New Mexicans don’t spend a whole lot of time worrying about mold and mildew (early mold) in our dwellings.
We live in one of the U.S.’s driest climates and even during our summer “monsoon” season, the air rarely becomes moist enough, or moist long enough, to have destructive effects. But two kinds of buildings are at risk from these creatures: those that are old enough so they may not have adequate ventilation, and those new buildings that are so tightly sealed against the outside climate that their interiors become infested. If one of these is yours, read on.
Mold and mildew (early mold) are fungi; their ecological role is to destroy organic materials and enrich the soil so that new things will grow. In our homes, they infest any kind of damp space–kitchens and bathrooms, cellars, crawl spaces. They can grow on wood products, ceiling tiles, cardboard, wallpaper, carpets, drywall, fabric, plants, foods and insulation; in 24–48 hours they can mature enough to give off spores into the air. They cause respiratory problems, sinus congestion, and eye/ear/nose/throat irritation.
How to keep these creatures out of our homes? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Most important, attempt to reduce the interior moisture as much as possible, especially in kitchens, bathrooms and cellars, using fans, dehumidifiers, and open windows. In this area, the outdoor humidity is almost certainly lower than that in your home.
2. Fix plumbing leaks quickly, so that moisture does not build up and lie around.
3. Keep rainwater out of the building. Close windows when it rains. Check problem areas regularly.
4. Clean household fabrics, like curtains, upholstery and cushions, regularly and check to be sure they don’t become damp.
5. Keep storage areas dry and well ventilated.
6. If anything that becomes infested with mold and mildew gets beyond cleaning, try a professional service or throw it out.