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How Long Can Mold Spores Live

How Long Can Mold Spores Live?

Taking care of a property you own where others live and work requires maintaining a clean and safe environment. Along with regular cleaning of interior spaces and ensuring that mechanical, electrical and HVAC systems are operational, this also means checking for signs of more serious problems. For example, an inspection of certain places within a home may reveal evidence of termite activity or the presence of rodents.

Similarly, accumulation of moisture may be an indication of a potential issue with mold. If your property has a mold problem, it can impact the air quality and present an unsafe situation for residents or tenants. Here are some things you should understand about how mold grows and spreads, where originates, and when mold remediation is necessary for your home or office.

What Is Mold, Exactly?

You may have heard the term mold and think you know what it is. Strictly speaking, it describes several variants of fungi that tend to grow and thrive wherever there is moisture accumulation. Contrary to what you might think, the presence of such fungus isn’t always negative. In fact, mold helps break down dead organic matter, which is a crucial part of the life cycle in various ecologies and ecosystems.

Unlike yeasts, molds grow in the form of multicellular filaments known as hyphae. They typically reproduce through microscopic spores that can travel through the air. These spores can settle on surfaces and grow. Although many molds tend to be fuzzy and discolored, they come in a wide range of colors and formations. If this fungus is visible, it means that several colonies have formed.

As organisms, mold colonies require a source of food and other elements to live. Certain conditions promote the growth of mold and mildew:

  • Wet or moist: They flourish in wet environments.
  • Warm: Warmer temperatures facilitate the growth of mildew. This is one reason why perishable leftover food should be stored in a refrigerator or freezer.
  • Ventilated: Exposure to air increases the speed at which colonies develop.
  • Nourishing: To survive, fungi need to feed on available nutrients, such as sugar or salt.
  • Acidic: Mildew colonies grow faster in environments with a lower ph.
  • Bright: Some fungal growths react positively to light.

The ability of mold to break down organic matter can be either a benefit or disadvantage depending on the situation, but indoors it is usually a problem. The accumulation of these organisms in or on buildings can pose health concerns to those who have breathing issues or are sensitive to spores or susceptible to the toxic compounds emitted by

How Long Can Mold Spores Survive?

You might think that eliminating one or all of the conditions that promote growth would kill mold spores. The reality is that these spores do not really die. Dry conditions may cause mold to go dormant, but colonies can start growing again if a water supply becomes available. Moreover, the spores of some fungi can “sleep” for hundreds of years, given the right conditions. This is why removing moisture alone isn’t sufficient enough to remediate mold.

What Causes Mold Problems?

One of the first things to understand is that mold spores exist everywhere. Because they’re also airborne, they can be carried to any part of your residence or business and will start to grow once they encounter water. Small amounts of mold aren’t usually a problem for most people in most places, but a significant amount is usually an indicator of a problem with moisture from any of a number of sources:

  • Leaks in the building from roofs, windows or pipes
  • Moisture accumulation in air conditioning or heating systems
  • Unattended moist conditions from showers, baths and appliances that contain water, such as washing machines and dishwashers
  • Water damage from flooding, pipe explosions, fire extinguishment, etc.

Remember, moisture is an essential part of mold’s survival. Rooms and spaces that have a relative humidity of over 50% can become breeding grounds for mold colonies.

Molds and mildew also need nutrients. Unfortunately, many of the materials used to erect residential and commercial structures provide a buffet for these fungi, including wood, sheetrock, concrete, paper products, carpet and rugs. Fabrics, dust and skin cells also offer plenty of food for mold to grow and spread.

Certain spaces within a structure are often more susceptible to mold growth because the conditions of moisture, food, warmth and available oxygen are right:

  • Ventilation systems
  • Confined spaces such as attics, basements and crawlspaces
  • Areas that regularly collect significant moisture, such as bathrooms and kitchens
  • Spaces between interior and exterior walls

Temperatures between 77 to 86 degrees F (25 to 30 degrees C) are a sweet spot for the growth of fungi. However, if you’ve left some food in the fridge or freezer too long, you know that it’s possible for mold to develop as low as freezing temperatures (32 degrees F, 0 degrees C). Because so many factors play into mold’s ability to thrive, you need a more proactive approach to mold eradication than simply removing moisture or nutrients or making temperature adjustments.

How Do I Know if I Have a Mold Problem?

Generally you can detect significant growth either visually or by noticing a musty odor, which is especially key when the growth is hidden out of sight. Apparent water damage or moisture accumulation may also tip you off to the presence of mildew.

For someone who is sensitive or allergic to mold, health symptoms may be experienced that warn of a major problem. Breathing in or ingesting mycotoxins produced by mold may cause physical reactions that indicate extensive growth in a home building. Some of the most common symptoms associated with mold include the following:

  • Trouble with breathing: tightness of chest, shortness of breath, wheezing
  • Nasal congestion or runny nose
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Coughing or sneezing fits
  • Irritated throat
  • Exhaustion and fatigue
  • Fever
  • Fungal infection, also known as mycosis

Sight and smell are often enough to determine that cleanup and remediation are necessary, but such symptoms are also an important indicator. Typically, a professional evaluation including sampling and testing is required to determine the degree of mold removal necessary.

Are All Molds Equally Harmful?

