Although you probably don’t notice them, mold spores fill the air—both indoors and out. If those spores land on a damp surface in your home, though, they can begin to grow; that’s when mold becomes a problem you can’t ignore.

Indoor mold growth is an increasingly common issue, especially as developers construct more energy efficient (and therefore airtight) buildings. That’s significant, because mold not only damages the items on which it grows, but it can also trigger potentially serious health conditions, including allergies, asthma and toxic reactions. And since most of us spend the majority of our time indoors, it’s important to prevent mold growth to reduce exposure.

Reduce moisture to prevent mold

Since mold thrives in damp environments, the single most effective way to prevent its growth is to reduce the level of moisture in your home. If you spill a liquid or see water dripping from a leaky pipe, clean it up immediately, or at least within 48 hours, to thwart mold growth. It’s also critical to stop more water from accumulating; repair broken pipes, loose connections and other sources of leaking water as soon as you notice them. If you find water seeping through cracks in your basement walls or floor, have them repaired.

Improper ventilation and high humidity levels also create a hospitable environment for mold growth. Increase airflow and circulation in your home to keep indoor relative humidity between 30 and 60 percent. (You can monitor humidity with an inexpensive humidity meter.) Open doors between rooms, turn on the air conditioning in warm weather and open windows on cool days. Vent moisture-producing appliances (the dryer, stove and dishwasher, for example) to the outside and run the bathroom exhaust fan for at least 10 minutes after a shower. To further prevent the buildup of condensation, ensure your home is well insulated.

Clean gutters to keep excess moisture out of your home

Proper outdoor maintenance also helps to keep excess moisture out of your home. Water that pools around your home’s foundation is likely to find its way inside, so it’s important to keep that area dry. Make sure gutters are free of debris and working properly and that downspouts point away from your home. Also landscape your yard so that your house sits uphill from rain accumulation.

If you notice mold growing in your home, prompt cleaning and removal is essential. While you can clean small areas of mold growth (less than 10 square feet) yourself, it is often advisable to hire an experienced contractor to do the job instead. If you decide to take the DIY route, follow EPA guidelines for safe mold removal and exposure prevention.

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