Though not your traditional indoor pest, these fungi are potential and serious problems. Mold spores are naturally occurring in indoor environments and will grow on a variety of surfaces when adequate moisture is available. Mold growth can result in physical damage to the property, while asthma, fungal infections, or illness can occur for people exposed to mycotoxins (a defense mechanism of fungi).
We provide you with some basic information here, but recommend you head to the experts such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and, in New York, the Departments of Health and Labor. Thankfully, taking steps to reduce moisture will help reduce both insect pest and mold issues.
If you are interested in the molds that impact agricultural crops, we recommend you visit our agricultural IPM area pages – Fruits, Vegetables, Livestock and Field Crops, and Ornamental Crops.
What Does Mold Look Like?
No need to get technical: if you see discolored fuzzy or slimy patches on your house or stuff, take action. You may also notice a musty smell.
Should I Worry About Mold?
Mold colonies—the fuzzy spots—on your walls, refrigerator seal, and leather goods are slowly eating away at your house and stuff. Some people are allergic to mold and it can trigger asthma symptoms. Molds on food aren’t usually a good sign either (unless you like blue cheese) but these are different from the ones that grow on the wall.
Why Do I Have Mold?
Mold spores—sort of like microscopic seeds—float about in the air, pretty much everywhere. When they land on a hospitable surface, they start to grow. What’s a good spot for a house-pest spore? A location with both moisture and warmth. This is why you find mold in showers, damp basements, and kitchens.
How Do I Protect Myself From Mold?
- Monitor for and fix leaks. Faucets, showers, refrigerators, windows and doors, roofs, are some common areas to check for leaks and moisture. Condensation can also lead to wet spots. The earlier leaks are fixed, or condensation managed, the less likely dampness will cause pest issues.
- Keep air moisture down (30-60% humidity is good) and you’re well on your way to solving or preventing a problem. Use dehumidifiers, bathroom fans, and good ventilation.
- To protect the basement, keep downspouts and gutters in good condition and make sure they’re directing the water away from the building, waterproof the foundation, and, if needed, install a sump pump. You can reduce moisture in dirt-floor basements by installing a vapor barrier.
- Take things outside before brushing mold off them. To clean moldy areas, use a dilution of one cup of bleach to five gallons of water or a mold-killing cleaner according to the label. Ventilate the space where you are working and use appropriate personal protection equipment such as gloves and the recommended mask.
- Porous materials such as carpets, books, and drywall with large mold patches should be discarded.
- Moldy areas larger than 10 square feet should be treated by a professional.