There are thousands of species of molds that are known and identifiable. Some variants are more hazardous than others, so it’s important to understand the different categories of these fungi based on their effects on the body:

  • Allergenic: These types affect those who are allergic or have certain chronic respiratory issues such as asthma. Often there’s a hypersensitive reaction that causes the generation of mast cells. The result is a severe inflammatory response in a sufferer’s respiratory system. It is estimated that 20% to 30% of the population has allergic sensitivities to mold.
  • Pathogenic: These mildew types won’t affect most people who are healthy; however, those who are immunocompromised can be vulnerable. Infants, the elderly and those with suppressed immune systems are usually affected by pathogenic molds.
  • Toxic: This category produces mycotoxins, chemicals that are toxic to most living creatures. These toxins can occur in both the fungi and their spores. When these types of microbes are inhaled, ingested or touched, the response can range from temporary irritation to serious chronic illnesses. Black mold is considered to be a toxic mold.

Molds come in various colors that may indicate their potential for harm as well as food sources and locations:

  • Black: This type of mold can appear as black, gray or dark-green. It is often found in warm, damp environments such as showers, bathtubs, toilets, kitchens and basements. This fungal type can release mycotoxins that can affect most people.
  • Brown: This mildew type usually appears brown, tan or dark yellow. Often found on wood or tile, it appears as dark patches and usually only affects those with asthma or other mold sensitivities.
  • Green: There are several thousand green species. Most of these are hazardous, generating mycotoxins. Their particular color is often impacted by the climate and food source.
  • Orange: Usually an indicator of dampness, orange mold tends to grow on wood and food products. It’s not usually hazardous but can damage structures and surfaces.
  • White: Non-pigmented spores result in white mold, which often blends in with the source. These variants tend to be powdery and are often found in water-damaged parts of a home or commercial building.
  • Yellow: Mold associated with slime often has a yellow color. Typically found on wood, walls and foods, this fungus is usually only a danger to those with weakened immune systems.

Can I Clean Mold With Household Products?

A number of products are often recommended in the use of mold cleanup. They range from natural substances to chemical cleaners:

  • Bleach: Cleaning agent that is effective on nonporous surfaces, but irritating to skin and lungs
  • Vinegar: Strong-smelling, nontoxic cleanser that can be hard on porous surfaces like wood and natural stone
  • Baking Soda: Abrasive, nontoxic product that also fights odor and moisture
  • Borax: Natural anti-microbial product that is harmful when ingested
  • Hydrogen Peroxide: Antifungal that can be used on many surfaces
  • Essential Oils: Natural fungicides that smell pleasant but can be irritating, especially undiluted
  • Lemon Juice: Natural, acidic antiseptic that breaks down mold, but can be harsh on metallic surfaces

While these products can be used to clean up a small area impacted by mildew, they are not recommended or effective for serious remediation, which should be handled by professionals.

What’s the Best Way To Assess Mold Damage?

An independent professional mold inspector is educated and credentialed to help assess the degree of damage in your home or office. Such a person is usually licensed as a Council-certified Indoor Environmental Consultant or a Certified Industrial Hygienist. He or she should not be affiliated with a mold remediation service.

An investigation typically runs you $200 to $600 and can last for several hours, resulting in a report that provides details about lab and air samples. A reliable inspector should provide an objective report and not attempt to direct you to a particular remediation specialist or specific cleanup solution. A mold inspector is equipped to cut into walls and ceilings to confirm the extent of the spread. You should also get confirmation of the source of the problem and recommendations for handling.

Are Mold Remediation and Mold Cleanup the Same Thing?

Basic mold cleanup largely involves spraying with a cleaning agent and wiping it away with a sponge or towel. While such cleanup may be sufficient for a small area, it’s like a band-aid on a broken leg when there’s a serious problem. Full remediation also covers removal of the source problem and preventive measures.

Mold develops in as little as 24 to 48 hours, so a remediation plan must be proactive and quickly implemented. A professional provider of remediation services typically comes up with a comprehensive plan focused on restoring a building to pre-mold conditions if doable. Elements of a complete plan include the following:

  • Cleanup or repair of water damage
  • Removal of all fungi
  • Advanced techniques and equipment for drying
  • Cleanup of HVAC systems and special surfaces, including upholstery and textiles
  • Odor control
  • Proper disposal of debris
  • Containment or isolation of mold damage to prevent spread
  • Reconstruction and structural repair

A remediation plan is superior to mere cleanup as it results in less damage to a property, lower repair costs, reduced duration for restoration, minimized interruption to business or home occupancy and savings from not having to temporary relocate. Professionals can use special equipment and implement the most effective means and methods to restore a property. The pros also have the personal protective equipment necessary to safely address the contamination based on the size of the affected areas. Hazmat suits, respirators, protective eyewear and gloves are often required for safe mold removal.

Mold spores can live for a very long time, and even in a dry state, they can spread to other spaces that may support their growth thanks to water, higher temperatures and food sources. A complete professional remediation is your best weapon against a mold problem on your property. Household cleaning products aren’t effective for most remediation projects, especially when the source of the problem or the worst damage may not be visible. Leave it to the experts to help you eliminate mold thoroughly and effectively.

Mold Inspections

Hiring a professional mold inspector will give you peace of mind. Being in a position where you are uncertain as to the toxicity of mold in your residence can be extremely stressful.

At moldremediation.io, we pride ourselves on being quick, thorough and effective in how we communicate the mold remediation tests that we perform for our homeowner clients.

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