7 Warning Signs of Mold in Your Home

Mold can be a serious environmental health hazard in your home. When allowed to grow unchecked, mold produces allergens, irritants, and — depending on the species — potential toxins.

Unfortunately for many people, mold likes to grows in dark, damp places that are often out of sight, which makes it hard to find and remove. It isn’t usually until symptoms of mold exposure appear that people realize something is wrong.

If you suspect that you have mold in your home, here are 7 warning signs to look out for:

  1. Strange musty odors
  2. Asthma or allergies that worsen indoors
  3. Persistent cough, cold, or fatigue
  4. Recent water or moisture issues
  5. Dark stains on walls or ceilings
  6. Peeling wallpaper
  7. Unusual pet behavior

Warning Signs of Mold

1. Strange Musty Odors

One of the first warning signs of mold is a stale, musty odor permeating your home. The smell usually starts out faint and intensifies over time.

As it grows, mold releases microbial volatile organic compounds (mVOCs) into the air, including pungent chemicals like aldehydes, benzenes, carboxylic acids, and terpenes. When mixed together, they produce unpleasant smells that can be described as musty, stale, earthy, or damp.

Sometimes the musty smell of mold might seem similar to other household odors. But if you notice a strange smell without an obvious source, such as dirty laundry or food waste, then there’s a chance that you might have unseen mold growing somewhere.

For a more detailed description about the smell of mold, read our article: What Does Mold Smell Like & How Can You Tell?

2. Asthma or Allergies That Worsen Indoors

Mold is one of the most common indoor asthma triggers, according to the CDC. Mold spores and mVOCs are airborne irritants that can exacerbate asthma and allergy symptoms, such as:

  • Sneezing
  • Nasal congestion
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness
  • Red, watery eyes
  • Itchy eyes, nose, throat
  • Dry, scaly skin

If these symptoms seem to appear or worsen when you’re indoors, they may be a sign of mold. You might also notice that symptoms get worse in certain areas of your home, such as in basements, attics, closets, bathrooms, or near air vents.

Other potential indoor asthma and allergy triggers to rule out include household pets or pest problems — particularly mice and cockroaches. If you live in an apartment in New York City, Local Law 55 (the Indoor Allergen Hazards Law) requires your landlord to conduct annual inspections for mold, rodents, and roaches.

3. Chronic Fatigue and Headaches

Besides causing asthma and allergy symptoms, exposure to toxins from certain types of mold (mycotoxins) are thought to contribute to sick building syndrome.

Sick building syndrome (SBS) is a health condition associated with poor air quality in enclosed spaces (such as a house or apartment building). There are a variety of nonspecific symptoms associated with SBS, but the most prevalent are general symptoms of fatigue and headaches.

These symptoms typically start within a few hours of entering the affected area, and may improve within a few minutes after leaving the building.

4. Recent Water or Moisture Issues

Have you had water leak recently or the humidity in your home is higher than usual? Rather than being warning signs, it’s more accurate to call these risk factors for mold.

Mold spores, which are normally inactive and harmless in the air, will not grow without moisture present. They require damp, humid, or wet conditions in order to germinate into full-blown mold.

If you recently experienced a water leak, flooding, or other type of moisture issue that wasn’t immediately fixed and thoroughly dried, there’s a higher chance that mold may have started to grow.

Other conditions to watch out for that cause mold to grow include:

  • Leaky pipes or faucets
  • Building maintenance or plumbing problems
  • Poorly ventilated bathrooms, kitchens, and basements
  • Water intrusion due to weather (e.g. rain, snow)
  • Condensation from heating or A/C systems

5. Dark Stains on Walls or Ceilings

Mold growing on walls and ceilings often takes the appearance of dark-colored stains or patches.

The discoloration can take on different shades and colors, although black or brown is the most common. Other colors of mold growth include green, grey, white, blue, and yellow.

One way to tell if the stain is actually mold growth is to inspect the texture. Mold is usually soft, slimy, or fuzzy to the touch and can be easily smeared.

Another quick test for mold is to dab it with a few drops of diluted bleach. If the stain lightens up after a few minutes, it’s likely to be mold. If it remains dark, it could be due to dirt or another type of discoloration.

Mold stains usually appear on water-damaged surfaces. However, this can sometimes be difficult to tell, since the source of moisture can be behind, underneath, or within the walls.

6. Peeling Wallpaper

If you have wallpaper in your home, finding sections that are bubbling or peeling can also be a sign of moisture problems and mold growing underneath.

Changes in temperature and humidity, especially during the summer, can result in condensation forming on the backside of wallpaper. The trapped moisture causes the wallpaper to loosen, giving mold an opportunity to grow.

Peeling wallpaper can also be caused by insufficient or faulty gluing or other non-mold problems. But when combined with other signs, such as recent water damage, odor that seems to be coming from the walls, or symptoms of mold exposure, it might be a good idea to check behind it for mold.

7. Unusual Pet Behavior

Unusual pet behavior or illnesses can also be signs of possible mold exposure.

Like humans, pets can also be affected by inhaling mold. Dogs, for example, are also more likely to sniff around in areas where mold is present or even ingest mold by accident.

And due to difference in their body sizes and immune systems compared to us, pets can sometimes be much more sensitive to indoor mold.

This can lead to symptoms such as lethargy, labored breathing, coughing, wheezing, vomiting, and decreased appetite. Some pets may also be allergic to mold, which can cause excessive scratching, inflamed and irritated skin, and hair loss.

Suspect Mold in Your Home?

If you live in New York City and you suspect mold might be growing somewhere in your house or apartment, get help today from Green Orchard Group.

We are a leading environmental services company that specializes in mold assessment and remediation services. Our licensed mold experts have over 25 years of experience, knowing exactly where to look for mold and how to get rid of it.

If you’re not certain whether or not you have mold, call us to speak with an expert today or click the button below to send us an email. We’re happy to talk you through your concerns or go over pictures with you.