Some of the worst problems that any homeowner may face fall under the invasion of mold or mildew. Both are capable of spreading throughout a home unless they are identified and treated quickly. Even worse, both mold and mildew can lead to health issues for any person living in the home. If either of these pests manages to get into your carpet, what can you do? By understanding how the fungi work and approach to cleanup, you can more confidently tackle this frustrating invader.
Mold is a fungus that you might often recognize from a green or black color, but it can also be yellow, pink, red, white, orange or even purple. There are tens of thousands of different species of mold that can survive outdoors and more than 10,000 that can thrive even in a house. Just a few of the more common types of mold that can be found in a home include the following:
- Trichoderma: Usually yellow or green in color, Trichoderma loves the damp parts of a home. It is often distinct by the white ring it forms around contaminated areas. This type of mold can usually be found in damp drywall, carpets and wallpaper, among other wet areas.
- Cladosporium: Consistently damp areas such as bathrooms and basements may be at risk of developing Cladosporium. This mold also grows in other dark and damp parts of the home, including beneath sinks and damp carpeting. It is usually brown, black or green in color.
- Aureobasidium: This pink or black mold typically occurs outdoors, but it can grow indoors as well, particularly on wood, wallpaper or paint. It is often found around window caulking in damp areas, but it can also grow on floors.
- Chaetomium: Chaetomium is one of the top three more dangerous types of mold that can occur in a home. It produces a musty odor and tends to occur in drywall, although it can also spread through damp carpeting. It may look white at first, but it can look red, brown or black as well.
- Penicillium: Penicillium has a wide range of color variations. It can appear pink, yellow, blue-green or white. It may look dry and powdery or damper and velvety. This type of mold can form and spread in water-damaged areas and furniture, including carpeting, curtains, mattresses, insulation and other parts of a home or belongings.
- Serpula lacrymans: This mold type is considered a yellow mold, although it can look a lot like red dust. It usually thrives outdoors but may develop inside on wood surfaces. Serpula lacrymans may cause dry rot and could possibly develop in carpet that covers wood flooring beneath.
- Alternaria: This is another dark green or brown mold type that thrives in damp areas of a home even though it is more commonly found outside. Showers, sinks, leaky pipes and flooded surfaces are common indoor areas to find alternaria.
- Stachybotrys chartarum: This is the dreaded toxic black mold that most homeowners fear. Stachybotrys chartarum is more likely to grow in constantly damp parts of the home, such as the bathroom or near plumbing such as sinks. It produces a musty odor, making it more easily identifiable.
Mold can start growing and reproducing in just a few days, which is why it is important to take action quickly. Mold reproduces through spores and it tends to penetrate and invade surfaces. This is what makes it so hard to get rid of once it takes hold. If it gets into your carpet, the carpet may need to be replaced.
Although many people think mildew is completely different from mold, it is actually just a specific type of fungus. So, mildew is a type of mold, but not all mold is necessarily mildew. Much of the time, mildew can be found on plants. It often starts off as gray or white circles, but it can eventually turn yellow, brown and black. There are two main appearances for mildew: downy and powdery.
Downy mildew appears fuzzy. You may have come across it on foods such as potatoes or grapes. It is a little more difficult to identify in plants and can appear as another plant disease, causing wilting or yellowing.
Powdery mildew looks dry and starts off as splotches of white or gray. While it is more commonly found on damp or crowded flowering plants, it could also make its way indoors.
Unlike mold, mildew tends to only grow on the surface of items in the home. This makes it a bit easier to clean once it is identified. However, if mildew spreads on a carpeted surface, the carpet may need to be removed in order to completely eradicate the problem area. Like other fungi, mildew is more likely to take hold in damp parts of the home such as the bathroom, basement or any other area near plumbing or water.
Identifying the Problem
In most cases, figuring out whether your problem is mold or mildew should help you to approach remediating the affected area. In the case of carpeting, cleanup is a lot more difficult. Most likely, mold- or mildew-infested carpet will need to be replaced. Still, knowing what type of fungus you are battling is important for decision-making purposes. The appearance of the fungus as well as symptoms and testing can help you know what you are dealing with.
Mold and mildew tend to have distinct appearances. If you are not familiar with different types of fungus, it can be difficult to determine exactly the type that is invading your home, however. For example, just because you see something mold-like that is dark in color, that does not mean you are dealing with toxic black mold. Keep in mind that mold tends to penetrate items but mildew usually spreads across the surface. If you are unsure, it may be best to call in professional help.
You might not even realize you have a mold or mildew issue because both can easily start out of sight. However, mold and mildew can both trigger respiratory issues or allergies in people who live in the home. Air purifiers can help, but unless you address the cause of the issue by cleaning up the fungus, the symptoms may persist.
- Mold is more likely to produce common allergy symptoms, such as watery eyes, nasal congestion and sneezing. However, it can also trigger migraines, cause dizziness and fatigue, and lead to joint pain and swelling.
- Mildew may produce more cold-like symptoms, such as a headache, cough and irritated throat.
