8 reasons to stamp out mould as fast as you can

With record rainfall across Australia, mould is especially prevalent this year. Here’s why you need to get on top of it now.

Mould may seem not all that bad on the surface, but it could be much worse underneath and can lead to major health problems.

Here are the reasons to get on top of it as soon as you can.

1.      Mould smells bad

The first thing people notice is not an unsightly patch of mould but the smell, which can be overpowering, The Mould Doctor managing director John Liddell says.

“Often, what they are smelling is dampness,” John says.

“It’s that smell that’s like a carpet that’s been wet.

“This odour suggests that mould might be growing, often in the wall or floor cavity, and needs to be investigated.”

2.      It could be causing your runny nose

Mould is not only unsightly and smelly but can cause cold-like symptoms.

This is due to tiny particles produced by mould called spores that you breathe in.

Spores can cause havoc once they’re in your system.

“It affects your upper respiratory tract, predominantly your nose,” microbiologist Dr Cameron Jones explains.

“Problems that you’re going to experience will be irritation to your nose, a runny nose, a feeling of blockage in your nose and sneezing.”

3.      Bad infestations can trigger asthma

If left untreated, a mould infestation can “lead to adult-onset asthma or asthma-type symptoms in children”, warns Dr Jones.

Meanwhile, for people already living with asthma, the risk of a severe attack is increased, with mould likely to cause flare-ups and inflammation.

John adds that a common misconception is that only black mould is hazardous, which is simply not true.

“Mould comes in various colours,” he says.

“It comes in black, brown, green, yellow, orange and white, and it all needs to be removed eventually.”

4.      Long-term exposure will hurt your heart

In worst-case scenarios where an infection is extreme, some people can encounter long-term heart damage,” Dr Jones warns.

“Over a prolonged period of time, you’ll breathe it more deeply into the lungs.

“And that’s where it starts to impact on your cardio system or affect heart health,” he says.

5.      The risk of mould gets worse in winter

Mould exists in summer when humidity is high, but the risks associated with mould typically increase as the mercury drops and people spend more time indoors.

So it’s best to tackle the issue before the weather turns.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s an old home or a new home. Really, it’s about ventilation,” John says.

He says closing yourself in with mould puts you at risk of exposure.

“But if you’re opening a window in the middle of winter, what you’re doing is letting in more moisture, not pushing it out,” he says.

“So, you really need a dehumidifier or an air-exchange system.

“That will help dry out the air in a small apartment or in a bedroom on an ongoing basis.

“But you’ll need an expert to treat the mould first to prevent further spreading.”

6.    It could trigger an infection

People with weakened immune systems can develop severe reactions to mould which may lead to infections, according to an Australian government report.

Allergies to mould can trigger shortness of breath, skin irritation (dermatitis), and in rare cases respiratory diseases.

Professor Matthew Cook from the Australian National University informed the report explaining the immune system can respond negatively to microbes which otherwise do not pose a threat to people.

“Yet they become unwell as a result of the wrong sort, or an excessive magnitude, of immune responses,” Prof Cook said.

“We call these hypersensitivity disorders.”

7.    Mould can spread rapidly

In the right conditions, mould colonies can grow within 24 to 48 hours.

Once spores are discharged, air currents deliver them to other suitable environments where they create further colonies.

The fungi in mould are adaptive and can feed off of leather, cotton, wool, bone, paper, wood, fur, and other damp surfaces.

Despite most moulds dying outside of a relative humidity of 60 to 70 per cent, the spores already released can lie dormant until conditions are suitable again.

8.    There may be more of it than you think

Mould is only visible once it has fully germinated, meaning the true spread may be more extensive than first thought.

Updated in July 2022 by Zak Wheeler.