Mold Growth Prevention and Response

Things to Know and Prevention Steps

Mold can occur anywhere, but excessive moisture combined with the right temperatures provide optimal conditions for fungi to grow and thrive. You can neither prevent mold spores from entering living space, nor deprive mold of its “food”. Mold spores exist everywhere in the outdoor environment and can easily get inside through open doors and windows, air ducts and vents, or even attached to clothes, shoes, and bags. Mold spores also feed on organic materials, such as wood, carpet, paper, insulation, paint, plasterboard, fabrics, cotton, leather, etc. Molds are usually not a problem indoors, unless spores land on a damp spot and begin growing. Molds have the potential to cause health problems by producing allergens (substances that can cause allergic reactions) and irritants. Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Allergic responses include hayfever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash. Allergic reactions to mold are common. They can be immediate or delayed. Molds can also cause asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to mold. Exposure can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs of both mold-allergic and non-allergic people. Symptoms other than the allergic and irritant types are not commonly reported as a result of inhaling mold. Your only option is to make sure the ambient conditions in your living quarters are not right for mold to grow. 
(EPA, 2008)

  1. Ensure proper air circulation. When possible, open doors between rooms, open drawers and closet doors, reduce clutter, and move furniture, clothing, etc. away from walls and vents to improve airflow in your living space. Small fans can help circulate air and improve your cooling sensation. Use exhaust fans when cooking, dishwashing and cleaning. Use air conditioners, dehumidifiers and/or air purifiers. (Residential air purifiers may reduce allergens, but are not designed to reduce humidity levels.)
  2. Control indoor mold growth by controlling moisture. Controlling humidity in wet climates poses specific challenges. Do not open windows to improve airflow, when outside humidity levels are high. Permitting this moist outdoor air into your room will increase the indoor humidity.
  3. Take care of condensation. To reduce condensation, keep the indoor temperature higher and the relative humidity lower. Set your air conditioner to about 70 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Cooler temperatures promote excessive condensation. Do not run your air conditioner while windows are open. Small residential dehumidifiers can help lower indoor relative humidity to an ideal 30-60% and decrease mold growth.
  4. Inspect rooms at regular intervals and immediately after storms and rains to detect early-stage mold growth and prevent it from spreading further. Fix the source of the water problem or leak to prevent mold growth. Clean and dry any damp building materials and furnishings immediately to prevent mold growth. Clean mold off hard surfaces with water and detergent, and dry completely. Absorbent materials such as ceiling tiles, that are moldy, may need to be replaced.
  5. Do not let wet items stay indoors. Never hang clothes to dry indoors. Use a dryer or hang wet laundry outside. Confirm clothes are completely dry before putting them away in drawers and closets. Do not leave wet towels or other wet items lying around. Take wet shoes off at the door. Thoroughly dry your items before storing them, especially if they will not be used for prolonged periods.
  6. Clean, dust, and disinfect household surfaces. Frequent cleaning helps remove the mold spores
    from household surfaces and considerably reduces the dirt and grime.

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Mold Growth Response


    If mold grows on a surface that you are able to clean yourself, use products such as a biocide containing a 2-10% bleach solution or other cleaner identified for killing mold and mildew. Many off-the-shelf products readily available.

    If you do notice mold that you are unable to clean yourself, please submit a work request. Our trained professionals can assist with those more challenging situations. College maintenance staff consult with the Director of Environmental Health and Safety and are regularly trained on mold identification and mitigation.


    Is sampling for mold needed? In most cases, if visible mold growth is present, sampling is unnecessary. Since no EPA or other federal limits have been set for mold or mold spores, sampling cannot be used to check a building's compliance with federal mold standards. Surface sampling may be useful to determine if an area has been adequately cleaned or remediated. Sampling for mold should be conducted by professionals who have specific experience in designing mold sampling protocols, sampling methods and interpreting results. Sample analysis should follow analytical methods recommended by the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), or other professional organizations (EPA, 2008).


    College of Charleston Facilities Management will take reasonable steps to see that HVAC systems are operating properly and capable of maintaining temperatures at 73 degrees. HVAC technicians or contractors will check units and perform filter changes in fancoil units at least every 3-6 months. Facilities Management will inspect and monitor mechanical rooms, and elevator shafts for moisture concerns bi-weekly and will respond to reports of water leaks and intrusion when notified by Campus Housing staff.

