There exists a great divide between those who love carpets in their homes and those who are adamantly against them. Then they get married and go back and forth on this topic for years! All jokes aside, many homes worldwide have carpeting in some shape or form. While it’s beneficial in helping to regulate temperatures indoors and keep those feet from freezing every time you get out of bed, there is a less thought-of downfall that can turn your home into a health hazard: mold under the carpet.
Unfortunately, this happens far more often than you may think. Thanks to the multiple layers involved in the floor covering, contaminants can exist for some time before homeowners discover the problem. This leads to a toxic environment and one heck of a contamination situation.
To avoid this unhealthy scenario, having a plan in place to prevent mold underneath the carpet and understanding how to properly handle any situation that pops up can add a layer of protection around your home. No one wants to walk over microbial growth every day!
Here’s what you need to know to set yourself up for success and to keep your carpeting in tip-top shape.
Why Does Mold Under The Carpet Occur?
Understanding how a contamination situation occurs can help shine a light on how to prevent it from ever popping up in the first place. That means getting to know that fungus among us a little bit better.
Mold Fast Facts
Mold is a type of fungus that exists all over the world and over 100,000 species have been identified so far. Each species reproduces by creating microscopic particles called spores and releasing them into the surrounding area.¹’² These particles are non-living and require certain conditions to transition into a living organism.
The process is similar to how a plant produces seeds.
Thanks to their hardy nature, most species of mold spores only need two main elements to transition into a colony.³
These two elements are:
- A food source
- A moisture source
If these are present for 24–48 hours, many spores will be able to begin colonizing that surface. Once established, they’ll grow roots called hyphae (again, similar to a plant) and begin the reproductive cycle over again.
How Mold Under the Carpet Occurs
Carpeting can create the perfect conditions for lucky mold spores to transition into living colonies.
Nutrition is an easy box to tick off. The organic matter in the carpet means that the floor covering itself can be used as a food source. Tack on the random organic matter, like skin cells, that embed themselves into the fibers of the surface, and it’s a perfect place for a mold home. That’s also not mentioning the padding and subflooring, both of which can also act as edible options.
That leaves moisture. This element can be introduced in a variety of ways, including spills, leaks, flooding, and even high humidity. Keep in mind that this source of moisture only has to be present for 24-48 hours for mold under the carpet to develop.
Before you know it, poof, there’s now a contamination station turning your home into a toxic environment. And that is a home health no-no.
Is Mold Under the Carpet Dangerous?
The short answer is: it could be. As that mold grows, it releases microscopic spores into the surrounding environment, as well as small fragments of the colony itself. Some species of mold also create microscopic toxins called mycotoxins, further contaminating the area.⁴ Interestingly, while mycotoxins are regulated in our food products due to the negative impact they have on health, no regulations exist thus far on appropriate levels in our homes.⁵
To make matters more toxic, bacteria can grow in the same conditions as mold and are often found alongside colonies.⁶ This further adds to the particle party occurring in the indoor space.
Thanks to modern building practices, there’s very little airflow between indoor and outdoor environments. As long as microbial growth is present inside, more and more particles will continue to build up within the indoor space, lowering the air quality and contaminating the surfaces within.
The hazardous part of the equation is due to the size of the particles in question. Measured in a unit called microns, mold spores, mycotoxins, and bacteria are all able to be inhaled, ingested, and absorbed into the body.⁷ The more time someone spends in a home with an issue such as mold under the carpet, the more particles will enter the body.
A common misconception is that since mold is everywhere, it’s not a big deal in our homes. While it’s true that completely avoiding exposure to these particles is impossible, it’s the volume of exposure that’s the problem. In an everyday situation where low levels of spores or toxins make their way into the body, the body will tag them as foreign invaders and send the immune system to get rid of them ASAP.
Microbial growth in a home is not the same situation. Instead of a manageable number of particles, the body is facing an army of them every time the person is inside the building. Eventually, the immune system can get overloaded and/or malfunction, leading to a long list of chronic adverse health reactions.⁸’⁹’¹⁰’¹¹’¹² It can also work in relation to autoimmune conditions such as Aspergillosis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Mast Cell Activation Syndrome.
