What Is Mold?

Get to the ins and outs of mold and how you can safeguard your home from this dirty fungus.


A mold infested room of an old building.

Photo by: Dariusz Majgier

Dariusz Majgier

By: Caroline Shannon-Karasik

Most people are keen on the idea that there are a few types of fungi that are worth appreciating — mushrooms, anyone? However, if you were to ask most homeowners about the most common type of fungus they would like to never see again, then the resonating answer would most likely be, "Mold!"

Star Secrets to Cleaning and Organizing

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Sabrina Soto Confessions

"I can't do anything until my space is neat. I've been that way since I was a kid," says Sabrina, standing in her spotless New York City apartment. Sabrina's sofa stays crumb-free thanks to weekly under-cushion vacuuming with the upholstery attachment.

Photo By: Melanie Acevedo

Coffee Table Storage

"In small spaces, every piece needs to be multifunctional. That's why I like a coffee table with a shelf for storage," says Sabrina. "I wipe it down regularly with just a damp cloth, and twice a year I treat it with a solution I bought at a jewelry supply store that keeps it from rusting. Still, you can see the rings from people's cups, and I kind of love that. I'm neat and clean, yes, but I don't want to dampen anyone's fun."

Photo By: Melanie Acevedo

Easy Rug Care

"I toss my rug if there's a stain...Well, not the whole rug! I bought these Flor carpet tiles not only because I love how they look, but also because if I can't get a stain out, I recycle the tile and put down a new one. The tiles come with self-adhesive dots that connect the squares together at the corners. I've been known to stockpile extras, so replacing them is no big deal," says Sabrina. (For similar tiles, try Fall In Line, flor.com.)

Photo By: Melanie Acevedo

Well-Hidden Mess

"The pretty boxes on the coffee table are like my junk drawers. They're where all my USB cables, remotes, and cords are stored. I keep them neat with Velcro cord wrappers. Sometimes I'll go in search of the perfect box to conceal a specific item, and other times I'll just buy a set of nesting containers in a bunch of sizes knowing I can always find something to put in them," says Sabrina.

Photo By: Melanie Acevedo

Make the Bed Quick

"I pull the flat sheet all the way up and the blanket two thirds of the way up, then I fold the sheet over the blanket and fold the duvet in half at the foot of the bed. On the weekend, I'll make the bed more elaborate by adding three Euro shams behind the regular pillows and shams. Most people use two, but I like how three cover the entire head of this king-size bed," says Sabrina.

Photo By: Melanie Acevedo

Under-the-Mattress Storage

"The first time people see this hydraulic bed, they always say, 'Oh my God! I need that for my house!' I bought mine a few years back from West Elm, but Overstock.com sells similar ones. I don't have a big linen closet, and there's nothing I hate more than seeing those plastic bins under the bed, so I keep extra bedding in here, plus bags, suitcases, and out-of-season stuff," says Sabrina. "I also love that the bed frame goes all the way to the floor. No dust bunnies!"

Photo By: Melanie Acevedo

Closet Sorting

"All my stuff is organized by category — skirts, tank tops, long-sleeve shirts — and within those, I sort by color. I started out doing lightest to darkest but quickly realized that wasn't going to last long! I use only Huggable Hangers, which take up a lot less room ($10 for set of 10, containerstore.com). If I had more room, I'd insist on at least a finger's width of space between each hanger," says Sabrina.

Photo By: Melanie Acevedo

Home Office Space-Savers

Sabrina uses the wall as a vertical desk with clever storage and creative displays.

Photo By: Melanie Acevedo

Hanging Storage Containers

"I have lots of little objects in my office — illustration markers, scissors, swatches — but because there's a place for it all, it looks neat. When I saw these little buckets in the kitchen section of IKEA, I thought they would be great for color-coding my markers and making them easy to reach."

Photo By: Melanie Acevedo

A Place for the Purse

"I also use what looks like a giant metal binder clip to hang my purse off the side of my desk. It's from a company called Poppin (poppin.com), which makes really cute office supply stuff. I drop my bag on it as soon as I walk into the apartment so I don't have to hunt for it later."

Photo By: Melanie Acevedo

Dirty Tricks

"My bathroom doesn't have a chance to get dirty," says Sabrina. "Every morning after showering, I do a mini cleanup. First I pull the shower curtain shut so it dries flat. Then I wipe the mirror with a damp microfiber cloth and a spritz of Windex. I'm addicted to Windex. I would wash my face with it if I could! Next I wipe down the countertop and sink. Bigger jobs get tackled on the weekend: I clean the toilet with Soft Scrub and the tub with Bon Ami. If the grout looks grungy, I'll use Homax Tile Grout Coating with a stiff grout brush to whiten it up." See what's in Sabrina's cleaning caddy.

Photo By: Melanie Acevedo

Mold is a type of fungus that sprouts form tiny spores that float about in the air. Unfortunately for homeowners, there is not a pilot sitting in the cockpit of these spores. Instead, the spores do the choosing of where they should land. Pair that with the fact that they often choose to make their home in moist places and you are bound to see mold spring up in that area.

Mildew is a common type of mold that sits on the surface of damp walls, doors, shower grouting and more. This type of mold looks like tiny black spots, and it can easily be scrubbed away with a cleaning brush and store-bought mold killer.

Other types of mold can be a bit more damaging to a home, depending on the size of an infestation. You may begin to notice a damp, must odor in a specific area of your home. This means you should check for damp walls, carpet, flooring and any other spaces that may be breeding grounds for mold. The key is to treat a mold problem immediately, before the infestation becomes worse or causes permanent damage.

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