    College of Charleston Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) will work with Campus Housing and Facilities Management as needed to interview residents and staff and conduct indoor air quality (IAQ) investigations to develop a plan locate and remediate sources of IAQ concerns.

    1. Cleanliness in student housing environments will assist in improving IAQ and promoting healthy and comfortable living conditions free of pests and insects. Items such as wet towels or clothing, oils or residue in food containers and spilled drinks can cause mold/mildew growth. You are responsible for cleaning your residence hall room or apartment. Health and safety inspections are performed randomly by Campus Housing. Maintain your residence in a responsible fashion that does not promote unhealthy conditions for you or your neighbors. Empty trash regularly. Hang damp towels, bath mats, clothing, or other items immediately and allow items to dry completely to prevent microbial growth and musty odors. Clean any spills immediately and thoroughly. Vacuum carpet or rugs. Sweep floors and dust regularly.

    2. Pets are not allowed in residence halls, except for approved service or emotional support animals.

    3. Food preparation and consumption can attract pests and insects. Avoid leaving open food containers out, seal all containers after use and refrigerate perishable foods. Dispose of used food containers and scraps regularly to prevent attracting pests and insects and promoting the growth of mold. Keep refrigerators tightly closed.

    4. Do not allow mildew to accumulate in your baths and shower stalls. If mold grows on a surface that you are able to clean yourself, use products such as a biocide containing a 2-10% bleach solution or other cleaner identified for killing mold and mildew. Many off-the-shelf products are readily available. If you are not able to clean the surface yourself, enter a work order request.

    5. Cleaning of community bathrooms is the responsibility of Facilities Management Custodial Services unless otherwise notified. Report mold/mildew immediately by entering a work order request.


    Moisture and humidity provide conditions which are favorable for mold growth. Facilities Management strives to maintain optimal levels of humidity and temperature. Campus Housing residents are expected to assist Facilities Management with this effort by following the guidelines below:

    1. If windows are operable, KEEP WINDOWS CLOSED when the air conditioning is running. Some buildings have secured windows secured to better control the environmental conditions. Do not open secured windows. Tampering with the secured windows and opening them may result in damage charges. The condensation created during cooling season by open windows (hot air) mixing with conditioned HVAC air (cool air) indoors is capable of creating significant mold and moisture problems within the HVAC system and the residence hall room or apartment.

    2. Close blinds early in the day to prevent the solar heat gain. Turn off all lights when leaving the room.

    3. Do not tamper with HVAC units. Contact Facilities Management with temperature or humidity issues or water intrusion.

    4. Do not block the HVAC air supply or return air vents or doors where the units are located. Reduced air flow to the HVAC system can result in excess moisture and promote mold growth within the system and residence hall rooms.

    5. Bathroom exhaust fans should be kept running during and after showering to help remove moisture from the air. Run bathroom fans for at least 20 minutes after a shower.

    6. Use bath mats to help absorb water after showering or bathing. Do not leave the bathroom without drying completely to reduce the tracking of water throughout the room.

    7. Hang damp or wet towels, bath mats and any wet clothing articles to allow for thorough drying after use to prevent substance growth or musty odors. Do not hang damp or wet items over the furniture in the room or closet doors.

    8. Keep refrigerator doors tightly closed. Failure to secure refrigerator doors may result in freezer defrosting and water leaking onto the floor.

    9. When defrosting refrigerators, take steps to prevent water from getting onto carpeting, rugs or floors. Clean up spills immediately to prevent water damage or mold growth.

    10. Refrigerators must be emptied of contents and defrosted before leaving for breaks.


    Please note that you will be responsible for correcting conditions within your room or apartments that are designated as your responsibility, and as deemed reasonably necessary. Tampering with units or secured  windows or failure to report problems with moisture may result in a residence hall policy violation. The following procedures must be followed to assure early reporting and remediation of issues:

    1. If you have followed the guidelines above and continue to have mold growth in an unusual area not typically prone to excessive moisture, submit a maintenance request. Facilities Management staff will respond to inspect the area.

    2. Report leaks or water intrusion to Campus Housing staff immediately, as it only takes 24-48 hours for mold to grow.

    3. Campus Housing staff should always be the initial contact for IAQ or water intrusion issues. Water intrusion issues should be reported IMMEDIATELY to your RA (or RA on-call), Hall Director or the Campus Housing office during business hours.