A few common symptoms of exposure include:
- Brain fog
- Chronic fatigue
- Hair loss
- Migraines and headaches
- Muscle and/or joint pain
- Skin issues such as rashes
- Digestive problems
- Allergy and cold-like reactions
- Anxiety and/or depression
- Mood swings
The tricky aspect of exposure is that no two people respond the same way. One person in a home with mold under the carpet may have the occasional digestive issues, while another may develop 20 seemingly random symptoms. This makes diagnosing the problem difficult if medical professionals are not familiar with the impact environmental exposures can have on health.
Much more research is needed to better understand how toxic indoor environments can impact health, but there are a variety of factors that make it a difficult subject to nail down. Genetics, species of mold, presence of mycotoxins, presence of bacteria, volume of exposure, and immune system status can all play a role. For example, those with compromised and developing immune systems are at greater risk of developing symptoms faster and to a greater extent.
At the end of the day, protecting our bodies from a bombardment of microscopic particles should be at the top of everyone’s wellness plans. A piece of this puzzle is knowing how to properly handle mold under the carpet.
How to Check for Mold Under the Carpet
The first step in handling a contamination situation is to figure out if there’s a problem in the first place. This involves a thorough investigation of the carpeting itself.
Any Visual Problems?
Visible growth or water damage can both indicate a contamination situation.
With so many species existing in the world, mold colonies can come in a variety of colors, shapes, and textures. Some of the most common colors include green, white, grey, blue, red, black, brown, or a combination of them. As for textures, they could be fuzzy, powdery, velvety, or slimy.
If any type of unidentifiable growth pops up, it's safe to assume there’s mold underneath the carpet that needs to be addressed.
As for water damage, discoloration, watermarks, wrinkling, puckering, or buckling can all indicate a moisture problem. To take this a step further, you can also cut out a small corner of this carpeting to see if there’s mold growth near the water damage.
Any Stinky Odors?
If you don’t find any visible mold, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a problem. The growth could be in a hidden location like the padding underneath or too small to be seen by the naked eye yet.
In this case, rely on your nose. Mold growth often creates a damp, musty, earthy smell due to the release of gases called microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOC).¹³ If you smell this, there’s a good chance that you’re dealing with mold under the carpet.
Any Chronic Health Issues?
To make matters more difficult, not all mold growth will be visible, and not all mold growth will create a smell. In cases like this, pay attention to your body and how you feel. Have you developed chronic symptoms over time that no doctor can pinpoint a root cause for? Do they flare up anytime you’re near that area of carpeting?
Our bodies are amazing warning systems that will let us know when something is wrong. If you start feeling unwell, those invisible particles could be making their way inside of your body and wreaking havoc, causing your body to sound the alarm and say, “Hey, something is definitely not right here.”
How to Get Rid of Mold Under the Carpet
If mold under the carpet pops up in your home, the best route is to hire professionals to come in and resolve the problem. Because of the porosity of the carpet, padding, and subflooring, the roots of mold can grow deep into the surface and be difficult to remediate. Small particles like mycotoxins can also embed themselves in the fibers, making them hard to get rid of as well.
Not to mention, with mold under the carpet especially, it’s difficult to determine the extent of the contamination situation. The growth could have gone on for some time before you realized that there was a problem, allowing for more problems to develop in the carpet or other areas of the home. These factors, taken as a whole, are why properly remediating mold under the carpet is so tricky.
In order to actually handle the problem, all of the contamination must be removed so that exposure does not continue.
Hiring professionals will help ensure that your home once again becomes a safe space.
Finding a Mold Inspector
The first step should be to hire a qualified mold inspector. This individual sets the foundation for success in properly handling a contamination situation. All of the data they collect will help create a comprehensive protocol needed by the remediation team to appropriately handle the toxic situation. Not all mold inspectors are created equal, so make sure you choose the right person.
The individual chosen should spend a few hours at a minimum combing through the interior and exterior of the home and using a variety of methodologies.
Some of the testing data you should expect to see are:
- Species of mold present
- Quantities of each mold
- Potential spore presence in the HVAC system
- Presence of mycotoxins
- Presence of bacteria
All of this information is needed to understand what’s actually existing in the home so that they can create the right protocol for the unique situation. If other contaminants such as mycotoxins and bacteria are present, the remediation protocol will need to address this. Should spores make their way into the HVAC, this will need to be remedied. Otherwise, those particles will blow all over the home and could turn into a new mold colony.
