Most people have an idea of what mold is and how to tell if it's present. Whether it’s a distinct smell or visible mold spots on walls, mold is easily spotted if it has grown enough. But, there are also more subtle signs that mold is growing. Let’s discuss the common signs of mold in your home and what to do if you suspect mold is present.
What Are the Signs of Mold?
In general, the most common signs of mold are smell, visible mold spots, water damage, worsening asthma, and cold symptoms that drag on.
Smell - What does mold smell like?
People report the smell of mold differently, but to most people, it's pretty recognizable. It's often referred to as “musty,” “rotten,” or even “dingy.” This smell is not actually the smell of mold organisms. Rather, it is the smell of chemicals released during the mold life cycle.
While the smell of mold can be strong, its strength and scent depend on what is around it and how much mold is present. More mold typically means more smell. But, more mold in a well-ventilated area easily has less of an odor than a little mold in a small, enclosed area. Moisture affects the smell, generally resulting in a stronger smell where there is more moisture present. Heat also makes the smell of mold more dramatic by speeding up its life cycle, causing mold to release more of an odor.
Regardless of the description, any unusual, uncomfortable, or “damp” smell can potentially be mold and should be checked out.
Visible spots or stains - what does mold look like?
Depending on the amount of mold, the type, and the material it is growing on, mold can look very different. Most people are familiar with the traditional images of mold. We think of fuzzy mold on food, brown or black spotting on fabrics, and dark staining on surfaces like walls, upholstery, and shower crevices.
These images are common and are certainly indicative of mold. However, mold spots and stains are not always obvious. On walls and flooring, mold staining can be as subtle as slight discoloration. There may or may not be visible spots, depending on the extent of mold growth. Mold staining might also look colorless, but have a border that may appear brown, black, green, blue, or yellow depending on the material the mold is growing on.
Cough or cold that won’t go away
Have you ever had a cold that seemed to drag on forever, long after most colds would have passed? If you can’t seem to kick cold symptoms like a runny nose, persistent cough, or watery and irritated eyes, the culprit could be mold. If you’re experiencing a never-ending cold, it may be helpful to look back to when it started. Often these symptoms start soon after events like deep house cleaning, organizing basements, or seasonal changes like wet weather or increased heat that promote mold growth.
Any time mold spores are released into the air, they can cause these cold-like symptoms. Mold spores are released by the disruption of mold-contaminated materials or the natural life cycle of mold. Many people are allergic to mold without even knowing it. You could spend decades dealing with unexplained cold symptoms before realizing mold is a possible culprit. Airborne mold can travel through a home quite far from its original growth area. In the case of our health, mold inspection is particularly important to identify all sources of spores.
Related: Answering 17 Common Mold Questions
A more frightening sign of mold is worsening asthma or worsening symptoms in people who have lung conditions. Like mysterious cold symptoms, asthma exacerbation is caused by airborne mold either released by disruption or by the natural life cycle of mold.
Airborne mold spores can enter your lungs and trigger an inflammatory response, causing asthma symptoms to get worse or more frequent. Sometimes it can be hard to tell if mold may be the cause since things that trigger mold to grow and spores to go airborne can also make asthma worse on their own. For example, changing seasons can cause mold growth if the conditions are getting warm and damp. However, asthma in some people may already be sensitive to heat and humidity. It’s also possible that seasonal environmental allergies may be to blame.
Any time asthma worsens, or asthma attacks become more frequent, it’s good to consider whether mold could be the cause. One study conducted by scientists with the EPA reported that mold is a direct cause of about 4.6 million cases of asthma in the United States. This staggering statistic means that of the roughly 25 million cases of asthma in the United States, almost 20% may be caused by mold. If you have asthma and are wondering if mold could be the cause, an additional indication is whether the worsening asthma is uncharacteristic. If you usually go through seasonal asthma exacerbation, it could be seasonal allergies or environmental triggers, but if it happens at an unusual time or more extreme than usual, mold could be the cause.
Related: Indoor Air Quality Testing Services
A report by the World Health Organization found that anywhere between 20% and 50% of homes in the US have dampness or excess moisture. Considering this statistic, it is not surprising moisture from water damage could likely be a source of mold in your home.
While water damage doesn’t guarantee mold, if you have any of the previous signs in addition to water damage, there’s a good chance mold is growing in the water-damaged areas. Obvious water damage looks and feels wet. It often results from an event you are aware of, like significant spills or flooding.
Water damage from unknown causes may be more difficult to locate or pinpoint, but there are ways to identify it even when you aren’t sure of the water source. For example, materials like drywall are very susceptible to water damage. Drywall absorbs water quickly and easily. Thus, mold on drywall may be forming inside the walls before you notice any stains or smells. A major sign of water damage or potential
wavy or wrinkled instead of smooth and flat.
Another material that commonly hides water damage and mold growth is carpet. Since carpeting and padding underneath absorb water quickly, you may never even notice it is wet. Look out for discoloration on carpeting, or even a slightly different texture or feel on the carpet. If the soaking was significant, you may even feel some movement or flexing of the floor underneath the carpet. This is a good indication of not just carpet damage, but damage to the structural flooring underneath. This means the floor has probably sustained significant water damage and could be growing mold.
What Should I Do If I Think There’s Mold in My Home?
If you experience any of the signs above or have any reason to suspect mold in your home, your best bet is to schedule a professional mold inspection. Mold inspectors will assess the most common areas for mold growth like bathrooms, kitchens, and basements. They will also inspect less common spots that may be harboring mold.
Related: How much do Mold Inspections cost?
Prior to mold inspection, it’s a good idea to clear out areas you suspect may have mold. Only do this IF it is safe to do so. Clearing a kitchen pantry or moving things out of the fridge helps inspectors see more clearly to assess the area. On the other hand, corners of a damp basement that haven’t been accessed in a while are best left alone.
Leave it to the professionals to inspect these areas and take precautions to prevent the spread of potentially harmful spores. If you’re experiencing signs of mold and looking for mold inspection in Tampa or surrounding areas, contact Engage Mold Solutions of Florida today to book your inspection.