Mold & Mildew Prevention

What to Know

  • Molds produce allergens, but like any other allergen, exposed individuals will respond differently.
  • If you are having symptoms you believe may be the result of mold allergens, make an appointment with University Health Services.
  • The EPA reports that “there is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment; the way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture.”
  • UW–Madison has a Mold Management Plan in place to identify and treat areas of potential mold growth.

Learn More from the EPA

Molds are part of the natural environment and can be found everywhere, indoors and outdoors. Mold is not usually a problem unless it begins growing indoors.

The best way to control mold growth is to control moisture. The EPA provides guidance about mold and moisture for homes, schools, multifamily and commercial buildings.

EPA Guidance on Mold

Tips for Controlling Moisture

  • Open a window slightly to allow outside air to circulate.
  • Do not place furniture or other items in front of heating and cooling units that can obstruct airflow.
  • Do not place potted plants or any other source of moisture on or around heating and cooling units.
  • Circulate air with a small portable fan.
  • Dry laundry completely before bringing it into your room.
  • Empty your room and bathroom trash on a regular basis. Do not let it accumulate in your room.
  • Keep the door open when you are in the room and not sleeping.
  • Wipe up spills promptly.
  • Follow additional tips on air quality for residence hall rooms, provided by the UW–Madison department of Environment, Health & Safety.


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Is there any mold in any residence hall?

Yes, and in every other building you normally occupy, including your home, and outside, all the time. Mold spores are always present in outside air and indoor air, except in sterile environments such as certain laboratories and medical spaces.

Is there a mold problem in a specific residence hall?

No. Although occasionally moisture issues with sporadic areas of growth are found, repeated inspections have confirmed that there are no systemic water intrusion or mold problems in our halls.

Are the dark spots on any surface mold?

Maybe. Mold spores are always floating in the air and will grow when they have the right amount of moisture. Condensation around windows or on pipe insulation, for example, can allow certain types of fungus to grow. What you see could also just be dirt, dust, and particulates that settle and collect on those surfaces.

If these spots are mold, are they dangerous?

Almost certainly not. We all breathe and touch many types of microscopic mold spores every day and the great majority of people have no reactions. Some people who have chronic respiratory issues, such as asthma, who are already sick, or who are immuno-compromised, may have reactions to certain types of mold.

What should I do to report mold?

If you think there is a mold issue in your room, you should immediately report the issue by submitting a maintenance request to University Housing to ensure tracking and follow-up.

How do University Housing staff respond to a mold report?

  • Staff members who are trained to identify and assess mold quickly and promptly check the area in question.
  • If mold is found, University Housing’s mold protocol is activated. Developed in conjunction with industrial hygienists from University of Wisconsin–Madison Environmental Health and Safety, all practices in the plan are in line with guidelines provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
  • UW–Madison has several methods of responding to reports of mold growth, in accordance with University Housing’s mold protocol:
    • Affected areas are cleaned and treated with products that have mold inhibitors.
    • When mold growth requires complex or sizable (greater than 10 sq ft) remediation, the University works with an approved third party abatement contractor to address the issue.

Are more students sick this year than in past years?

University Health Services (UHS) providers specialize in college health and common illnesses encountered in a university setting. The UHS epidemiologist tracks these illnesses closely and looks for meaningful trends that might need closer investigation, which is one reason why it is beneficial for students to seek care at UHS. University Health Services (UHS) frequently sees patients concerned about common seasonal illnesses such as the flu, “stomach bugs” and respiratory illnesses that might affect their ability to keep up with academic commitments and social activities. UHS tracks these illnesses closely and looks for any meaningful trends.

One of the challenges of being a student on a college campus is exposure to illnesses among friends, classmates and hallmates. Communal living environments – as well as busy, active lifestyles – contribute to college students’ risk of contracting common contagious illnesses.

Has UW–Madison looked at how other schools address mold?

Yes. Staff at UW–Madison have been in contact with several universities and learned that our procedures are similar to theirs.

Is mold an allergen?

Mold produces allergens, but like any other allergen, exposed individuals will respond differently. Some may have no reaction, some may experience hay fever-type symptoms, and others may experience more significant symptoms. It is important to keep in mind that many students new to Wisconsin will experience seasonal allergy symptoms, even without a prior history of this condition. Symptoms typically will arise during the first or second year at UW–Madison. Having never experienced problems with seasonal allergies, many students may attribute these symptoms to a sinus infection or become concerned that there is mold in their residence hall.

Are there government regulations specifying how the University treats mold?

Mold is not regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Mold is a natural byproduct of various conditions, often occurring in warm and moist environments where there is abundant vegetation such as trees, landscaping plants, and ground coverings. According to the EPA, mold cannot be totally eliminated in the environment unless extreme measures are taken constantly, as would be the case in a “clean room” laboratory.

What might contribute to indoor mold growth when found on campus?

Indoor sources for mold have been linked to indoor moisture and lack of air movement. In the past, leaking pipes, standing water, damp clothing or towels, and condensation in the area have been contributing factors. Furniture very close to walls or blocking heating/cooling units have also led to increased moisture due to lack of air flow. The University is equally concerned about finding the source of the mold and cleaning it. If mold can be prevented by taking certain steps, the University will do so.