    For non-urgent issues, an work order request can be submitted. If you experience an issue after the Campus Housing office is closed, report it to the RA on-call. They will report it as an urgent issue for response before the next workday. When students perceive there is excess humidity in their rooms, they sometimes request air quality tests. Facilities Management will first do a visual inspection of the room. If students still wish to have an air quality test done, the College can perform the test. If issues are found, Facilities Management will take steps to rectify them. If no issues are found, the student will be responsible for the cost of the air quality test.


    The Lowcountry and Charleston are known for high pollen counts. Unlike some places, Charleston sees pollen year-round. Typically, the heavier and more noticeable pollen peaks in March and April and lasts until June. Rain in combination with warm weather feeds the increase in pollination. This combined with our beautifully landscaped campus full of trees, bushes and other pollen producing plants can create havoc for those typically sensitive and even for some that may have never suffered from allergies in the past. If you experience sensitivity, as with all health concerns, please seek the assistance of our Student Health Services and/or your physician. Below are suggestions to help cope during the high pollen seasons in this area.

    1. If medication has been prescribed to reduce your sensitivity, follow the instructions of your doctor

      and/or medical personnel.

    2. Track the pollen count at On "high-count" days, try to stay indoors when possible.

    3. Keep windows and doors closed to reduce the number of allergens entering your apartment or room.

    4. Vacuum and dust regularly to reduce the number of allergens that may have hitchhiked into your space on shoes or clothes. If you find you are extremely sensitive, invest in a HEPA Filter vacuum to capture as many allergens as possible.

    5. Avoid tossing book bags or clothes worn outside on your bed to prevent spreading allergens to your sleeping area.

    6. Shower and shampoo hair before going to bed to avoid introducing allergens to bed linens.

    7. If all efforts above fail and you remain highly sensitive to allergens, invest in an air purifier to remove as many allergens as possible from the air. If purchasing an air purifier, beware of ozone generators and their claims of being safe and effective in controlling indoor air pollution in occupied spaces. People vary widely in their susceptibility to ozone. Healthy people, as well as those with respiratory difficulty, can experience breathing problems when exposed to ozone.


    Mold response is part of an overall mold awareness and mitigation program. Mold awareness starts with providing resources and information in advance and educating and training both responders and occupants. Resources in advance include promoting awareness and prevention methods. The first line of defense is dehumidification, moisture control and good housekeeping practices. However, in certain environments, even with these measures in place mold can occur. If mold does occur, the College of Charleston has the following response protocol.

    Submit a work order request and select the "Custodial/Recycling" tile. This is the critical first step to initiate the evaluation process quickly.


    The first responder for a student housing facility is a CofC staff member.

    • Visually assess the magnitude of the issue. Is surface mold present?

    • Consider the possibility of hidden mold.

    • If minor, conduct basic cleaning such as HEPA vacuuming and surface wiping with approved products.

    • If related to basic housecleaning, provide handout on basic housecleaning techniques to clean mold.

    • If it can be easily addressed, work is complete.

    • If not easily addressed, consult with an industrial hygienist (IH) (Director of EHS to coordinate).

    • Based on the IH assessment, determine if occupants must be relocated.

    • If major or requiring further assessment, refer the issue to EHS and FM Operations Directors. They will determine the next steps such as additional cleaning, investigation of moisture source, assess HVAC operation, inspect vents, etc.

    • Determine if in-house staff or outsourced resources are needed.


    The decision to relocate occupants should consider:

    • The size and type of the area affected by mold growth

    • The type and extent of health effects reported by the occupants

    • The potential health risks that could be associated with debris

    • The amount of disruption likely to be caused by remediation activities


    If occupants are relocated the IH may conduct air sampling after the mitigation work is complete to determine if the problem is resolved.

    • If the air sample is favorable, then occupants may move back in.

    • If the air sample is not favorable, then occupants must remove all possessions so required additional mitigation work can commence.

    • Once additional mitigation work is complete, conduct an additional air sample to ensure the space is ready for occupants to return. If the air sample is favorable, then occupants can move back in.


    Communication throughout the process is vital.

    • Facilities Management to keep Campus Housing updated on status.

    • Campus Housing to communicate with the occupants.

    • For safety reasons, if anyone other than Facilities Management requires access into the work area, they must coordinate through Facilities Management.