You can smell it from the moment you walk through the doors.
It’s a strong unpleasant odor that can only be described as musty. You know instantly it’s worth more investigation.
Because if it is carpet mold growing inside your house, it can have long-lasting impact on your health. Headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and nausea are only some of the symptoms you may experience.
Carpet mold can be difficult to determine. That’s because it doesn’t always start on top, with the fibers, in a place you can see for yourself. Instead, carpet mold often starts at the base, with the backing where it can’t be seen until it’s too late.
If you’re saying to yourself: “It can’t be in my house. I haven’t had a spill or a flood.” While that may be true, the problem with moisture is it can show up in many ways, including following along baseboards or wallboards, and moving to places where it can’t be seen.
What causes carpet mold growth?
It seems like an easy question. If water is present anywhere in your home, it can start the process of growing mold … right? Not necessarily so.
A study by the Carpet and Rug Institute has studied carpet mold extensively. They found that mold doesn’t start growing just because the humidity levels are rising. New or clean carpets will not support the growth of mold, even at elevated humidity rates. What does cause carpet mold, however, is the presence of dirt.
That’s because carpet isn’t just a random set of fibers put together and sold as carpet. Instead, padding, backing, fibers, and the process used to create them have all been perfected to make a product that does well in your home. It takes high moisture, high humidity, combined with a high soil level within the fibers of your carpet to turn it into carpet mold.
That makes a case for keeping your carpets clean. Vacuum regularly and have them cleaned periodically to ensure your carpets will continue to do well throughout its lifespan. That can be a good thing if you’re considering adding carpet to your basement, with a below-grade installation.
Is carpet mold dangerous?
If you keep your carpets clean enough, they will be highly resistant to mold. Mold only grows in perfect conditions, when moisture meets dirt. Carpet mold grows in two conditions:
- The dirt contains mold spores
- The dirt contains moisture
Your carpet has to have perfect conditions, the dirt and moisture have to combine in order to allow mold to occur. Because dirt is a hygroscopic material, it effectively means it attracts what it needs to thrive. It picks up moisture to allow it to continue to grow. That’s why it’s important to keep dirt at bay.
Once your carpet has mold, it can impact you in different ways. As pathogens are released, they can be inhaled, and impact your health.
Allergies – dust mites are filled with bacteria. They can float, get in your system by inhaling them, and cause a variety of irritations, including watery and itchy eyes, and sneezing.
Asthma – if you are prone to asthma and other respiratory conditions, carpet mold can exacerbate the situation. It can be a hotspot for everything from dust mites to mold, which can increase the conditions you are experiencing.
Mycotoxin – over time, carpets can continue to harbor mycotoxins, which work to further weaken your immune system. If left in place for too long, an abundance of mycotoxin can even lead to death.
Rashes and infections – how many people traipse through your house each day? Is your house the house where the kids play? Do your pets love to tug and play … after they’ve walked the neighborhood? With continuous foot traffic, dirt can easily make its way from outside to inside, and ultimately drop into your carpet. That can easily leave behind bacteria and other contaminants that can contribute to common skin irritations. If that rash won’t go away, if your feet itch and you’re not sure where it’s coming from, look no further than your carpet.
How do you prevent carpet mold?
Luckily, it’s not a difficult process to ensure carpet mold stays away from your home. If you have carpet in basements and other potentially problematic areas, keep a few things in mind.
Watch your humidity levels. Remember, carpet mold only occurs when the conditions are right. Keep a close eye on humidity levels to ensure they stay below 65 percent. You can do so by running a portable dehumidifier, or installing a whole house humidifier system to ensure a comfortable living space. Leave windows and doors open to prevent build up of humidity. And above all, stick to a regular cleaning schedule to avoid dirt accumulation.
Control inside temperatures. As temperatures climb, it can bring on a humid environment. Ensure temperatures stay below 80 degrees by using a portable or central air conditioner, and watching the humidity levels to ensure they stay low as well.
Clean your carpets. While carpet manufacturers won’t provide you with a detailed step by step plan, they will tell you regular vacuuming and professional cleanings are mandatory to keep warranties valid.
Choose synthetic. You have choices when it comes to the carpet you select. For below-grade rooms, it might be better to stick with inorganic or synthetic fibers such as nylon or olefin. They are created specifically to handle better in moisture-prone areas, and won’t attract potential problems as easily as organic fibers such as wool.
How do I know if carpet mold has set in?
If you have an area in your home that is at higher risk, it’s important to inspect the entire area regularly. Things to watch for include:
Increased allergies or sickness – do you or a family member exhibit increased allergy symptoms that are otherwise unexplainable? Do you have symptoms that just won’t go away? It might be a sign of a problem.
Musty odors – does it smell funny when you walk into the room? Does the stale air linger day and night? It’s worth further investigation.
Damp carpet – any spill that sets for any length of time can lead to carpet mold.
Change in carpet color – walk through each room occasionally and pay attention to corners, along the wallboards, and other areas that may be hidden from view. Does the color or texture of the carpet change? It may be a sign of carpet mold underneath the fibers settling in.
If you believe carpet mold has settled in, it might be time to consider replacing it to give your house a clean slate. Whether you choose to replace it with new carpet, or explore other options – luxury vinyl planks are in high demand – we can help you select the right flooring for your home.