Molds are small organisms found almost everywhere, inside and outside, including on plants, foods and dry leaves. They can be any color – white, orange, green or black. Molds are beneficial to the environment, but they can affect your health and the structural integrity of your home when mold grows on indoor surfaces.
The key to controlling mold is to control moisture. There are many sources of moisture in a home, including flooding and sewage backups, leaky roofs, humidifiers, high indoor humidity and condensation, damp basements and crawl spaces, plumbing leaks and clothes dryers that are not properly vented.
To reduce humidity:
- Use air conditioners and/or de-humidifiers when needed. Be sure to keep them clean and dry.
- Use exhaust fans or open windows in kitchens and bathrooms when showering, cooking or using the dishwasher.
- Vent clothes dryers outside.
To prevent condensation:
- Reduce humidity (see above).
- Increase ventilation or air movement by opening doors and/or windows, when practical. Fans can be used as needed.
- Increase the air temperature.
The Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH) does not test for mold. Even if testing is done, no standards or guidelines exist to judge acceptable levels of mold. CCDPH does not recommend mold testing unless it will result in legal action. Monies spent for testing are best spent on the clean-up.
How to clean up mold:
A homeowner can perform clean-up; however, personal protective equipment, such as, rubber gloves, goggles, clothing to cover skin and an N-95 or HEPA respirator mask should be worn.
Clean-up should not be done by anyone who has a chronic illness, such as asthma or emphysema, allergies or immune disorders. If you have health concerns, consult a health professional before starting clean-up.
The source of moisture should be fixed before the mold is cleaned up. If not, the mold will grow again. How you clean up areas contaminated with mold depends on the surface where the mold is growing. A professional should be consulted if large areas (more than 30 square feet) are contaminated with mold. For hard surfaces, such as glass, plastic, varnished wood, tile, etc., you can take the following steps:
- The surface first needs to be cleaned:
- Use a non-ammonia soap or detergent in warm water and scrub the entire area affected by 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 first cleaning:
- Ventilate the area before using a disinfectant. Open doors and/or windows or use fans, if necessary.
- 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. Using bleach alone will not be more effective.
- Let disinfecting areas air dry completely.
Considering discarding and replacing absorbent materials, such as ceiling tile, drywall and carpeting if they cannot be completely dried within 48 hours.
How to clean up mold in schools and building:
In addition to the above, in buildings, mold can also be the result of a poorly maintained HVAC system. For information on mold remediation in commercial buildings, consult the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings”.
File a mold complaint:
In unincorporated suburban Cook County, contact CCDPH at (708) 974-7117 or use our complaint form. All other areas of Cook County should contact their local building department.