Signs of Mold and Mildew in your basement and home
Mold and mildew in a home or basement is not an issue to deal with lightly. There are many signs that indicate your home may have a mold or midlew growth problem. First is the human response to mold and mildew. Mold causes many symptoms that may seem similiar to a common allergy. The most common symptoms you may experience when surrounded by a moldy home or environment are red and itchy watery eyes, nasal congestion and sneezing, an itchy throat and itchy and ringing ears. If you have these symptoms today in your home, you very well may have a common mold allergy.
If you smell a musty odor, or an earthy odor in your home, basement, or kitchen - then you have a mold issue. This is a very common smell you will find in most basements. That earthy musty smell is mildew that is growning on the ground, walls, and ceiling. This growth can get so bad that it will eventually start to grow on your belongings in the environment as well.
The most obvious indicator of mold growth in your basement or home is dampness and water. If you have either - you have mold. Mold grows best in cold, damp, moist places with high humidity. This describes 90% of all basements in most American homes. If you can see water on your basement floor, moisture on your basement windoes, or condensation on your water pipes -you have mold.
Lower the Humidity in your basement immediately
The first thing you will want to do to reduce mold, mildew, and mold odors in your basement is to lower the humidity in your basement. This does not kill mold, or get rid of the mold you already have, but it is a great practice to keep a humidifier running in your basement at all times to reduce the amount of moisture in the air. By running a humidifier in your basement, you not only reduce the moisture, but you also actively warm up the air in the basement through the operation of the humidifier. This helps to properly condition the air in your basement and help you on your long-term goal to get rid of mold. If you have a really moist basement - above 60% humidity, and your dehumidifer will be running all of the time, your best bet is to avoid using the bucket that comes with the dehumidifier and run a hose from the dehumidifer to a basement drain. If you don't have a floor drain, suspend the dehumidifier from the ceiling with the hose running to a laundry tub sink drain. Personally, I try to keep the humidity in my basement around 45% or lower.
Run fans in your basement to circulate the air
Running fans in your basement to circulate the air is one of the most over-looked and easiest part of the solution to get put into place. Get some air circulating in your basement. Your house has fans, the attic has ventilation, but the basement is often over-looked. Go out and get enough cheap 20" fans so that you can set them up around your basement and get the air circulating around the entire perimeter. Be sure to also position the fans to help circulate moving air into any closets or cubbies areas in the basement.
The reason I recommend you set up these fans is to cheaply and effectively get air moving in your basement. There are many commercial units available that claim to do this while also eliminating mold spores, but they actually only move the smelly moldy air out of your basment and then replaces it with air from the outside. This does not get rid of your mold problem either, but only really helps to reduce the smell in the basement because the new air coming in is fresh. The mold and mildew problem will still be there and continue to grow.
Another trick I recommend is to buy two or three 20" Hepa Filter that is designed to go into your furnace and zip tie them to the back of two or three of the fans you have running in your basement. You just built a pollen, mold, spores, Hepa Filter fan for way less than the cost of one off the shelf.
Get plastic shelving to get belongings and storage items off the floor
Now we want to move everything that mold likes to eat up off the floors and away from the walls. The best bet is to go through everything in your basement and get rid of old, musty, mold infested papers, boxes, toys, stuffed animals, drapes, blanets - anything damp, wet, and covered in mildew needs to go. Wear a respirator mask and gloves, and get that stuff out of your basement. Then purchase some of those 4 or 5 tier plastic shelves from your home supply store and put anything that is being stored up onto those shelves and off the floor. If you have heavy items that are being stored in your basement, then put them up on plastic floor skids or some sort of stand offs. Just get your stuff up off the floors and away from the walls. If you have crawl spaces that you are storing items in, lay down the moisture resistant black plastic over the concrete slab to help keep your belongings dry.
Spray White Vinegar on all of the walls, flooring, ceiling, and windows.
This next step may sound strange, but get an empty spray water bottle, and fill it with 100% solution of white vinegar. Take this spray bottle and set it to "Spray" and not stream. Start spraying the walls, floors, ceilings, tiles, tubs, sinks, water pipes, furnace, hot water tanks, concrete floors - anything that you can see mold on. This will kill the mold pretty fast. The vinegar is natural and will not hurt you, but you will have to deal with a vinegar smell - so open up the windows when you do this, and keep the fans circulating.
Wash your floors with White Vinegar
Now that you have washed your walls, ceilings, and other items in your basement with white vinegar, I recommend that you scrub your floor with white vinegar as well. This will help to really kill any mold or spores that are being tracked around and help to kill mold and mildew on the dust that is on your floor. If you have carpets in your basement, peel them back to see if you have any mold - and your best bet would probably be to get rid of all carpeting in your basement. You can always put down mold resistant vinyl or install tiling directly over your concrete floor.
Spray Concrombium on everything
Concrombium is a natural mold and mold spore control product that you can spray over anything. it will not damage your belongings, and it works by putting an invisible plastic film on anything that mold and mold spores can get into. The film works by crushing the mold and killing it. Pretty cool. So once I have cleaned my basement with white vinegar and scrubbed the floors with a vinegar bath. I usually let the whole basement dry, and they spray Conrombium all over everything.
Continue steps above on a regular basis
If you follow the steps above and keep the fans and humidifier running, you should notice drastic improvments in your mold and mildew problems. The odors should become very reduced, and you may even be able to effectively mitigate the issues all together. If you notive that you are still getting water drainage issues, increased and consistant mold odor and growth, then you may need to look into the step below and consider installing a better water drainage system in your home.
Consider Additional Water Drainage Systems in your basement if needed
If you have sever water drainage issues in your basement, and if you have consistently high levels of humidity in your basement, you should consider looking into water drainage and removal systems for the actual foundation of your basement. If you have a poured wall basement, look into the efficiency of your sump pump system and your drainage lines. Just make sure the water is being pumped away from your home. You may also want to have the material and the grade around your foundation checked to see if it needs to be corrected.
If you have cinder block walls that form the foundation of your basement, then, you will need to look into a system that drains water out of the cinder blocks and directly into your basement and into the basement drain or sump. This systm requires drilling holes in your base cement blocks and creating an enclosed channel on the inside of your basement that diverts the water out of the walls into a pump or drain, and out of your house. If you don't have a sump well and pump, dig out a hole in a corner of the basement and install one. Put in a big one so the pump doesn't have to cycle as often.