Mold is an unpleasant issue to think about, but it deserves your attention. While it might appear benign, mold poses a severe health risk with prolonged exposure, and can cause you to fail a home inspection. Even those without mold allergies will experience coughing, wheezing and other respiratory problems after dealing with mold, according to the Center for Disease Control. The results can be much worse for people who have a preexisting respiratory condition like asthma, and reported a link between black mold and the deaths of some children. While that represents an extreme scenario, it's important for homeowners to quickly identify and eliminate mold issues before they start to cause adverse health effects. Here are some tips to limit your exposure:

Where to look for mold

Mold will grow wherever conditions are damp and relatively dark. Cabinets beneath sinks and crannies surrounding a shower are common areas to find mold, and once mold has started growing, it can quickly take over a large area. The spores that allow mold to reproduce are invisible to the naked eye, so you can only identify a mold infestation after it has covered a surface or with testing devices. There are several colors of mold, though the color generally doesn't matter. While black mold has gotten extensive press and been linked to serious health issues, these reports are overblown. Though it is true that a certain type of black mold can have devastating health effects, there are many kinds of mold that are relatively benign and black in color. 

How to prevent mold

Optimally, you want to prevent mold from growing at all. The best way to do this by eliminating the factors that lead to mold growth. Because mold requires moisture to thrive, keep your bathroom well ventilated and wash your towels regularly. Check any pipes for leaks or condensation, especially if they are housed in a dark cabinet underneath your sink. If you ever experience any flooding in your home, be sure to dry everything thoroughly. Leaving things damp is a surefire way to end up with mold later on. 

What to do once you've found an issue

If you discover mold in your home, you'll want to get rid of it as quickly as possible. Doing so safely will require a bit of care on your part, however, as inhaling mold spores can be problematic. You can avoid issues by wearing an N-95 respirator mask, which can be purchased at almost any hardware store. You should also purchase rubber gloves, because many of the solvents necessary to completely eradicate a mold infestation are potentially damaging to skin. 

Before you try to treat the mold issue, decide whether the infested area is even worth saving. If mold has attached itself to a porous surface such as ceiling tiles or to a fabric like your carpet, you may have to throw the infested items out instead of cleaning them. It's nearly impossible to fully remove mold from these surfaces without damaging them irreparably, so don't waste time trying to salvage them. 

Additionally, certain jurisdictions require professional treatment for serious mold issues, so check local regulations. 

Tools for treatment

For minor mold infestations, a good scrubbing with strong detergent will remove the issue, but more entrenched problems will require stronger cleaning agents, like bleach. The use of powerful chemicals can release dangerous fumes that will harm you more than the mold could have, so be sure to leave a window open during your cleaning. Once you've finished scrubbing, be sure to let the space dry out completely, and be especially careful about moisture for some time after you've dealt with the issue. Otherwise, you could find yourself bleaching the walls again before long. 

If you have a particularly valuable or treasured item that's developed a mold issue, take it to a professional. You could do serious damage if you try to clean it yourself.