a surface can only be fully removed by removing and replacing that surface. This can get expensive fast if the mold is growing on drywall.