Mold. If you’re like most people, your experience with the furry growth is limited to the visible black spots you find on your shower curtain or the musty smell of your towels after they’ve been left in the washer too long. Which makes mold prevention a bit of a foreign concept.
The dictionary defines mold as: “a furry growth of minute fungal hyphae occurring typically in moist warm conditions, especially on food or other organic matter.”
Mold is one unexpected risk of storing your belongings at a self-storage facility. And before you go thinking it will help grow some delicious cheese, keep in mind that mold contains toxins and damage the things it grows on. And does so over time. The longer it grows, the more damage it can cause. Thus making mold prevention a high priority for anyone who wants to store their belongings at a self-storage facility.
Why Mold is Occurring
All it takes is a little moisture, some warmth and an object to feed on for mold to grow. In a word – humidity. Mold thrives in humid weather and loves the conditions that many storage units are prime for. Furniture and clothing aren’t the only items at risk: Cardboard and drywall are the number one breeders of mold. You see mold is made up of mold spores. Mold spores are the microscopic clumps of the toxin released from the active mold, those spores release different kinds of toxins. Toxins are lighter than the mold itself, and some are drier making them easier to spread through the air (this is why you see the remediation team on the home renovation shows coming in full hazmat suits to remove mold).
We know it’s a rampant issue in the self-storage world so if you’re one of the unlucky ones to have a mold issue the first thing to know is that you likely don’t know enough to take care of it yourself. Mold is airborne and not always visible to the naked eye. You may begin the process by bagging and removing the most heavily infected items (such as rags, paper, clothing, leaves or debris). But after that, it’s time to bring in the experts for remediation.
Once they have killed the live mold spores from your unit, then they still have to remove the toxins. This requires specialized vacuums and cleaners which your average joe simply won’t know where to find (let alone have a reason to buy). It’s also important to note that porous materials such as wood, drywall, and cardboard will need to be disposed of, another reason it’s important to have a professional assess the situation. Here is a good basic starting point for cleaning up and preventing mold.
There are many ways you can prevent mold from growing in the first place. They all stem from the understanding of how mold grows and spreads.
- Wash and fully dry everything that is going in storage beforehand.
- Dust off furniture and other non-machine washable items with a vacuum and duster (NOT a wet rag which will only spread the dust) – dust is a carrier for mold.
- Any storage boxes being transferred from another storage spot should be inspected, cleaned, and re-packed.
- Use airtight plastic totes. Prevent moisture from being able to get in contact with your possessions.
- Go for a climate controlled unit. – it’s important to note that air-conditioned and climate controlled are not the same. Climate control allows for humidity control (humidity being the prime environmental factor for mold growth). Air-conditioning is limited to temperature control which isn’t going to be enough to prevent mold growth.
- Consider adding a moisture-control or mold prevention product to your storage area, such as DampRid, Dri-It or Eva-Dry to help balance out humidity levels.
- Discuss mold prevention with the storage facility manager. They don’t want mold in your unit any more than you do and will often have advice on the kind of units available and the kind of prevention methods they are able to assist with.
Here are some additional tips for preventing mold in a storage unit.
Tips & Tricks
- Know your liability – more than likely the storage facility will not be responsible for any mold growth in your unit. You will need to ensure that the correct measures are taken for mold prevention.
- Know the signs:
- Moisture condensation on windows
- Water incursion
- Humidity levels less than 60 percent
- Cracking of plasterboard
- Bubbling of paint
- Drywall tape loosening
- Wood warping
- Musty odor
- Clean, disinfect and dry the moldy area with a vacuum and NOT bleach. Bleach can actually cause mold to spread, it causes a chemical reaction which allows mold to grow more toxic and remove only the visibility, making it more dangerous.
- If you are unsure about how to clean an item, or if the item is expensive or of sentimental value, you may wish to consult a specialist. Specialists in furniture repair, restoration, painting, art restoration and conservation, carpet and rug cleaning, water damage, and fire or water restoration can easily be found online. Be sure to ask for and check references. Look for specialists who are affiliated with professional organizations.
How TPP Helps
Nobody wants to be on the wrong end of a mold outbreak (is there even a right end?). Risk management (ie focusing on mold prevention methods) is the best way to attack the M word. Following the above steps will help you reduce the risk of the furry fiend attacking your belongings. So while TPP cannot protect mold damaged property, we can provide you the tools to prevent damage in the first place. See the advantages and what we do cover here.
Below is a free download of these tips for managers to hand out to tenants! Get the PDF: