May 16, 2012
By Samantha Mazzotta
Mold Is Hazardous to Home and Health
Q: For a few months now, I’ve noticed a mildewy odor in the downstairs bathroom. I keep the bathroom clean, and I even pour a cup of vinegar down the drains once a month, but the odor comes back. For now, I’m using an air freshener to mask the smell, but how can I locate and get rid of it? — Gaia M., Baton Rouge, La.
A: That mildew smell is most likely from mold growth. If you can’t visually locate a patch of mildew or mold in the bathroom, such as in lower corners of the wall or the shower, contact a plumber. It’s very likely that a water leak somewhere behind the wall is causing the mold problem.
Even a small amount of mold in a home can trigger allergies or breathing problems in many people. It’s also a warning signal that water is damaging important parts of your home — not just the drywall but the wood framing, sheathing, foundation and more.
A leaky supply or drainpipe can mean water is dripping behind the walls. A plumber can inspect these pipes without causing damage to the rest of the bathroom. The plumber will then recommend the best action to take to stop the moisture damage and remove the mold. If mold is affecting carpet or wallpaper in the area, you’ll need to replace those items as well.
If dampness is a constant problem in the bathroom, make sure the room is getting adequate airflow, even if the original problem is repaired. An exhaust fan is fairly inexpensive and quickly removes humidity from the bathroom — for example, after a hot shower. In many states a fan is required by building codes, and the plumber likely will recommend you install one if there isn’t one already.
HOME TIP: Clean up mold with a mild detergent rather than bleach, which can irritate your lungs.
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