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Mold Prevention

About Mold

Controlling moisture is ultimately the key to controlling mold in your housing.

As part of the natural environment, molds may begin growing indoors whenever mold spores land on wet or damp surfaces.

Molds produce allergens, but like all allergens, individual reactions will differ. Some people may not be affected, while others may experience hay-fever type symptoms or have a stronger reaction. If you believe you may be having a reaction to mold allergens, contact Student Health and Wellness for an appointment.

Molds are part of the natural environment. Outdoors, molds play a part in nature by breaking down dead organic matter such as fallen leaves and dead trees, but indoors, mold growth should be avoided. Molds reproduce by means of tiny spores; the spores are invisible to the naked eye and float through outdoor and indoor air. Mold may begin growing indoors when mold spores land on surfaces that are wet. There are many types of mold, and none of them will grow without water or moisture.

It is impossible to get rid of all mold and mold spores indoors; some mold spores will be found floating through the air and in house dust. The mold spores will not grow if moisture is not present. Indoor mold growth can and should be prevented or controlled by controlling moisture indoors.

-- Environmental Protection Agency


Prevention Steps You Can Take

There is no way to eliminate all mold and mold spores indoors. However, mold spores will not grow if the conditions that support their growth are absent.

Mold needs both a food source and moist conditions. Routine cleaning of surfaces and reducing the presence of moisture and damp materials are highly effective prevention measures.

Following the guidelines below can help prevent mold and mildew growth:

Keep windows closed

Do not open your windows, regardless of whether heating or cooling systems are operating. Doing so will cause condensation and may contribute to mold growth. Plase see our HVAC Instructions page for more information about HVAC systems in UVA housing.

Don't store wet clothing

Do not leave wet or damp clothes, towels, or shoes in closets. Hang these items on towel racks or place them on drying racks until they are completely dry.

Keep moisture sources away from HVAC units

Do not place potted plants, or any other source of moisture, on or around heating and cooling units.

Don't obstruct HVAC units

Do not place anything in front of your heating or cooling unit. Doing so blocks the airflow from the unit and makes mold growth in your housing more likely.

Know your heating system

Many housing areas operate on fixed systems, which only cool or heat, with the University making an informed decision about switching from one system to the other. If you live in an undergraduate apartment, graduate housing, or faculty/staff housing, you may have the ability to regulate your air-conditioner settings. Please see our HVAC Instructions page for more information about which system is in your housing, and recommended settings.

Keep appliances away from thermostats

If your housing contains a room thermostat, do not place heat-generating appliances directly underneath it.

Clean your housing regularly

Small amounts of mold can be easily cleaned with a general household cleaner. Maintain good housekeeping practices, including cleaning your room, bed linens, clothing, and towels on a regular basis. Please see our Cleaning Tips page for suggestions on how, and how often, to clean your housing.

Additional resources and information about mold, including assessment and prevention advice, is available on the CDC's website.


What to Do if You Suspect Mold

Submit a work order

  • If you believe there is a mold or mildew issue in your room that is pervasive or resistant to removal, please report it by submitting a work order with Facilities Management (FM).
  • Providing complete and accurate information is critical in FM’s response to issues in residential buildings. When submitting a work request, be sure to include the room number, location in the room, and other details surrounding your concern.

What happens when work orders are submitted

  • FM’s customer service team centrally receives all work requests. After review and the inclusion of additional information if needed, the work request routes to the correct FM shop by location and trade.
  • Shop supervisors assign personnel to address the work, prioritizing projects by urgency. Critical incidents like fires and floods are prioritized above routine maintenance like a burned-out lightbulb or a loose floor tile.
  • A technician responds to the work request, becoming familiar with the issues, identifying needed resources to resolve them, and then performing the required work. FM strives to share specific details and progress if non-routine conditions require additional communications.

Process for mold remediation

  • Upon confirmation of mold and/or mildew, FM works to identify and eliminate the source of moisture and to disinfect the impacted surfaces.
  • When the cause of moisture is due to a building system failure, FM repairs the deficiency to prevent mold/mildew growth recurrence.
  • When the cause of moisture is not due to a building system failure, FM communicate these findings to Housing & Residence Life and/or the resident. Often, the resident needs to alter belongings in their housing or behaviors.
  • When a condition is indeterminate, UVA Environmental Health & Safety is contacted for consultation.
  • FM’s customer service team centrally receives all work requests. After review and the inclusion of additional information if needed, the work request routes to the correct FM shop by location and trade.


Mold Policy and Instances at UVA

Mold policy

  • The University follows policy SEC-023 for mold management. This policy is in place to help prevent microbial growth in University spaces and to inform next steps when a water leak or large amounts of mold are discovered.

Instances of mold

  • Out of the thousands of residences on Grounds, residents report only a handful of potential mold conditions each year.
    • Each report is tracked and investigated by FM.
    • About 10% of the reported residences have mold present, as opposed to dust or debris misidentified as mold in the service request.
    • In most cases where small amounts of mold are found, remediation involves changing behaviors (not leaving wet laundry in closets, not opening windows while the air conditioning is running, not obstructing HVAC vents, etc.).
    • In some isolated cases, a concealed plumbing leak or stopped-up drain is undiscovered and unreported until a small amount of mold is visible. In these instances, corrective action is taken to resolve the facility condition to prevent recurrence.
  • Due mainly to the proper design and professional maintenance of our buildings, no systemic issues related to mold conditions have been discovered.