Identifying and Preventing Mold in the Bathroom

Mold is the main horror movie character of the bathroom. It can go unseen and undetected, silently multiplying, growing, and taking over. Even after it’s dead, mold can cause residents to become sick and experience hay fever-like symptoms. A quick Google search can cause you to turn into a full-fledge germophobe, but before you panic and pull out the big guns, here is what you need to know.

What Kinds of Mold Are There?

The most common kinds of mold found in bathrooms are cladosporium and stachybotrys atra (which is also known as black mold). Cladosporium is a non-toxic mold that typically grows on the backs of toilets and painted surfaces. While it is non-toxic, it can spark allergy-like symptoms such as rashes and watery eyes. As for stachybotrys atra though, we’re more familiar with by the name of black mold and we at least that it’s mold, it’s black, and it’s a health hazard. Stachybotrys atra can cause shortness of breath, blurred vision, difficulty concentrating, and other serious side effects.

Where Does Mold Grow?

While you may know to keep an eye on the walls and ceiling around your shower, where else should you be looking?

  • On tile and grout. Mold will make itself at home on porous surfaces. It’s not uncommon for mold to grow between tiles or even on tiles such as unglazed, non-porcelain, and natural stone.
  • The walls and ceiling. If not properly ventilated, moisture will be absorbed into or settle onto the walls and ceiling, not just around the shower area.
  • The bathtub. Because puddles of water can be left behind after a shower or a bath, mold will make itself at home in the basin of your tub.
  • Carpet. With moisture getting easily trapped in fibers, mold can grow and flourish in the carpet, padding, and subfloor without your knowledge.
  • Wood (exposed or covered). Mold and mildew spores are sometimes naturally present in wood. Just add water and it will begin to grow.
  • Bathroom drains. Water and other contaminants such as soap and body oils can get trapped in bathroom drains, making them the perfect home for mold.
  • Bathroom objects (such as shampoo or toothbrush holders). With curves and crevices, they make the perfect place for mold to grow.
  • Under the sink. Even small leaks can cause mold to grow around pipes and in the bathroom vanity.
  • Around exhaust fans. Like on walls and ceilings, moisture gathers around exhaust fans and can cause mold to grow. More seriously, if exhaust fans are not correctly installed, the fan could vent moisture into the attic causing mold to grow extensively in the fan as well as the surrounding areas.
  • Underneath the whole bathroom itself. If the bathroom floors are not properly sealed or the sealing breaks, water can leak down into the subfloor and cause mold to grow between house levels or in the exposed rafting of an unfinished basement.

Why Does Mold Grow in the Bathroom?

Mold thrives in humid, warm, dark places (remind you of anywhere?). Steam, water, and humidity are all necessary for mold to reproduce. Poor ventilation can help mold prosper along with body oils and soap scum that wash into the tub and act as the mold’s food.

You bring mold spores into your home every day. When things like dust and dirt hitch a ride on your clothes and shoes, mold is welcomed into your home and settles down where the conditions are right.

How can I Detect Mold?

If you can’t see mold but suspect you have it, here are some of the noticeable signs you can look for.

  • A musty or earthy odor.
  • Darkened caulk.
  • A dirty or soiled appearance (on walls, in the tub, etc.).
  • Loose tiles. Mold will grow underneath and behind tiles and cause them to come loose.

What are the Best Ways to Prevent Mold?

Preventing mold is simpler than you might think. It doesn’t require harsh chemicals or excessive scrubbing. Some of the best ways to prevent mold are:

  • Reduce humidity. Even if your bathroom has a ventilation system, it may not be fully up-to-par. Make sure that your ventilation is qualified for the room size to ensure humidity is being reduced properly.
  • Let the light in! Mold reproduces in the dark. Opening windows or bringing in imitation sunlight can help prevent the growth of mold.
  • Clean regularly and dry away leftover water. Leftover water is an inviting sight to mold. Drying away any lingering puddles can help reduce the risk of mold.
  • Scrub small spaces too. Even if it seems obsessive, scrubbing porous tiles and the tile grout can help prevent the growth of mold.

What if I Already Have Mold?

If mold is already present in your bathroom or home, here are some things you can do to get rid of it.

  • Replace or get rid of porous, moldy things like wallpaper, ceiling tiles, and carpet.
  • Clean and scrub with mold killing cleaners. If you’re concerned about harsh chemicals, you can make your own natural mold killing cleaners from vinegar, tea tree oil, or hydrogen peroxide.
  • Do not vacuum. Although it seems counter-intuitive, vacuuming molding carpets can disperse spores (dead or alive) and distribute them throughout the house possibly causing mold to worsen.
  • Paint over surface mold. If the mold problem is only on the surface, you can use certain kinds of paints that are designed to kill and take care of minor mold problems.
  • If the mold problem seems to be out of your control, you can contact a qualified mold removal expert in your area.

Because it can go unseen and undetected and presents potentially serious health hazards even after it’s dead, it can be concerning and daunting to find mold in your home; however, don’t let the concern and fear cause you to feel overwhelmed. By knowing what to look for, knowing what you are up against, and knowing how to prevent it, you can arm yourself with the tools you need to fight off the risk of mold in your bathroom at home.