Do stachyobotrys, penicillium, aspergilus, paecilomyces or fusarium ring a bell? Probably (and hopefully) not, but when you see the white, black, green or gray stuff growing on your walls or bedding, you won’t doubt that you’ve got mold!

Interestingly, mold comprises a large portion of the kingdom fungi, a large class of living organisms that aren’t plants, animals or bacteria. Molds are found nearly everywhere on Earth; they reproduce by emitting countless tiny spores that can easily become airborne. Molds can be very tough to kill, so put on your gloves and get ready for a fight!

The Community Housing Office has spent the last few weeks fielding calls from anxious students, parents and property providers about mold that has seemingly taken over Isla Vista. It is important to note that there are two main causes of mold: 1) water intrusion, leaks from rain or plumbing (property provider responsibility) or 2) mold from excessive humidity and lack of ventilation (tenant responsibility). The most common cause for mold that we see is tenant-caused and can be easily remedied if the proper steps are taken. If you notice or suspect any type of water intrusion or leak, you are legally responsible to let your property provider know as soon as possible so they can fix the problem. If you hesitate, you can be held liable and responsible. If you are unsure about what to do, please call or come in to the Community Housing Office to talk with a housing expert.

The recent rain has brought humid indoor conditions that are a perfect breeding ground for mold. Add in an organic food source (walls, clothes, bedding, shoes, paint, etc.) along with your steamy, closed-up rental, and the mold flourishes! Gross, I know. However, most of the time, proper cleanup and maintenance will remove mold and keep it at bay. If your mold is not caused by a leak (as far as you can tell), here are some steps you can take to remedy the humidity issues that are your responsibility:

Move furniture, especially beds, away from walls to create additional airflow.

Do not “overstuff” your closet or the space under your bed. Mold loves areas that stay humid because of a lack of ventilation.

Utilize your bathroom fan during and after showers. (If you don’t have one and your bathroom needs more ventilation, request one from your property provider.)

Turn on the exhaust fan above your stove in your kitchen while cooking to prevent steam from making your apartment humid.

Open windows and blinds to allow airflow and sunlight to dry your rental (without creating a security issue).

Wipe down wet windowpanes and walls to remove excess moisture that encourages mold growth.

Do not overwater indoor plants.

Don’t leave wet clothes, shoes or towels lying around or stuffed in a closet.

Clean mold when you see it to prevent spores from spreading and creating more mold problem areas. Use a mixture of diluted bleach (one cup of bleach per gallon of water) to clean mold off hard things. Do not mix bleach with other cleaners, because the combination of chemicals can create toxic fumes. When using bleach, make sure you open windows and doors so you can breathe in fresh air.

Wash soft items in hot water.

If your efforts to clean up mold don’t seem to be making a difference, submit a work request to your property provider alerting them about the mold, its location, its coverage area and the efforts you’ve taken to get rid of it. The underlying culprit could be a potential pipe, window or roof leak or other water intrusion problem that you can’t see. If you still have questions, please stop by the Community Housing Office to discuss your rights and responsibilities.

Mold is among the most controversial of environmental hazards in the news. Although mold may look (and smell) disgusting, most types encountered routinely are not hazardous to healthy individuals. In fact, everyone is exposed to some mold on a daily basis without evident harm, and the mold we find inside is no different than the mold found naturally outside. Health problems that occur with mold are a result of a large patch of active mold (about 8″ by 8″) growing inside the home, office or school, where there are a large number of spores present and people are inhaling those spores. People who have a moth allergy, asthma problems or a sensitive upper respiratory tract may notice an aggravation of their allergies and asthma if mold is not remediated.

Come by CHO on the 3rd floor of the UCen to ask us about mold and pick up a handy mold flier if mold has got you down. While you are here, pick up our Green Housing Guide, a renter’s guide to reducing impact on the environment. In our next article, we will share some great green tips in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. Go green or go home!