Most building surfaces can provide nutrients to support the growth of mold. When mold spores land on material that is damp – for example, walls, floors, appliances (such as humidifiers or air conditioners), carpet or furniture – they can begin to multiply. When molds are present in large numbers, they may cause allergic symptoms similar to those caused by plant pollen.
What does mold need to grow?
- a food source such as leaves, paper, wood or dirt
- a source of moisture
- a place to grow
What are sources of moisture in my home?
- flooding and sewer overflows
- leaky roofs
- damp basement or crawl spaces
- constant plumbing leaks
- clothes dryers vented indoors
How can I be exposed to mold?
What health effects can be caused by exposure to mold?
- infants and children
- elderly persons
- immune compromised persons (people with HIV infection, cancer, liver disease, etc., or who are undergoing chemotherapy)
- individuals with existing respiratory conditions, such as asthma and allergies
When airborne mold spores are present in large numbers, they can cause skin irritation, allergic reactions, asthma episodes, infections and other respiratory problems for people. Exposure to high spore levels can cause the development of an allergy to the mold. See the Illinois Department of Public Health’s (IDPH) fact sheet, “Mold and Your Health,” for more information about health effects.
Can my home be tested for mold?
Testing for mold is very difficult and expensive. Homeowners must hire a contractor to test their homes. Testing cannot determine whether health effects will occur. Mold is normally found outdoors and levels fluctuate from day to day depending on the season. Due to these uncertainties, IDPH does not recommend testing in most cases.
What should I clean and what should I get rid of?
If flood water or sewer overflows are the cause of the moisture problem, infectious organisms also may be a hazard. For information see IDPH’s fact sheet, “Cleaning Up After Flood and Sewer Overflows.”
How can I clean moldy surfaces?
- The surfaces first need to be cleaned:
- Use a non-ammonia soap or detergent in warm water and scrub the entire area affected by the mold. Use a stiff brush or cleaning pad on block walls or uneven surfaces.
- Rinse clean with water.
- Dry completely.
- The next step, if desired, is to disinfect the surfaces to help kill any mold missed by the initial cleaning:
- Ventilate the area before using a disinfectant.
- Disinfect the area with a solution of water and bleach (no more than 1 cup of bleach per 1 gallon of water). Never mix bleach with ammonia; the vapors are hazardous. Straight bleach will not be more effective.
- Let disinfecting areas air dry completely.
How can I reduce my exposure to the mold while cleaning it up?
- Anyone with a chronic illness, such as asthma or emphysema, or who are immune comprised, should not do the cleanup.
- Do not allow bystanders to be present when you are doing the cleanup.
- Wear rubber gloves and clothing that can be easily cleaned or discarded.
- To prevent eye irritation, wear goggles that do not have ventilation holes.
- Wear an N95 or HEPA respirator mask purchased from a hardware store to reduce the mold spores you breathe in.
- Tightly cover the air return vent if there is one in the affected area.
- Turn on an exhaust fan or place a fan in a window to blow air out of the affected room to the outside (make sure the air is blowing outside the home, not into another room).
- Open windows in your house during and after the cleanup.
- Work over short time spans and take breaks in a fresh air location.
- Double bag materials before you remove them from the contaminated area.
Where can I get more information?
Division of Environmental Health
525 W. Jefferson St.
Springfield, IL 62761
TTY (hearing impaired use only) 800-547-0466
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists Inc.
American Industrial Hygienist Association
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency