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Make indoor mold growth a distant memory

Homeowners who have had prior issues with mold know just how pesky a mold problem can be. When mold spores land on surfaces that are wet, mold may begin to grow indoors. And the growth of mold takes just a matter of hours. According to the National Association of Home Builders, all it takes is 48 hours for a moist environment combined with room temperature to produce mold growth.

When mold does begin to grow, homeowners will notice a less-than-welcoming aroma often characterized as musty. In addition, mold growth, which is most common in areas of the home like the kitchen, bathroom and basement where humidity and moisture levels are higher, can be unsightly and unhealthy. In 2004, the Institute of Medicine linked indoor exposure to mold with upper respiratory tract symptoms, cough and wheeze in people who, prior to exposure, were healthy. The IOM also found exposure to mold can exacerbate asthma conditions for people who already have asthma and even linked respiratory illness in otherwise healthy children to exposure to mold.

What such research highlights is the emphasis homeowners must place on removing mold from their homes. While mold is a natural part of the environment that is impossible to eliminate entirely, homeowners can take steps to stop mold growth in their homes and protect themselves and their families along the way. When addressing a mold problem, keep in mind the potentially negative impact mold can have on your health and dress accordingly. Wear long sleeves, gloves, protective goggles, and even a mask or respirator that covers the nose and mouth to reduce your risk of developing a respiratory illness.

* Fix leaky pipes and additional water problems. Mold growth can cause cosmetic damage that can never be repaired. But fixing leaky pipes and addressing other water problems, including leaky windows, is a good way to stop future mold growth and prevent further cosmetic damage to the home.

* Scrub and dry moldy surfaces. When addressing moldy surfaces, scrub them hard with detergent and water. Once finished, dry the surfaces thoroughly. Going forward, routinely clean areas of the home that have had mold growth in the past.

* Discard certain materials that fall victim to mold. Porous or absorbent surfaces will likely need to be discarded once they have been victimized by mold growth. Ceiling tiles and carpets, for example, are especially difficult to rid of mold once it's settled in because the mold finds cracks and crevices in which it essentially hides from cleaning. In such cases, it's best to simply discard the items and have them replaced.

* Do not mask the mold problem. Painting or caulking over mold won't work. When applied to moldy surfaces, paint typically cracks. Instead of wasting paint and time, scrub and dry the surfaces, making sure all the mold is gone, and then paint or caulk.

* Leave big jobs to the pros. Smaller mold growths can be addressed by the average homeowner. However, when mold growth is especially large or mold has grown on valuable items, including heirlooms, it's best to hire a professional. When doing so, try to find one a friend or neighbor can recommend, as not all mold-removal specialists are created equal. If it's hard to find a recommendation, look for a specialist who is affiliated with a professional organization.