Mold  can hide -- even in the most pristine looking homes.
Based on scary specimens spotted in refrigerators and deserted lunch bags, you may think of mold as soggy, dirty, disgusting and, above all, obvious. However, that element of the obvious isn’t always present in some household mold  mysteries. The most immaculate, well-kept home can have serious mold issues -- infestations that threaten human health and impact the systems and structure of the house itself.
Take my friend Maria Sherow and her previous home in Harding Township, New Jersey. Her son’s asthma symptoms had worsened since the family’s move to the house, and after no luck locating any mold, she asked me to put on my professional home inspector  cap and take a closer look. Near the end of a fairly uneventful inspection, I happened to grab a handful of the blown-in insulation  lining Maria’s attic, and sent it off to air quality consultant and mold expert Jeff May  for testing. Not long after that sample landed in the lab, I got a call from Jeff, who told me that the insulation was loaded with mold.
How did it get there? Turn’s out that fiberglass insulation, which by itself won’t grow mold, is a pretty good filter material. Since this house had many recessed lights, dust escaped through those lights into the insulation, where it served as mold-food. Making maters worse, the attic space did not have enough ventilation, which kept the insulation damp. Bottom line: dust plus moisture equaled enough mold to completely infest the well-kept house and require a major cleanup , even though the problem was never obvious.
“If you looked at the home, you would never, ever in a million years guess that it had a mold problem,” says Maria. “It didn’t look moldy -- you couldn’t see the traditional mold because it was actually hidden inside the insulation fibers. It just goes to show that you don’t necessarily see mold. It can be an invisible threat just like carbon monoxide .”
In addition to this attic example, there are several other hidden hideouts for mold in the typical home. All mold needs to grow is moisture, air and food -- that is, biodegradable substances like paper, fibers and dust. Here are some unusual suspects in the investigation of mold issues:
Also be careful about what you store in a basement and how you store it, as cardboard boxes and other fiber-based items provide the kind of food that’s desirable to mold.
If, like Maria, you sense the presence of mold in your home but can’t track it down, work with a professional to find out where mold has taken hold. A home inspector who is trained in mold detection  and a member of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI)  can help you find the problem and change the conditions so that the mold doesn’t return. Otherwise, stay vigilant in guarding your home against mold development by minimizing its mold-friendliness.
“It doesn’t matter how clean your home is,” says Maria. “If you have a water leak of any kind, that’s enough for mold to grow -- enough for you to have toxic conditions and all kinds of health problems . So you just have to really look around and ask yourself, ‘Do I have any of these conditions in my home?’ and if so, you have to dry them out, taking the food away from the mold so the mold can’t grow.”
Mold could be hidden out of sight in your otherwise clean home. For the health and safety of your family, find out where the mold is hiding  in your house.