Mold and mildew happen. Bathrooms and bathroom plumbing are often the starting points for mold generation and if not caught and handled, can spread through walls and vents and get out of control.
Why does it occur? Airborne spores can come from almost anywhere, but they “catch” in environments that are damp and dark and undisturbed by regular household traffic. Most bathroom moisture levels remain constant enough to attract mold from just one shower per day.
Common Causes of Mold in Your Bathroom
- Poor ventilation. When moist air has nowhere to go, it keeps bathroom surfaces wet, especially in corners around the tub and shower stall. It can even collect in vents in overly moist bathrooms and spread to other rooms in the home.
- Leaking toilets and sinks can quickly promote the growth of mold.
- Leaking plumbing and the need for plumbing repair can create a situation that allows mold to spread to the inside walls.
- Damp materials that provide a breeding ground for mold. Items that contain cellulose will promote mold, and there are many bathroom items on that list. Rugs, wood, grout, drywall, fabrics, wood products, and even wallpaper.
Inspecting Your Bathroom for Mold
Finding mold can be trickier than it might seem. It tends to hide out of sight.
- Under sinks and inside cabinets under sinks. Check the cabinet floor and items that may have gotten wet there.
- Around water supply lines and behind toilets.
- Around exhaust fans.
- Check crawl spaces or the basement beneath the bathrooms.
- Check any room directly under your bathroom for ceiling stains or paint blistering in the corners.
- Mold could be forming in any room near the bathroom. Check closets for stains or patches of dark on the walls and floors.
Mold is a simple, tiny living organism that eats the material it grows upon and tries to spread as broadly as it can be sustained. It grows where it can eat things that contain small amounts of living material like dirt, food grease, dead skin cells. It needs oxygen and moisture as well as food.
Mold vs Mildew. What’s the Difference?
Both mold and mildew are fungi, and it could be said that mildew is a type of mold. Differences can include:
- Mildew is a flat growth organism that stays on the surface and is relatively easy to clean.
- Mold is much more invasive and penetrating and thrives inside walls and under floors — wherever it can get food and moisture.
- Mildew is more common in bathrooms, found on damp surfaces, paper and fabrics and other organic materials throughout your home.
- Mildew is typically white, grey, or yellow. It has a fluffy or powdery texture.
- Mold is green or black with a fuzzy or slimy texture.
- Mildew doesn’t typically damage surfaces in the bathroom or other structures.
- Mold can damage entire structures and can trigger serious health issues.
- Extensive mold remediation should be performed by professionals trained in removing it from the environment without scattering spores into the air.
Do I have Mold or Mildew?
One way to check is to apply a few drops of regular bleach on the growth and wait for a few minutes. If the bleach spot has become lighter, you have mildew. If it remains dark, you are looking at the mold.
How Do I Get Rid of Mold and Mildew?
Because mildew is a surface growth, many mildew cleaners are effective. Home remedies include bleach and vinegar and they work equally well.
Eliminating mold is more complicated, as it develops by attaching itself with microscopic filaments that penetrate beneath porous surfaces. It is often not readily detectable until large colonies have developed and usually, they spread within walls and difficult-to-access areas.
Mold may be cleaned with vinegar but never with bleach.
Mold should be removed as soon as it is discovered because it can create massive damage to your home and health if allowed to flourish. If mold has taken hold in your bathroom, we recommend bringing in a professional to discuss removing it.
Whether you are treating light mold or mildew spots, always wear gloves and a face mask.
Preventing Mold and Mildew
- Increase airflow by keeping your air supply free of clutter and clean. You want to eliminate local points of condensation. For a bathroom, keep your vent clean and remove all clutter in the space. Many everyday items in a bathroom are food for mold. Mold can even feed on bleach!
- Control the moisture climate in your bathroom. Open the windows and doors to balance the moisture level in the bathroom. Keep the exhaust vent on for 30 minutes after a bath or shower. You also have to think about the whole house climate. Too much humidity in other parts of the home can affect the bathroom as well.
- Your AC shouldn’t compete with open windows and doors. Keep your home closed up when the AC is on. Otherwise, you are attracting moist, heated air.
- Track your bathroom and household humidity with an inexpensive monitor. These levels should fall between 35% to 50%. Above 70%, mold can begin to form.
- Ensure your AC is properly functioning and not adding moisture to the air circulating through your home.
- Regularly inspect your bathrooms for:
- Puddles of standing water or stains that indicate water has evaporated.
- Darkened grout, caulk, and molding on the floors, around tubs and shower stalls and under sinks (particularly around the water supply lines).
- Check behind the toilets.
- Check shower stall glass and shower curtains
- Pay particular attention to bathroom windows and frames.
- Check under sinks and inside cabinets.
- If you live in a humid climate, a whole-house dehumidifier is an excellent way to help prevent mold.
Benjamin Franklin Plumbing will be happy to perform a whole home plumbing inspection that includes checking into how to prevent mold and mildew.