Frequently Asked Questions - Tacoma
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What are molds?
A. Molds are a type of fungus. Other types of fungus include mildews and mushrooms. Molds
occur widely in nature and outdoors. There is no practical way to get rid of all mold spores
Q. How do molds grow in my home?
A. Molds grow in our homes because of too much water. Leaky plumbing or a hole in the roof
can let water into your home to help mold grow. Humid air from cooking, breathing or
showering can also lead to mold growth unless you let the damp air out and fresh air into
your home. Common materials we have in our homes like paper, drywall, leather, and
carpeting provide food for mold growth if they get wet. Controlling moisture is the most
important thing to remember when dealing with mold.
Q. Where can I find molds in my home?
A. You might find mold in water damaged areas, on the inside of cold exterior walls, behind
dressers, headboards and in closets where things are stored against a cold outer wall. Other
areas where mold often grows are kitchens, bathrooms, laundry or utility rooms, and
basements. Carpets and other water-damaged materials will easily support mold growth.
Mold may also grow undetected inside wall spaces, under carpet, and inside heating ducts.
Q. How do I know if I have a problem?
If you see or smell mold, or a musty odor, you have a mold problem. You should clean
up the mold as soon as possible. Testing for molds is not usually needed unless you need
documentation for medical or legal reasons.
Even dry or dead mold spores may cause health problems.
Q. How can I control or prevent molds from growing in my home?
Stop all water leaks first. Repair leaky roofs and plumbing right away. Move water away
from basement walls and concrete slabs.
Increase air movement within your home. If needed, use ceiling or standing fans to
circulate air throughout your home. Pay special attention to outside walls. Provide warm
air to all rooms of your home. Leave closet doors slightly open. Move furniture and large
objects away from outside walls. Leave a few inches for air to move between the wall
and belongings.
Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department – leading the way toward a healthier and safer Pierce County.
Mold - Frequently Asked Questions
Page 2
“Flush” the air in your home at least once or twice a day. Do this by opening all
windows and turning on all exhaust fans for five minutes. Close windows and reheat
home to 70 degrees.
Make sure you have working exhaust fans in bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms.
Run fans while bathing, cooking or doing laundry and for at least 30 minutes afterwards.
If your living area is constantly humid even with proper ventilation and temperature
control, you may want to consider the use of a dehumidifier. Dehumidifiers can be
helpful to control moisture in basements or daylight basements.
Ventilate and insulate attic and crawl spaces. Cover dirt in the crawl space with heavy
Clean and dry water damaged carpets, clothing, bedding and fabric furniture within 24
to 48 hours. Otherwise consider throwing it away and replacing with new.
Vacuum (with a HEPA vacuum if possible) and clean your home regularly.
Q. How do I clean up mold in my home?
If you see or smell mold, it’s time to clean up.
Try to determine how much of an area has a mold problem. For a larger area – greater
than 10 feet square – you need to pay attention to personal protection.
Use goggles, gloves and breathing protection, such as an N95 dust mask.
Isolate the work area as much as possible. Cover heat vents. Close the door or hang
plastic across open doorways and seal with tape. Open a window or use an exhaust fan.
Cover all furniture in the area. Sheets or paint drop clothes can be used. For a large area
of mold, move all belongings to another place before clean up. Sort articles for later
clean up. See below for cleaning household articles.
Remove severely mold-damaged materials by putting them in bags and throwing away.
Scrub the area with a mix of dishwashing liquid and water or liquid laundry detergent
(no bleach) and water. Use just enough detergent to make the water a little sudsy. It is
important to physically remove all molds!
Thoroughly dry the area.
It is not necessary to use bleach. Bleach can be harmful to your health. Be sure that you
scrub away mold with detergent first. If you do use bleach, a mix of 1 part bleach to 9
parts water is enough, or about 1 cup bleach to a gallon of water. Wipe this lightly over
the previously moldy area, let sit for 20 minutes, then wipe dry.
Give the entire area a good cleaning. Vacuum floors and wash bedding and clothes if
needed. Consider hiring a professional if the area is larger than 10 square feet, or
roughly the size of a full sheet of newspaper.
Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department – leading the way toward a healthier and safer Pierce County.
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Mold - Frequently Asked Questions
Page 3
Belongings should be sorted into three categories:
Permeable and washable: Clothing, bedding and other washable items should be run
through the laundry.
Non-permeable and washable: wood, metal, plastic, glass and ceramics. First try
scrubbing clean with a liquid soap. If that does not work, use one cap of bleach to one
quart of water. Spot test to check for spotting from the bleach. Wipe down items, let sit
for 20 minutes and then dry.
Permeable but not washable: Beds and furniture fit into this category. If items such as
mattresses or couches are moldy, you should consider disposal and replacement. If not
take them outside; give them a good vacuuming and let them air out. If you do not see
or smell mold on the items after this, they should be okay. Watch for any new mold
growth or health effects.
Carpeting and upholstered furniture, if not too badly damaged by mold, can sometimes
be cleaned by a professional using hot-water extraction or “steam-cleaning.” Rental rugshampooing units are usually ineffective for proper removal of mold and in some cases
may cause more mold to grow.
Q. How am I exposed to molds and what are the health effects?
A. We are exposed to mold by breathing mold spores from the air. When an area of mold is
disturbed, levels of spores in the air may increase up to 10,000 times. It is important to wear
protective equipment for cleanup. Eating mold-contaminated material may also expose us.
There may be toxic effects or allergy.
Molds sometimes produce toxins. Health effects from toxic exposure may include
tiredness, nausea, headache, and respiratory or eye irritation.
Allergic reaction to mold may include eye, nose, and sinus irritation. It may also
cause skin rash and problems with asthma. Allergies may be to a specific mold
species and you may not react to all mold species.
Persons most at risk include young children, elderly, those with compromised
immune systems and people with respiratory conditions such as asthma or
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.
If you feel sick and think that mold may be the cause, we encourage you to see your doctor
or medical professional and share your concerns.
For recorded information about mold, please call the Tacoma-Pierce County Health
Department’s Mold Line during normal business hours, Monday through Friday, 8:00am to
4:30pm. Dial 253 798-6047 and chose option #6, then choose option #1.
Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department – leading the way toward a healthier and safer Pierce County.
C:\DOCUME~1\BCOSTE~1\LOCALS~1\Temp\XPgrpwise\10 Mold Frequently Asked Questions.doc
Rev. 1/2007
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