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How to prevent mold in your home

When moving into a new home, mold is the last thing you want to deal with. Fortunately, it's generally manageable. 

The sight or smell of mold is enough to send some people into a panic. Yet, the truth is that mold is everywhere, and if you're planning to move to a humid destination, you're bound to come across it sooner or later. When you do, don't stress - chances are you can take care of it on your own. 

Mold will grow anywhere there's moisture, which is most places, given the fact that there's water even in the air. It can grow on paper, wood, carpets and books, both indoors and outdoors. If you ever leave a shower on for too long, steam can lead to moisture around the bath and toilet. When people are afraid of such growth, they're usually thinking of so-called toxic mold. However, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes, reports of such molds are incredibly rare. Generally, you'll probably be dealing with something much more manageable.

Health effects

Common symptoms for people who are sensitive to mold spores may include nasal stuffiness, eye or skin irritation or wheezing, according to the CDC. Some people may have more serious reactions, such as difficulty breathing or fever. However, just because you have mold doesn't mean you'll necessarily experience any health problems. People with allergies or those with chronic lung illnesses are more likely to feel the effects of mold and could have reactions or develop lung infections as a result. Generally, though, symptoms can be minor or nonexistent - keep in mind that there's always a tiny bit of mold everywhere due to moisture.

Locating mold

When looking at homes or getting ready to sell your own, it's a good idea to know if and where mold lies. You're likely to find mold anywhere that's wet and dark. That may be basements, attics and often bathrooms. If you've moved somewhere humid you may see larger growths as water is more likely to condense. Mold can also get into your home if you have poorly sealed window and door frames, or holes in your roof. You'll usually be able to detect mold that needs cleaning because it's visible and often has an earthy, musty odor. 

Cleaning it up

Now that you've found it, it's time to address with a good cleaning before moving any boxes in. While small mold growths may not be immediately harmful, it's still important that you clean it up as soon as possible to prevent further growth and potentially more harmful health hazards down the line. Hard surfaces can be cleaned by scrubbing off the mold vigorously with a mixture of detergent and water. The CDC recommends that if you're using a bleach solution to use a combination of no more than 1 cup of bleach per gallon of water. You should also dry the affected area completely after washing. 

Soft surfaces aren't so easy. Any material that is absorbent may need to be thrown away, including carpet, ceiling tiles and potentially furniture, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Mold is hard to get out of these materials and will only continue to grow. 

Finally, when cleaning it's important to take every safety precaution necessary. Wear gloves, goggles and an air filtration mask to prevent yourself from inhaling spores. Also, if the space to be cleaned is more than 10 square feet, or you suspect there is mold in your vents, you may need to consult a specialist, according to the CDC.

Preventing growth

To keep your new home spore-free, take a few steps to prevent future growths. They key to keeping mold growth under control is to limit the amount of moisture in the air. Dehumidifiers and air conditioning can both be used to keep air humidity to a minimum. If there is a spot in your house that's particularly prone to mold growth, set up a fan in that spot to help increase air circulation. 

When it comes to mold, it's always best to be cautious and thorough. Clean vigorously and safely, but also trust your instincts. If you're concerned that mold  is out of hand or may be adversely affecting your health, call a professional for assistance. 

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