Myths and Facts about Mold in Cars



Since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans there has been widespread media coverage about mold, making it a concern for home, business and automobile owners. In short, these tiny organisms are getting a lot of attention, and detailers need to be aware of the myths and the facts about mold in order to deal with it, to educate customers and offer solutions to help them make informed decisions about the dangers of mold in their vehicles and what can be done about it.

Two cars submerged in flood waters except for their roofs

Defining Mold


Mold is everywhere and is found both indoors and outdoors. It is a living microscopic fungus that feeds on decomposing organic matter. Molds are generally harmless and are a vital part of our ecosystem. For example, penicillin is an important antibiotic in combating infections and saving lives.


But allergy sufferers and victims of food poisoning will tell you, not all forms are benign. Some molds create toxins, which can seriously affect the health of plants, animals and humans.


Molds flourish in warm, damp and humid conditions, constantly growing by producing spores that spread through the air. These conditions are ideal for mold growth, but the spores are equipped to survive most environmental conditions once they form, and that includes dry and cold areas. Mold also requires an abundant organic food source to grow, which is why it can be found in wood, food and building products.

To better understand the facts about mold and how to prevent and deal it, it is important to know some of the most common myths about mold that your customer may believe.


The Myths About Mold


Never be surprised by any question customers ask about mold. Often their concerns are fueled by a myth they read or heard about. The following are a few of the common myths about mold:


  • ALL MOLDS ARE TOXIC. Mold growth of any type should be eliminated as quickly as possible. However, mold is not necessarily toxic. In fact, the term "toxic mold" more likely comes from media buzz more than science. According to the American Industrial Hygiene Association, some molds can produce toxic substances called mycotoxins, which have not been shown to cause health problems in homes, businesses or automobiles. Under certain conditions, only a few molds cause health problems.


  • BLACK MOLD IS THE WORST. You have probably heard of "toxic black mold,” which seems to imply that black mold is the most dangerous variety. There are many molds that are black or dark colored. Greenish-black mold is often associated with severe water damage. However, no matter how threatening a certain mold may look, the toxicity of it cannot be determined by the color. The jury is still out on the severity of the various types of mold.


  • MOLD ONLY GROWS IN WARM AND HUMID CLIMATES. As stated, mold thrives in warm, damp and humid conditions. While mold needs moisture to grow, certain varieties have adapted to survive in almost any climate and can even live in cold or dry conditions. Most types flourish in temperatures between 60 F and 100 F.


  • OLD BUILDINGS OR VEHICLES HAVE MORE MOLD PROBLEMS THAN NEW STRUCTURES OR VEHICLES. Mold can develop in virtually every environment, new or old. In fact, many newer structures may have more problems because today's tighter insulations allow moisture to build up inside. As for automobiles it really depends on leaks and how well the air conditioning system is maintained.


  • BLEACH ELIMINATES MOLD. Bleach will control a small amount of mold growth on surfaces but often does not tackle the source of the problem. Bleach should not be used on porous materials like carpets or upholstery and metal. Affected parts of porous surfaces such as carpet padding must be completely replaced, and the area must be cleaned thoroughly before it is replaced, including the metal. Infected semi porous surfaces, such as plastic, may require a combination of cleaning and replacing, depending on the severity of the mold growth.



Know the Answers


Now that you have the knowledge to counter some of the myths about mold, it is critical you be armed with the facts about mold and how to combat and prevent it.


Detailers should be prepared to address the concerns that customers might have regarding mold or to educate them about the danger of mold that can be found in a vehicle. Here are answers to some of the more common questions that often come up:



Many vehicles might have some kind of mold. In most cases, small amounts of mold should not be cause for concern. However, mold growth should not be taken lightly, and mold should not be allowed to continue grow in the vehicle once it has been discovered. Not only can mold cause a musty odor in the vehicle, it can also create health problems and allergic symptoms to occupants, including stuffy nose, irritated eyes and wheezing for people who are more susceptible. Mold can also damage carpets, upholstery and even plastic.



    Most molds inside vehicles were brought inside from an outdoor source. Needing moisture to grow and a food source to thrive, airborne spores enter a vehicle by attaching to people, through open windows and via the vehicle’s heating and air conditioning system. The spores settle in areas with high moisture, near water leaks or condensation in the air conditioner. Damp surfaces of any type are ideal sources for mold growth.



      If you find mold, the first step is to bring it to your customer’s attention. The next step is to identify what is causing the mold growth. For example, if the mold is the result of a water leak, the leak should be found (usually around a window shield, for example) and repaired to prevent the problem from reoccurring. If there is minimal growth and it is on a nonporous surface, it can be cleaned with bleach or a detergent. Scrub the area with a solution of one part bleach and three parts water. After scrubbing, allow the solution to stand on the surface for 10 minutes and then rinse the surface thoroughly. It is best to let the surface dry for 48 hours.


        If there is significant mold growth or if the surface is porous like carpets, they should be completely replaced after the source of the moisture is identified.



        A good place to start is to educate the customer about doing something immediately regarding water leaks they discover and using ozone on the interior of the vehicle a couple times a year to remove the mold spores in the air conditioning system.


        This is especially important in hot, humid areas.


        Educate your customers on the benefits of ozone and why they need to have this done periodically. Offer it as a FREE incentive to have a vehicle detailed, it costs nothing to do.


        It will also be beneficial to your customers to know both the myths and facts about mold so you can offer solutions and recommendations for prevention.



        Educate them about sources of mold in the vehicle such as water leaks and the air conditioning system.


        Here are some helpful hints:


        • Instruct them to ensure the water drains in doors are unplugged, water can enter a vehicle after a car wash or good rain and if it does not drain it will cause mold growth. Check molding around doors, trunk and windows to prevent leaks.


        • Allow plenty of fresh air to circulate in the vehicle. Proper ventilation will help prevent mold and other contaminants from building up in the vehicle.


        • Remove sources of mold. While mold growing on nonporous surfaces can be cleaned, porous areas affected should be completely replaced.




        As mold continues to be a hot topic today be aware customers are exposed to a variety of myths and facts so it is important as a detailer for you to understand the causes of mold, why it is a problem and the ways to prevent it. By knowing ahead of time that mold may be a concern to your customers - even if they have not thought of it - you can recommend solutions for addressing mold that meet your customers' needs.



        Related Words

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