There are different ways that you can test for mold and mildew, but it usually falls into two main categories: home testing and professional testing.
First, you need to check the most common areas for mold and mildew to develop. In a home, this includes:
- Under sinks
- Behind the fridge
- In ventilation
- Behind drywall near pipes
- Under cardboard or newspaper
If any of the following areas have ever been exposed to water before, make sure you also check the following:
- Back of ceiling tiles
- Under carpeting
- Behind drywall
If you locate mold or mildew growth in any of these areas, and that area is located near your carpet, then you should also check to make sure your carpet has not developed a fungi problem as well. An easy home test to determine if you are dealing with mildew or mold is to simply use a little bit of bleach on the area and wait a few minutes. Mildew should get lighter from the bleach. You may then need to penetrate the area to see if you are dealing with mold, which can lead to rot. Mildew should only remain on the surface. If using bleach or checking for penetration makes you nervous, there are also home test kits you can purchase.
Professional testing is the more surefire way to determine if you have a fungi problem. Our professional team at Safe-Dry can help to pinpoint the carpet problem and provide recommendations for remediation. We are familiar with carpet, area rug, Oriental rug and upholstery cleaning methods and can let you know if we think your carpet is salvageable.
Cleaning Mold vs. Mildew
The cleanup of any fungus should be approached with great care. First of all, spores travel easily through the air, which means anyone cleaning up the troubled area may inhale them. If you plan on doing any of the mold or mildew cleanup yourself, you should first wear proper personal protective equipment. Rubber gloves, a face mask and eye protection are all important to protect your skin and respiratory system from irritation. Remember to always work in a well-ventilated area if possible.
Mold tends to spread quickly over large areas. If left undetected, it can cause irreversible damage not only to your carpet but also to your home. However, mold is also hard to catch in its earliest stages, and it can be even more difficult to get rid of because of its penetrative properties. Steam cleaning the carpet is usually the most effective and efficient option to treat mold. Because mold can be so difficult to contain, it is generally recommended that you call in professionals to handle the cleaning. Contact an experienced and highly rated cleaning company in your area for help.
Mildew is a little easier to tackle on your own because it is usually just a surface problem. In most cases, you can use a commercial cleaner if the mildew is located on a wall or other hard surface. You will need to clean the entire affected area carefully and make sure you get every spot of mildew to prevent it from coming back. If it is in the carpet, then steam cleaning can usually help kill mildew, but be sure to dry the carpet completely afterward. If you have any trouble accessing the area, you may need to call in professional help.
The Carpet Problem
While cleaning methods might work for most of the harder surfaces of a home, carpet is another problem. Whether it’s mold or mildew, if fungus gets into your carpet, it is nearly impossible to completely clean it. The good news is that, depending on the extent of the problem, you may be able to just cut away the affected area and replace it. This can result in a patch of your carpeting that looks different from the rest, however. If aesthetics are important to you in the area where mold or mildew has spread through the carpet, you may need to rip up all of the old carpeting and replace it with new flooring.
Preventing Future Problems
If you have ever had a mold or mildew problem in your carpet, it can make you nervous about future issues or about the fungus growing back. You may now be more familiar with the signs of such a problem, which can help you catch new problems sooner. There are also other ways you can help prevent fungus from taking hold in your home or carpet in the future:
- Keep your home dry. If you live in a humid area, your house may be more prone to developing mildew or mold. Try to keep all areas of your home free of moisture. A dehumidifier may assist in maintaining a level of about 50% humidity for your home. If you live in a dry climate, make sure your bathrooms and other wet areas of your home have appropriate circulation so that surfaces do not remain damp for long.
- Ensure proper air circulation. Good air circulation can help lower the chance of spores taking hold in some areas of the home. Of course, you may need to worry about other allergens coming into the home. An air purifier may help to keep the indoor air cleaner.
- Fix leaks as soon as you can. The main culprit of indoor fungi growth is dampness. Leaky plumbing is a common issue, so make sure you investigate any leaky pipes as soon as possible and get them fixed. The longer you wait to address a leak, the more likely it is that the problem may only get worse.
- Inspect HVAC systems regularly. Condensation can build up in your HVAC system no matter the time of year. It is important to have your systems inspected regularly for optimum efficiency and to detect a mold or mildew problem early.
- Clean your ducts. Spores can easily travel through ducts in your home, so make sure to have them cleaned occasionally. While this does not have to happen all the time, it can be a good idea to have your ducts professionally cleaned every few years.
- Dry carpets thoroughly. If you shampoo or steam clean your carpets or they get wet in any other way, always make sure to thoroughly dry them. Keep in mind that mold or mildew that penetrates carpeting can be difficult to clean, so always make sure a wet carpet gets completely dry as soon as possible to prevent fungal growth.
Mold and mildew may destroy parts of your home carpet if left unchecked, but you can keep the damage from spreading to other parts of your home if you approach your carpet cleaning the right way. If you suspect a mold or mildew problem in your carpet, contact the professionals at Safe-Dry Carpet Cleaning at 1-888-817-8339 or schedule an appointment online.