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By Alyssa Karas

CTW Features

Are you prepared for unexpected houseguests? No, not your in-laws: Mold. Your home is as cozy a spot as any for the organism. In honor of Mold Awareness Month, here’s how to root out the problem and treat it.

“Mold likes the same conditions that people do,” says Ken McCartney, managing partner of Mold Free Home VA, located in Stafford, Va. Mold thrives in relative humidity and temperatures from the 60s to 80s, he says.

“Mold is an element of nature,” says Mike Anglesey, owner of Mold Pro of Idaho, based in Ririe, Idaho. “It’s what helps break down leaves and compost. It’s an important element in nature, but not inside a home.”

Warmth and moisture are attractive growing conditions for mold, so areas like the bathroom are often where it develops. “From a homeowner’s perspective, it’s usually under sinks, the laundry areas, water heaters,” Anglesey says. “Anywhere where those appliances or sinks or water sources are.”

If your home wasn’t properly dried after significant water damage, mold could become a serious problem. Large areas of mold should be assessed and removed by a professional.

If you spot smaller patches of mold though, you can clean it yourself. “A lot of people assume mold is black,” Anglesey says. “It’s every color of the rainbow.” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says homeowners can usually handle the job as long as the area is less than 10 square feet.

“If [the mold] looks like cinnamon or nutmeg on the wall, you can wipe that up with soap and water,” McCartney says. “Never ever ever ever ever put bleach on mold.”

Instead, read the label when choosing a cleaning products. “If the label says ‘disinfectant’ or ‘antibacterial cleaner,’ the product will clean the area and kill mold and mildew,” says Brian Santoni, vice president of communication at American Cleaning Institute. “Read the label to see how long to leave the product on the surface, usually from 30 seconds to 10 minutes.”

Always make sure the area is thoroughly dried after cleaning mold so it doesn’t return.