Not many people realise just how large, and potentially dangerous, the problem of mould in carpeting can be.
Airborne mould spores can take hold and start to grow and expand in almost any damp area with even a minimal food supply from dust or soil buildup. Rugs and carpets make ideal targets.
Once it has started to grow, the mould will release new spores into the air. Inhaling, and sometimes simply touching, the spores can cause some people to experience allergic reactions. Typically, those reactions are much the same as other allergies, causing symptoms like sneezing, itching, runny nose, congestion and dry skin. They can also cause hay fever-like symptoms and trigger asthma if they reach the lungs.
There are some difficulties involved with figuring out exactly when or where someone may have come in contact with mould in carpeting. First of all, it may not be at all obvious that there is any mould present. Only the most severe cases tend to be visibly noticeable. Furthermore, reactions to mould can sometimes be delayed for several days after exposure.
Those difficulties make it all the more important to be aware of the locations and conditions that lead to mould growth in order to be able to identify and treat it. The most common circumstances that lead to mould are:
Water damaged carpet– mould growth becomes very likely when water damaged carpet has not been cleaned or dried within 48 hours. In this case, cleaning may help, but the carpet should probably be replaced.
Wet carpet padding – Sometimes a leak may come up from below the carpet and mould may grow in both the padding and the carpet above if the padding has become damp.
In the basement – Carpeting in basements, below ground level, is especially at risk because of the possibility of high humidity.
How to Identify a mould Infestation
: Visual Inspection
mould tends to be hard to spot in carpeting since it rarely grows on the upper surface. However, if mould growth is obviously visible, typically manifesting as darker grey or brown spots, the best bet is to dispose of the carpet.
Try the smell test – A “mildewy” odour in the room or carpet is a definite red flag that mould may be present.
Check for wet spots. Feeling around to check for wet spots is an effective way to reveal problem areas that may lead to, or already contain, mould growth (be sure to wash your hands afterwards).
Preventing mould Growth
The best way to combat mould is to not allow it to grow in the first place. The best way to do that is to make sure that mould-friendly conditions never arise. Below are some specific methods to prevent mould growth in carpets.
Keeping carpets clean is probably the best way to prevent mould. Vacuuming regularly removes most of the dry soil and dust that could sustain mould, and the occasional deep cleaning via hot water extraction should remove the rest. Removing food sources, and spores that may have drifted in, directly reduces the likelihood of mould. Be sure that carpets are dried quickly after using wet cleaning methods.
If humidity is an issue in your space, use dehumidifiers to help reduce the moisture in the air. This denies mould spores the water they need to grow. Most guidelines indicate that 30% to 60% humidity is acceptable for interiors.
Related to the above, avoid installing carpet in areas like bathrooms or kitchens that are likely to frequently become wet or humid. Carpet in such locations quickly becomes a breeding ground for mould because of the constant water use in those areas.
When you are installing carpet, consider using solid, rubber-slab padding with anti-microbial properties. This type of pad is often used in commercial settings and resists furniture indentation and crushing much longer than other types of pads. It can be a bit more expensive, but it also provides the best mould mitigation, especially for environments with seasons of high humidity.
Finally, Do Not Allow Standing Water
It does not take very long for water to ruin carpet, so leaks or spills need to be cleaned and dried quickly. For larger spills, the top and bottom surfaces of the carpet, the padding, and the floor below should be cleaned and completely dried. In the case of a large flood, or prolonged exposure to standing water, the carpet will probably need to be replaced.
Carpet is an ideal floor covering for enhanced air quality and comfort. However, it can be susceptible to mould growth without proper care and attention to carpet conditions. Hopefully these tips will help you maintain clean and healthy indoor spaces, and your carpet investment, for years to come.