Mold is just a fact of life.
It is everywhere and actually necessary to help the life cycle of organic materials break down in the environment. Unless you are in a 'clean room' environment you are exposed to mold, period! That being said, the goal is to avoid 'excess' mold in our living space. In fact, I have a booming business because so many people have out of control mold issues in their homes or office buildings for one reason or another.
First, what does mold require to grow?
There must be a source of moisture - or even high humidity. Make sure your house is below 50% in humidity levels. I suggest running a dehumidifier in the basement 24/7 during the summer months and set it as low as it will go. 30%-35% is a good level in the basement and elsewhere in the house too.
It must have a food source such as wood, carpet, drywall, furniture. Even your stack of papers piled up on the corner of the basement floor is great food as well. Basically anything porous.
3rd - there must be still air and relative darkness. Mold does not like air flow. In fact, I did some spelunking (wild caving), for several years and thought I'd find lots of mold in the caves. No such luck. If you know anything about caves, they have an inlet and outlet for air flow. Even though the other conditions were ripe, the wind factor alone kept them from growing mold. These caves were like a giant mold experiment and the caves won!
The biggest source of mold in a home that I have noted in the upper Midwest comes from the basement. And we have lots of basements here that usually get finished and used as living spaces. The drawback to this is that most homes have not been properly built to address moisture and/or mold issues. On top of that, lack of gutters or inadequate downspout extensions on some houses, plus short overhangs on roofs greatly contributes to the problem.
The best things you can do for your basement are:
Increase the air flow in all rooms, even the utility room, through opening up vents and/or continuously running a true HEPA air purifier (make sure the air purifier is sized correctly for each room if there are walls to contend with)
clear clutter - air flow must be able to reach the corners of the room
keep humidity at 35% if possible
get all excess porous materials, such as boxes, papers, clothes, rugs, wood, etc. out of the basement as they hold and trap an incredible amount of moisture and mold spores in your basement
if possible, replace carpet with tile and use area rugs that can be thoroughly cleaned or removed in the event of a water 'incident'
if you have a large, unfinished open basement with no interior walls and desire to use it for a living space, consider options for finishing it without putting up interior walls or even drywall along the exterior block walls. Consult a contractor who specializes in 'green design' (instead of a contractor who just says they can 'do it green') and/or hire a green consultant such as myself before you start such a project.
About Eco Shaylee LLC:
"Shaylee" Sharon Oleson, owner of Eco Shaylee LLC is pioneering healthy eco-living through the built environment.
With a formal background from the International Bau-Biologie & Ecology Institute, Sustainable & Energy Efficient Buildings program, Radon Mitigation and as a MN GreenStar Professional and committee member, Shaylee is dedicated to helping people overcome health issues caused by poor Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) issues and elevated Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs). She suffered with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS) for many years and also had gluten and dairy intolerance. Doctors she saw either didn't know what was wrong, or thought it was all in her head. When she found out about 'Bau-Biologie & Ecologie' (Building Biology), she knew what her life's mission would be. Her long term goal is to help the planet by preventing Rain Forest destruction and creating sustainable revenues from the forests, to help its inhabitants and the earth at large.
Shaylee has been published in the Mpls. Parade of Homes Magazine, written numerous online and newspaper articles (http://ecoshaylee.wordpress.com/published-articles/), been a guest speaker at the WI Midwest Renewable Energy Association (WI MREA), the Living Green Expo, Coldwell Banker, Century College, the MN State Fair and other venues. This year she is honored to be speaking at the Mother Earth News Fair in Lawrence KS, in October.
She also enjoys spending time with her two dogs Xena and Cooper. She is an avid nature and animal lover and former professional photographer, who still loves to photograph nature and of course, lots of pictures of her two dogs!