How to identify mold in your home and get rid of it
Mold is all around us all the time and is often found in homes. The only thing necessary for mold to sprout is a source of moisture and some source of food. It's very common in the bathroom around the tub or shower, or possibly on the shower curtain. These cases are easily identified and can be treated with bleach or Concrobium Mold Cleaner.
A small amount of mildew visible in the bath or around any normal water source in the house is not a problem. The real danger is from hidden growth in your house, in places you can't easily see or reach. For instance, if there's an air leak in the HVAC (heating and air conditioning) system, moisture can collect in the duct work. Any time you have moisture collecting in an enclosed system, you have the potential for mold. And when growth is hidden from normal view, it can proliferate and spread until it gets out of control.
Another source of moisture intrusion is from roof leaks, condensation in the exterior walls or from a plumbing leak in the interior walls. It does not need to be a big leak. A small accumulation of moisture anywhere in the interior of the walls can result in mold growth. You will not be able to see it. You may be able to detect it by the musty smell.
If you suspect that you have a mold problem or you (or someone in your family) has chronic respiratory problems, then I suggest you find an industrial hygienist that specializes in mold detection. A professional may have an opinion about the type of mold based on a visual inspection. However, he will want to collect some air samples and have them tested to get an accurate picture of the type and concentration of mold that may be present.
If you have a serious mold problem, it is not recommended that you treat it yourself. A serious problem needs the services of someone who specializes in this type of work. Be sure to get references. Find out how long they have been treating mold and ask if they have any professional certifications for mold remediation.
If you have serious contamination, you must not only treat it, you must also identify the source of the moisture intrusion. If you do not identify and correct the moisture intrusion problem, killing the mold will only be temporary. It will come back. Therefore, in addition to having a competent professional test for mold, you need a construction professional to identify and correct the moisture intrusion problem.
Properly treating a serious mold problem can be an expensive undertaking. Most homeowner insurance policies have a mold exclusion clause. However, a construction specialist that works in mold remediation should be able to determine if your situation is covered by your insurance.
Realize that mold is microscopic and the particles can become airborne, so it can easily contaminate your clothes and most other porous materials. So if you have a serious problem, you will need to treat the contents as well as the house, or dispose of the contents to prevent re-contamination.
This is certainly a case where an ounce of prevention is worth its weight in gold. Periodic maintenance inspections with a close eye for moisture intrusion are your best defense, and early detection is key. So if you think you have a problem, get it inspected by a competent professional. Waiting will only make the potential problem more difficult to correct and the cost goes up exponentially.