While kitchens and bathrooms are known for harboring mold, it often surprises people to learn that their bedroom is not immune to this silent invader. And if you’re getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep, a moldy bedroom becomes a significant source of mold exposure. Because mold can cause numerous health problems, it’s important to learn about the causes of mold growth, the signs of mold, and the steps you can take to control mold in the bedroom.
What Is Mold?
Molds are naturally occurring fungi found indoors and outdoors. There are thousands of mold strains, which all require moisture for growth. Mold spreads to new environments by releasing microscopic spores that travel through the air. Trace amounts of mold are always circulating in the air and environment, but spores begin to grow when they land in a suitable water source.
Mold and Your Health
Molds release several substances that can cause allergic reactions, irritations, and toxic effects when touched or inhaled. More than 100 different kinds of indoor molds are harmful to humans, but fortunately only a small number are usually found in homes.
Health effects from mold can vary, but common reactions may include:
- Skin redness or rash
- Itchy, red eyes
- Nasal congestion
- Chronic cough
- Blurred vision
More severe symptoms (fever, shortness of breath, lung infection) may occur in patients with underlying conditions, including lung disease. Children exposed to mold in the first year of life may have an increased risk of developing asthma.
Mold and Your Sleep
In addition to the many health problems mold can cause, research suggests it may also compromise sleep. In one large study, household molds were correlated to increased insomnia, snoring, and excessive daytime sleepiness. Another study of nearly 5,000 adults found that people who reported mold odors at home also reported higher rates of sleep disturbances.
In addition, indoor molds are a known cause of allergic rhinitis. Emerging research shows the potential for allergic rhinitis to cause a host of sleep problems including insomnia, restless sleep, obstructive sleep apnea, and snoring.
The Moldy Bedroom
Though your bedroom may appear clean and tidy, a host of factors can turn your sanctuary into the ideal habitat for mold. Mold is capable of growing in a variety of materials, particularly porous and natural materials such as cardboard, paper, wood products, and ceiling tiles. Mold can also grow in other surfaces around your bedroom including the wallpaper and insulation.
Water Sources, Humidity, and Condensation
As previously mentioned, molds need sufficient moisture to grow and spread. The bedroom can harbor hidden moisture from leaks in the roof, windows, pipes, or areas of flooding — all of which are commonly associated with mold growth. Mold can also form if water is spilled and not dried within 48 hours.
However, it does not take an overt spill or leak for mold to form. Mold can arise if your bedroom is excessively humid or accumulates condensation, which can result from poor ventilation. Even modest amounts of condensation can support mold growth. Areas of your bedroom with minimal air movement, such as behind furniture and inside closets, are prime suspects for condensation and dampness.
Signs of a Moldy Bedroom
If you’re inspecting your bedroom for mold, it’s important to know that mold can grow for some time before it becomes visible. Therefore, when assessing your bedroom, keep an eye out for these signs of mold growth:
- A humid or damp closet
- Condensation on windows
- Cracking paint or a dark area of wall (signs of possible water damage)
- An unusual, musty odor
Sometimes mold may be concealed underneath wallpaper, paneling, carpet, or behind walls. If you suspect hidden mold growing in your bedroom, it’s smart to consider hiring a professional.
Controlling Mold in the Bedroom
Keep in mind that it’s nearly impossible to keep mold spores from entering your home. Microscopic spores can come in through open airways, windows, and vents, or latch onto clothing and pets. Therefore, the best approach to preventing mold is to make sure your bedroom’s environment doesn’t support its growth.
Controlling Mold Growth
To prevent mold in your bedroom, it’s important to control humidity, increase ventilation, and immediately clean up any standing water or spills. To accomplish this, make sure to:
- Keep humidity between 30% and 50%
- Ensure proper ventilation and treat structural leaks
- Use a dehumidifier or A/C if your bedroom is prone to moisture
- Move furniture away from the wall
- Create space between clothes and items in your closet
- Do not leave stacks of clothing, bedding, or papers undisturbed for long periods
- If water spills on your carpet or mattress, clean and dry it within 48 hours
- Enlist professional help for large water spills or flooding
Getting Rid of Mold
Should you discover mold growth, prompt and thorough cleaning is critical. Consider the following guidelines for effective cleaning:
- Nonporous materials and hard surfaces can be cleaned with chemical products, soap and water, or a bleach solution
- Use gloves, goggles, and a respirator to protect against airborne particles
- Porous materials with mold should be discarded, not cleaned
- Remove and replace moldy insulation, ceiling tiles, and drywall
- Mold growth over 10 square feet may require professional cleaning
The Environmental Protection Agency and many local health departments offer additional guidance for cleaning mold.
Is It Important To Test Mold?
Mold growing in your bedroom— no matter the type — should be removed. The health risk is not necessarily correlated to a certain type or amount of mold. Therefore, there are no federal limits on acceptable levels of indoor mold, and expert groups typically do not recommend routine testing for mold strain.
The important thing is to rid your home of any known mold immediately, or better yet, prevent mold from growing to begin with. You’ll rest better knowing that you’re doing everything you can to keep this silent invader out of your bedroom.
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