Mold lurks in virtually all homes and is most commonly found in perpetually damp or humid areas. Showers are prime spots for mold invasions, but that doesn't mean the mold in your shower is of the most dangerous variety. Today's standard shower construction lessens the growth risk of the more hazardous type of mold, Stachybotrys chartarum, which requires a surface that contains cellulose to grow.
Common labels for Stachybotrys chartarum, such as "black mold," "toxic mold" and "deadly mold", have frightened many homeowners into thinking that all dark mold is deadly. While any mold has the potential to cause health problems, especially for those who are allergic or sensitive to mold, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most of the mold found in homes today is not Stachybotrys.
Laboratory testing is the only reliable method for determining what type of mold is growing in your shower. The CDC does not recommend random testing, however, which can be expensive, because no matter what type of mold you have, the solution is the same -- get rid of it.
While some types of mold grow easily in showers, water-resistant shower surface materials discourage Stachybotrys growth. In most cases, if you have mold in the shower, it will be one of the less-dangerous varieties. Stachybotrys needs a high cellulose base, such as fiberboard or paper on which to grow. Tile showers, with their smooth ceramic surfaces and cement-fiber backer board, make the presence of Stachybotrys unlikely. Smooth fiberglass shower insets also discourage Stachybotrys growth.
Some people experience no physical symptoms, even with repeated exposure to mold, but for asthmatics, those with weakened immune systems and individuals who are allergic or sensitive to mold, physical symptoms can be severe and might include:
Hay fever-like symptoms, including sneezing, itchy eyes and a scratchy throat Trouble breathing Headache Skin irritation Yeast infection Athlete's foot
If you think you or a family member is experiencing symptoms from mold exposure, a visit to your doctor is the best course of action. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, even if you're not allergic to mold, repeated exposure can increase your risk of eventually becoming sensitive.
Removing and Preventing Regrowth
Regular household detergent and water are sufficient for scrubbing away shower mold. Unless a family member has a weakened immune system, the EPA does not suggest the use of bleach for cleaning mold. To prevent regrowth, repair dripping showerheads and faucets. Because showering creates a lot of humidity in a bathroom, it's a good idea to install a ventilation fan in the ceiling. Running a dehumidifier also helps. After showering, spray down the shower with a mold- or mildew-removing bathroom cleaner, and replace moldy shower curtains promptly.