Hiring a Remediation Team
After the inspector comes in and collects data, your next step is to find a qualified remediation team to get rid of the mold under the carpet. Like mold inspectors, though, not all remediation teams are built the same.
Again, you want a company that prioritizes your health, understands the importance of creating a safe environment, and has proven success in remediating toxic homes. Their protocol should be built on three main pillars to ensure proper decontamination.
These three pillars are:
- Remediate the sources properly.
- Identify and address the problems that led to those sources in the first place.
- Eradicate all contamination created by those sources, including toxins and bacteria.
Failure to hit every point can lead to failed remediation.
If the source that led to the contamination isn’t addressed, the conditions for growth are still there, allowing the problem to come right back. Should the roots of the microbial growth be left behind, the colony can come right back. High levels of contaminants like mycotoxins and bacteria left behind can lead to continued exposure. Each scenario does not lead to a healthy home environment and can allow for any chronic symptoms to persist.
The last thing anyone wants to do is waste money and time repeating the process while also feeling unwell. The right team should tick all of the boxes above so that when they leave, you have peace of mind that the mold under the carpet is a thing of the past.
How to Prevent Mold Under the Carpet
The best way to deal with mold under the carpet is to prevent it from ever occurring in the first place.
The easiest way to avoid this contamination situation is to avoid carpet in a home as much as possible, especially in high moisture areas like basements. The less carpeting there is, the fewer opportunities there will be for microbial growth to sneak in.
That being said, for those with carpeting in their home or for anyone who simply loves this finishing, there are steps you can take to keep them from becoming toxic.
Steps to prevent mold under the carpet include:
- Vacuum 1-2 times per week: Using a HEPA vacuum, clean the surface thoroughly on a regular basis to remove any microscopic particles and potential food sources. In order to qualify as a HEPA vacuum, the machine must be able to remove 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, and any airborne particles with a size of 0.3 microns (µm).¹⁴
- Deep clean them every 6 months: Hiring a professional to come in and cleanse the surface will help further remove any particles embedded in the fibers.
- Clean up spills ASAP: Mold can grow in as little as 24 hours, so mitigating moisture should be a huge priority for any carpet owner. Use a botanical product such as Benefect Impact Cleaner for any stains and then thoroughly dry the damp area.
- Install high-quality padding: This will help prevent moisture from seeping deep into the subfloor. There are some varieties of carpet padding with anti-microbial properties that can be beneficial as well.
- Maintain humidity levels between 35-50%¹⁵: Some species of mold can grow in high humidity. Keeping these levels low can help avoid mold under the carpet.
- Upgrade and change the HVAC filters on time: Switch to the highest-rated MERV filter possible for the specific HVAC system. The manufacturer’s instructions can provide the details on which can be used. The smaller the particles these filters can eliminate, the better. When dealing with microscopic particles like mold spores and mycotoxins, you want filters with the technology to eliminate them from the air. Otherwise, they’ll just circulate straight back into the home and onto the carpet.
- Dust often: Microscopic particles settle where dust settles and can get kicked up into the air when disturbed. These particles will then settle on other surfaces, such as the carpet. Dusting can remove these from the home so that they do not get embedded in the fibers of the carpet.
- Replace carpeting that has been wet for extended periods of time: Again, mold grows quickly. Removing the material, deep cleaning, drying out the entire area, and replacing can help avoid unwanted microbial growth.
Collectively, these steps will help keep your carpet in tip-top shape and your home healthy.
Saying No to Contamination Situations
Our homes play a huge role in our ongoing wellness. Just imagine how much time you spend inside your house, watching movies, playing with your pet, or hanging out with the family. If these indoor environments have contamination situations such as mold under the carpet, that will directly impact your health.
Preventing these situations and properly handling any that pop up can help ensure that your body is protected. No one should have to suffer from chronic illness due to a toxic living environment. The more steps you can tackle to safeguard your indoor space, the healthier your life will be!
Health begins at home.™
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