Mold is everywhere and has been on the earth for millions of years. It can enter your home through doors, windows, vents, heating systems, and air conditioners. Mold in the outside air may attach itself to clothing, shoes and bags. Pets can carry mold. Mold grows where there is moisture. Examples: a damp cabinet under the sink, around a leaky window, wet clothing that has been sitting in a washing machine, the walls of a bathroom that isn’t well ventilated, a basement that has been flooded.

Mold growth often looks like spots. It can be many different colors, including green and grey, and it can smell musty. If you can see or smell mold, there may be a health risk to you and your children.

How can mold affect a baby’s health?

Some people are bothered more by mold than others. A baby who is sensitive to mold may have:

  • A runny nose
  • A scratchy throat
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Red or itchy eyes
  • A skin rash

Sometimes reactions can be more serious. Mold can cause asthma attacks. Babies who have serious lung problems are at greater risk than other babies.

What you can do to protect your child from mold

Inside your home, be sure to:

  • Use an air conditioner or a dehumidifier during humid months and in damp spaces, like basements.
  • Fix leaks in the roof, walls and pipes. If leaks are repaired, mold does not have moisture to grow.
  • Clean and repair roof gutters regularly.
  • Make sure the ground slopes away from your home’s foundation. Water should not enter or collect around the foundation.
  • Clean bathrooms with products designed to kill mold.
  • Be sure your home is well ventilated, especially bathrooms, showers, laundry areas, and cooking areas. In the kitchen and bathroom, use exhaust fans or open a window. Be sure the clothes dryer vents outside the house.
  • If you see moisture collecting on windows, walls or pipes, dry it quickly. This can be a sign of high humidity. Do what you can to reduce the moisture (for instance, open a window in the room).
  • Before painting or caulking, clean and dry moldy areas. Paint applied to moldy surfaces may peel.
  • Insulate cold water pipes.
  • Avoid touching moldy areas with your bare hands. Wear plastic gloves when cleaning moldy areas.
  • Don’t put carpets in places that may have a lot of moisture. Examples: bathrooms, basements.
  • Add products that reduce the growth of mold to paints.
  • Clean and dry your home within 24 to 48 hours after flooding.
  • Remove and replace carpets, fabrics and upholstery that have been soaked and cannot be dried quickly.

Cleaning and controlling mold

If the moldy area is small (less than a patch 3 feet by 3 feet), you can probably clean it up yourself. Be sure to also fix the water problem. If you don’t fix the water problem, the mold will probably come back. If the moldy area is larger, you may want to hire an experienced contractor to clean it.

To clean mold from hard surfaces (like walls and window frames), you can use any of these:

  • Soap and water.
  • A bleach solution. To make a bleach solution, add no more than 1 cup of bleach per 1 gallon of water. Do not mix bleach with ammonia or other household cleaners.
  • Cleaning products that kill mold. You can buy these at hardware and grocery stores.

You don’t need to know the type of mold before you clean it. If you can see or smell mold, clean it.

What about testing or sampling for mold?

Since mold affects people differently, sampling and testing cannot estimate the health risk for you and your children. Also, testing can be expensive. The best thing to do is clean mold and prevent future growth.

If you do decide to test or sample, be sure to use experienced professionals who are skilled in interpreting the results.

For more information

April 2008


Most common questions

Are plastic baby bottles that use BPA & phthalates safe?

Scientists are debating whether BPA (bisphenol A) and phthalates pose a risk to children's health. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has expressed concerns about chemicals used in plastics. BPA is used to make plastics clear, strong and hard to break. Some baby bottles, dishes and toys contain this chemical. Some research has found that bisphenol A can affect the brain, behavior and prostate gland in infants and children.

If you're concerned, buy BPA-free plastic baby products. You can also use baby bottles made of glass, polypropylene or polyethylene. If you use plastics, avoid plastics numbered 3 or 7 (look for the number in a triangle typically found on the bottom of containers). Use plastics numbered 1, 2 and 4. If plastic baby bottles and infant cups contain BPA, discard them if they have scratches. Don't put boiling or very hot liquids, such as formula, into plastic bottles or containers that contain BPA.

©2013 March of Dimes Foundation. The March of Dimes is a non-profit organization recognized as tax-exempt under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3).