What does it take for mold to grow?
Having been in the water restoration industry since 1992, I have seen tens of thousands of water damaged buildings. Ever since the mold scare we had in Texas in the early 2000s, we see many people worried about mold whether the water loss just happened or is weeks old. Many of the questions we get from people have something to do with mold and most seem to have many misconceptions about what it takes for mold to grow in the first place.
First, What is Mold?
Molds are microscopic living organisms that grow by feeding on organic material. Inside your home, organic material can be things like: wood, fabric, leather, or sheetrock. Molds are present on most all surfaces around us indoors and out at all times. In nature mold and other fungi serve as a natural recycler by aiding in the decay of organic material such as leaves, flowers, and wood. We also get other beneficial things from fungi such as edible mushrooms, penicillin, and yeast. However it is not so good when allowed to grow uncontrolled in an indoor environment. We are all concerned about the health of our family and don’t want to expose them to any unnecessary risk. So let’s look at the five things it takes for mold to grow.
Food Source – Mold needs an organic food source to grow. This food source inside your home could be things like wood, paper, sheetrock, mdf (medium-density fiberboard), or particle board.
Water – To have mold, you must have had water in the area at some time. This could be something simple like a kid splashing water out of a bathtub, or a plant that was over watered in a wicker basket sitting on a wood floor. It could also be from something major like a water supply line leak in your home. The good thing is that under normal household conditions the relative humidity in our homes is below what it takes for mold to grow and with a properly functioning air conditioner this is constantly maintained.
Temperature – Most (but not all) molds grow in the same conditions that we grow in. So having a temperature between 68 and 86 degrees is conducive for a large range of molds to grow. However, anyone who has cleaned out their refrigerator knows that even a temperature close to freezing is not cold enough to prevent mold growth on the leftovers you forgot you had. Conversely temperatures that are much warmer than what we, as humans, would prefer will grow abundant quantities of mold. Therefore, it is not feasible to control mold growth in our home by controlling the temperature alone.
Darkness – most of time mold will not grow in a well-lit area, so this is why you will find it in a closet, in a garage, under or behind cabinets, and other areas of your home that are dark most of the time.
Lack of Air Flow – most molds will not grow in areas where there is good air circulation. A place that gets little to no air circulation is ideal for mold growth. This could be an area in the back of a closet, or where the sheetrock and baseboard touch.
So should you be worried about this under normal circumstances? No, because once you take away one or more of the conditions that make it favorable for mold to grow then you will prevent it from growing in your home. Also, health issues caused by mold or other fungi are relatively uncommon and are rarely found in individuals with normally functioning immune systems.
Kevin Pearson is the President of Pearson Carpet Care and has been in the cleaning and restoration industry since 1992. Visit http://www.pearsoncarpetcare.com for more information. Kevin presently serves on the Board of Directors of the PCRA (Professional Cleaning and Restoration Alliance) and on the Board of Directors of the IICRC (Institute of Inspection, Cleaning, and Restoration Certification) and is the IICRC 2014 Secretary and IICRC Certified Firm Chairman.