If you are experiencing allergies, sinus issues, fatigue, headaches, brain fog, skin problems, or other chronic symptoms without a known cause, you may want to check your home for mold. Chronic mold exposure is an often overlooked yet common underlying problem that can lead to chronic inflammation, immune system problems, allergic reactions, chronic symptoms, and severe health issues.
In this article, you will learn about mold and potential health issues caused by mold in your home. You will learn how to detect and check for mold in your home, including some sneaky signs of mold and mold testing options. I will share some tips on how to remove mold and how to prevent future mold problems. Finally, I will recommend some ways to detoxify your body after mold exposure.
What Is Mold?
Mold is a fungus. The problem with mold is that it is able to grow and thrive just about anywhere under various conditions. Mold especially loves warm, moist, and damp environments. Mold is very versatile and has many different types. Some types of mold love to grow indoors, other types prefer the outdoors, and some can be found both indoors and outdoors. It can often hide in your bathroom, kitchen, basement, under carpeting, and behind wallpaper. Mold issues are particularly prevalent in old or unkempt buildings. However, newer buildings can be at risk too (1).
Mold releases mycotoxins in the air. Unfortunately, these mold mycotoxins can spread far very quickly. Mold may only start to grow in one small spot in your bathroom or air-conditioner, but its microscopic spores can travel and spread far very quickly, invading your entire home. There may be just a tiny bit of mold around your bathtub, but soon enough there could be further mold growth in your kitchen, basement, or other areas of your home.
Mold mycotoxins can cause allergies and other uncomfortable symptoms. Chronic exposure to any of these mold mycotoxins can seriously impact your health and cause various symptoms and diseases. You may learn more about mold illness here.
Signs of Mold Toxicity
Signs and symptoms of mold toxicity may include:
- Aches and pains
- Symptoms of allergies
- Asthma flare-ups
- Chronic sinus congestion or runny nose
- Coughing and sneezing
- Throat pain
- Eye irritation
- Skin infections, rashes, and other skin issues
- Nose bleeds
- Headaches or migraines
- Nausea or digestive issues
- Brain fog
- Numbness or tingling
- Vertigo or dizziness
- Histamine intolerance or mast cell activation issues
- Mood changes
Sneaky Signs of Mold to Look for in Your Home
There are a number of signs that you can look for to detect mold in your home, including:
- Rotten smell coming from the floor or walls; it may remind you of the smell of old books
- Musty odor in your home
- White or black spots on your clothes that feel slimy or fluffy to touch
- Spots, fuzz, spores, or other signs of mold on your furniture
- Contaminated rugs or carpeting (Check both sides! Mold often hides under your carpet.)
- Grout between the tiles and other signs of mold in your bathroom
- Warped or peeling wallpaper, bubbling paint, or spotted walls
- Musty smell coming from your air conditioner or black spots on your AC
- Moisture in your water heater closet or leaky water tank
- Sink or toilet flooded
- Previous water damage issues
- Allergy or asthma flare-ups
- Persistent respiratory issues, such as coughing, runny nose, and congestion
- Feeling itchy
- Feeling fatigued all the time
How to Test for Mold
When looking for mold in your home, visual inspection is the first step. Look for signs of mold that we just discussed and check for symptoms of mold illness.
If you can’t find any mold but are experiencing symptoms of mold illness or want to know for sure, you can also find some at-home mold test kits. You can find and order these home tests online.
Most at-home mold test kits use a petri dish and a mold-growing medium. Check and follow the instructions that come with your kit. Prepare your petri dish. Collect your sample using the petri dish, following the instructions. There are different ways to do this. For example, you can leave the petri dish on a flat surface indoors for an hour and then put the lid on. To check your HVAC system, you can tape the petri dish to an air duct with air blasting for about 10 minutes. Then cover the petri dish with a lid. You may use a swab to check for any visible mold. Use the swab for a sample, then wipe it onto your growing medium. Again, always follow the instructions that come with your kit.
Check your petri dish in about 24 hours. If you don’t see mold, wait another 24 hours. You may check regularly for 96 hours. If you still can’t detect mold after 96 hours, you likely don’t have mold in the area you are checking. If you do find mold, take steps to remove it and prevent future mold growth.
Finally, send your sample to the lab for identification. In some cases, this costs an additional fee, so make sure you want your sample to be identified before mailing it.
Alternatively, you may also hire a professional mold inspector. They can come to your home and take some samples from several areas. They send these samples to a third-party lab for testing and identification. This option is usually not cheap and takes time.
How to Remove Mold from Your Home
So you have mold in your home. What can you do about it? It depends on the size of the actual mold problem.
If the area affected by mold is larger than about 10 square feet or about 1 square meter, you may need to call a professional mold remediation specialist to remove the mold. However, if you’ve only found mold in a smaller area, you can probably handle the issue by yourself.
There are several self-removal options for mold, including:
- Try undiluted white vinegar in your kitchen and bathroom on hard surfaces.
- Mix one teaspoon of baking soda with 2 cups of water for a solution to use on affected surfaces.
- Try a 50/50 ammonia-water solution to spray on surfaces. Leave it there for 2 to 3 hours, then rinse.
- Mix one cup of bleach with a gallon of water for a bleach solution to kill mold. Apply to the affected surface. Don’t rinse.
- Note: Never mix bleach or all-purpose cleaners with ammonia, as they can cause dangerous and toxic fumes.
Address any underlying causes behind mold growth:
- Remove any moldy or old carpeting, rugs, wallpaper, or paint.
- Throw away any other moldy items, such as clothes or shower curtains.
- Address any moisture leaks.
- Fix water damage issues.
- Avoid water collection on surfaces
- Avoid too much indoor humidity in your residence; aim for 30-50%.
- Hang your clothes to dry outside your home if possible.
- Leave the detergent compartment and door open on your washing machine.
- Wipe down the wet tiles of your shower.
- Invest in a high-quality air filtration system that can remove mold spores from your indoor air.
- Ensure good ventilation in your home.
- Clean and repair your roof gutters.
- Direct rainwater, and water from snowmelt, away from your home.
- Keep mold off your indoor plants.
- Clean your home regularly and check for signs of mold regularly.
Some of you will also need to be aware of workplace exposures. It has been estimated that 50% or more of buildings in North America are mold contaminated. Addressing occupational exposures is particularly challenging in many circumstances. This also applies to schools, where children in classrooms may be unknowingly exposed, especially since schools can be some of the oldest buildings in a given community.
Detoxify Your Body from Mold
If you’ve been exposed to mold or have noticed symptoms, I recommend getting tested for mold toxicity, as well as allergy testing. If you have mold toxicity, support your body in detoxifying:
- Drink plenty of water to support your body’s cleansing process.
- Move your body regularly and try infrared sauna treatments to aid detoxification through sweating.
- Try red light therapy to reduce inflammation and chronic symptoms.
- Try activated charcoal for short periods, which can absorb toxins and help eliminate them (2).
- Take glutathione to support mitochondrial health and recovery from mold toxicity (3).
- Support your gut with a high-quality probiotic supplement to improve your microbiome after mold exposure.
- Seek the services of a qualified health professional to assist testing and recovery in more complicated cases.
I recommend regularly checking your home for mold and removing it professionally if there is a mold problem. If you are experiencing signs of mold illness or chronic health issues, I welcome you to start a functional medicine consultation with me for further personalized guidance to improve your health. You may book your consultation here.