It is amazing that we need water so much for our everyday living, to nourish our body, to clean ourselves and our environment. It is also amazing what damage it can do if it gets into and is left in the wrong places. The common thread for almost all life forms is water or at least some moisture.
Why am I delving into the area of science here? The answer is that water is also an important requirement for mildew and mold to grow. The spores that can produce mold are everywhere in our environment. The are fellow inhabitants of the earth far more numerous than us. When they have all the ingredients they need to proliferate, they do with a vengeance. The mold spores are microscopic and are everywhere. It is when they colonize that we are able to see the effects. And some feel the effects more than others, when their immune system over-reacts to the off-gassing of the mold colonies. A water event is the time that you have all four conditions for mold to start and grow way out of control, lack of air movement, lack of light, a food source, and water.
In a wet carpet for instance, there is no air movement or light underneath. The small amount of dirt found in the fibers or even the cotton or jute backing makes for an excellent food source. And finally the water makes the recipe complete for disaster. In a wall, there again, the same ingredients, except the paper on the sheetrock, the latex paint, and the wood itself becomes the fodder for the opportunist mold to come together to be the visible green or black splotches that we see.
Current scientific belief is that if the water source is from clean (uncontaminated) source, you have about 24 hours before the molds get their act together, and start to cause problems. The mold colonies can become visible in another 24 hours. (48-72 hours from the addition of water.)
Mold damage can be devastating, and measures should be taken to avoid its occurrence. The most important measures are maintaining proper levels of temperature and relative humidity, good circulation of air, and clean, clutter-free storage areas. Ideally temperature should never go above 70°F or relative humidity above 50%.
The higher the temperature and humidity, the greater the risk of mold. If a water-related emergency occurs, such as a flood or fire, wet materials should be dealt with immediately before mold growth develops. Once mold growth appears, the affected contents should be isolated from the rest of the environment. Special gloves and respirator should be worn when handling moldy materials. The items should be dried thoroughly and, once dry, the mold should be removed from them. A water damage restoration specialist should be contacted for advice on how best to deal with this particular situation.