Causes of Bathroom Mold--and How to Prevent It

| by Touseef Hussain
Causes of Bathroom Mold--and How to Prevent It

 Do you have black spots growing on the bathroom ceiling? Funky green stuff around the bath?  Grey, furry things in between the tiles? If you're experiencing any of these, you've got bathroom mold.

Mold is a fungus that needs certain conditions to grow, and the bad news is that most homes have these conditions. The good news, however, is that you can prevent mold growing in your bathroom.

i)                    So what's going on here?

ii)                  How does mold grow in the first place? 

iii)                Is mold dangerous? 

iv)                How can we get rid of it?

v)                  Cultivating Mold

Like any kind of fungus, mold needs a certain combination of circumstances to grow. It needs oxygen (which you'll agree is pretty readily available in your house), food (mold loves anything from delicious drywall to the cotton in your towels), dark (hard to avoid unless you keep the lights on all the time), warmth (again, tough not to get the bathroom warm if you don't like taking cold showers and shivering while you dry yourself off), and mold spores (which are everywhere).

Looking at this list, you might think that avoiding mold is going to be impossible, but there is one more factor needed to cultivate mold, and that's humidity or moisture. In fact, moisture is the only controllable aspect in mold growth that we can do something about. Eliminate the humidity and you'll eliminate the mold.

What Does Mold Do?

Before we talk about getting mold out of your bathroom, you might be wondering why it is necessary to clean the fungus out. Sure, it's unsightly, but getting rid of mold isn't just a matter of aesthetics. There are serious health implications that are linked to mold growing in homes.

There is a chance that bathroom mold will have no effect on you whatsoever, but there's no guarantee. The most common health risk associated with mold is allergies, mold produces allergens which can leave you, or your family, sneezing, coughing, rubbing your eyes and generally being miserable. That's obviously not going to be pleasant, but it's nothing compared to some of the more serious side effects of living with mold.

Mold can exacerbate asthma symptoms, particularly in children, leading to more potentially fatal asthma attacks. If you or someone in your home has a compromised immune system, due to disease, chemotherapy or other factors, mold can contribute to upper respiratory tract infections. Mold has been linked to lung hemorrhage in babies. It becomes worse: black mold (or stachybotrys to give the mold its scientific name) emits toxins known as mycotoxins that can cause skin and airway irritation.

If this list scares you, you're not alone. Having mold in your bathroom can have a huge effect on the health of your household, especially if you live with a small child or elderly person. Fortunately, there is something you can do to cure this problem.

 Mold Prevention

As we learned above, the key to controlling mold is controlling moisture. You might think that controlling moisture in your bathroom is going to be difficult, after all, you are using plenty of water, but there are several things that you can do to ensure that your bathroom dries out quickly and doesn't give mold the time it needs to grow.

The first concern is ventilation. Many bathrooms have ventilation fans, and if yours does, you need to use it. This will suck the moist air out, leaving your bathroom moisture free, and you should leave the ventilation fan on for at least half an hour after bathing or showering. Fans are often installed on a common switch with the bathroom light; if mold is a problem then ask an electrician to rewire your fan and to install a timer so it stays on after you have finished in the bathroom.

If you don't have a ventilator, then you can install one, or even buy a free standing one, though this may prove expensive.  If your bathroom has an outside wall this is a simple job, but even if there is no direct access to the outside ventilation is possible using ducting installed above the bathroom ceiling. The ducting carries the moist air either through the roof or to a nearby outside wall.

If a ventilator fan is not an option then make sure that your bathroom is naturally ventilated by leaving both the window and the door open after bathing to ensure a flow of air through the room. However, this will not help your problem if you live in a humid climate such as Florida.

A dehumidifier can be another solution. These are often inexpensive, and are free standing so you don't need to worry about installation. A dehumidifier will pay for itself because your bathroom décor will last longer with no mold spores growing in the damp crevices. One thing to be aware of though is that molds need as little as 55% humidity to grow, so do make sure that you set your dehumidifier to below that threshold, or you may still have a problem.

There are also more mundane things that you can do. Ensure that towels or clothing left in the bathroom dry out completely; folding towels, for example, often prevents them from drying. Try to keep fabrics out of the bathroom as much as possible, install plastic blinds rather than curtains, and, wherever possible, hang drying clothes or towels outside.

Also, cleanup as much water as possible after bathing or showering so that it doesn't have time to evaporate. A simple squeegee can push most of the excess water down the drain after a shower, and even a quick wipe with a rag around the tub or sink will help.

Mold Treatment

What if you already have mold though? You can get rid of mold quite simply in two steps. Firstly, you'll need a strong scrubbing brush to remove the visible mold from surfaces; if the mold is growing in tough to reach places like between tiles, use a toothbrush. Secondly, use a solution of vinegar and water or bleach and water to kill off any remaining mold spores that may be invisible to the eye.

You can prevent mold from recurring by washing vulnerable surfaces down weekly using either a vinegar solution, a bleach solution, or with a specific anti-fungal cleaner.

Prevention is Better than Cure

Mold is not an attractive problem, that much is obvious; but far more important is that allowing mold to grow in your bathroom can have adverse health effects, which are vital to avoid. Fortunately, getting rid of mold and keeping it away is relatively simple and inexpensive, though it might take a little time and effort. Once gone, a little caution and some good ventilation will mean that you never need to deal with bathroom mold again.

Topics: Bathroom, Dehumidifiers and Air Purifiers, Indoor Air Quality, Ventilation

Touseef Hussain
Touseef Hussain, through his job at QS Supplies, is a creative writer and an interior design consultant, who currently lives in United Kingdom, Leicester. Tauseef along with QS Supplies has handled many interior design projects all over UK. He has written blogs and articles on several home improvement topics and has offered several creative and valuable ideas through his articles. His main goal is to help people spend less and live more. www

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