What to do about mold: upcoming workshop

Anyone who has had to deal with mold or mildew outbreaks due to a flooded basement, leaking roof, or improperly ventilated bathroom knows how persistent these organisms can be, and how much damage they can do to your health and home. As conservators, we also frequently see mold and mildew doing severe damage to artifacts and collections. On October 31, as part of the Vermont League of Local Historical Societies and Museums’ Annual Meeting, Carolyn and Textile Conservator, Sarah Stevens of Zephyr Preservation Studio, will be teaching a workshop on mold remediation for paper and textile collections. Find the event flyer here.

Until then, here are the facts we think everyone should know about mold.

  • Mold and mildew need three things to grow: cellulose (food), water, and the right temperature range. Unfortunately, paper is an ideal source of partially-digested cellulose, and we humans like to keep our homes and libraries at a temperature range that is ideal for mold growth (60-80°F).Therefore, controlling moisture and humidity is the key to controlling mold growth.
  • Mold begins to cause permanent, irreversible damage to wet paper objects within 48-72 hours at room temperature.
  • Mold causes health problems in two ways: the spores cause allergic reactions and sensitivities, and while in their active growth phase, molds produce toxic chemicals to dissolve their food sources and repel other organisms. Both these mycotoxins and the allergenic spores can continue to cause reactions even after the mold is killed – so spraying bleach on your moldy drywall will not keep you from getting sick.
  • People often become more sensitive/allergic to molds after repeated exposures.
  • If you can smell mold or mildew, there is probably an active outbreak present – molds produce the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that give that characteristic smell only when they are actively growing.
Note whitish mold growths along bottom edge

This chalk and pastel drawing by Earl Moran shows a mold outbreak along the bottom edge.

If you need to clean up a mold outbreak, give us a call –  we are happy to walk you through safe, effective procedures for removing the spores and fungal growths and drying the affected objects.

And here is our number one tip for preventing mold damage on a wet object: PUT IT IN THE FREEZER. This will not kill the mold, but it will stop its growth, buying you time until you are ready to safely dry the object yourself or with the help of a conservator.