There’s an uninvited guest lurking in the damp corners of many homes – black mold. Not only is it unsightly, but it also poses potential health risks. Recognizing and addressing this issue in its early stages can save homeowners a lot of hassle and potential health concerns.
Mold is a common problem in many homes and other buildings. Mold spores can get inside through any kind of opening and grow when they attach to surfaces with enough moisture to support them. While many kinds of mold are not harmful to humans, all mold should be treated and cleaned to remove any kind of danger.
Removing mold, specifically black mold, doesn’t have to be too difficult as long as the right techniques and equipment are used.
What is Black Mold?
Black mold, bearing the scientific name Stachybotrys chartarum, is one of the most notorious molds among the many types that can be found indoors. Distinctive for its dark greenish-black color, this mold is more than just an unsightly spot on your wall; it’s a potential health hazard.
93% of Chronic Sinus Infections have been attributed to mold. The spores that float through the air can grow in our sinus cavities and lungs.mayoclinic.com
Like most molds, Stachybotrys chartarum has a strong affinity for damp, humid conditions. But what makes it particularly problematic is its ability to produce mycotoxins. These toxic compounds can have adverse health effects on humans and animals.
Its survival strategy involves feeding off organic materials, particularly those in household items like drywall, carpet, or insulation, especially when damp or water-damaged.
Common Residential Hotspots
While mold spores are virtually everywhere, black mold colonies tend to establish themselves in:
- Bathrooms: The constant humidity from showers and lack of adequate ventilation make bathrooms a paradise for black mold.
- Basements: Often cooler and more humid than the rest of the house, basements, especially those with poor drainage or minor flooding issues, are prime mold real estate.
- Areas of Water Damage: Whether from a leaky roof, broken pipe, or flooding, places with untreated water damage are prime candidates for black mold infestation.
Health Implications of Black Mold Exposure
The health concerns associated with black mold primarily arise from the inhalation of its spores and the mycotoxins it produces:
- Respiratory Issues: Inhaling black mold spores can lead to respiratory problems. Symptoms can range from coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath to more severe conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder in prolonged exposure cases.
- Allergic Reactions: Black mold exposure can trigger allergic responses, including sneezing, itching, rashes, watery eyes, and nasal congestion.
- Immune System Impact: For those with compromised immune systems, like the elderly or those undergoing specific medical treatments, exposure to black mold can be particularly detrimental. Their bodies might not fend off the mold spores as effectively, leading to more severe infections and complications.
- Neurological and Other Severe Symptoms: In extreme cases, the toxins produced by black mold can lead to neurological issues like dizziness, headaches, memory loss, and mood changes. There have also been cases of fatigue, nausea, and immune system suppression attributed to prolonged mold exposure.
Understanding the nature, habits, and risks of black mold is essential for every homeowner. Being informed allows for early detection, prompt action, and prevention, ensuring a healthier living environment.
Black Mold Removal
Removal should be done as soon as the mold is located within a home. Generally, there are two ways in which the mold will be discovered – either by smell or by sight. Often, mold grows in places that are usually out of sights, such as behind walls in a bathroom or a basement. In these cases, it will probably be smelt before it is seen – unless you are taking on some kind of renovation in your home.
Removing the mold is a job that you can try to handle yourself or turn over to a professional contractor. You will most likely want to hire a professional in severe black mold growth cases, while smaller cases can probably be dealt with on your own.
Regardless of which method you choose, be sure to act quickly – as long as there is some kind of water source in the area, the problem is only going to get worse as time goes by.
Preparation Before Removal
Before diving into the cleaning process, it’s crucial to gear up correctly:
- Safety First: Wear gloves, masks, and protective eyewear to prevent direct contact and inhalation.
- Ventilation: Make sure the area you’re working in is well-ventilated, ideally with an open window or fan.
- Isolate the Area: Seal off the mold-affected area, using plastic sheets if necessary, to prevent mold spores from spreading to other parts of the house.
Steps to Clean and Kill Black Mold
If you decide to handle the job yourself, the first thing you need to do is take away any water sources that have been feeding the growth of the black mold.
For example, mold growing behind the wall in a shower could be getting water from a leaky pipe or a crack in the tiling. Solve those problems first so you can be sure the mold won’t start growing back as soon as you are done cleaning it up.
Once that step is complete, you can figure out how to kill mold, and how to probably use mold killer.
Before you get into action removing the mold itself, you want to protect yourself and the rest of your home. Wear protective gear, including a respirator that is rated for black mold protection, as well as long sleeves and pants, eyewear, and anything else that will help keep mold spores off of you.
Also, try to section off the area of the home you are working on by using plastic to cover doorways and openings that could allow the mold to spread.
Just because you have tile does not save you from mold that can creep in behind.
With all of the preparations made, you can use a soapy sponge to remove the mold from the surface on which it is growing. Removing black mold from wood doesn’t need to be any more complicated than just wiping the growth off of the surface of the wood then treating it with a mold killer.
What kills mold is a combination of chemicals in the mold killer products and a lack of water in which it can grow. You can find black mold killing products at your local hardware store or online.
Whether you are trying to figure out how to remove mold from carpet or how to remove mold from wood, the basic equation is the same – clean the area, treat the area with a mold killer, and make sure there is no water source that could lead to a return of the black mold spores.
How to Test for Mold
The answer to the question of how to test for mold is really just to look for it in places where it is likely to grow. Damp, dark places such as behind walls in your bathroom or in your basement are places where you are most likely to find mold growing.
Mold testing can also be done by purchasing and using a kit in your home. Some of these kits allow for black mold tests to be done at home, while others have you send in a sample to a lab for analysis.
Obviously, sending a sample into a lab will take more time, but it might yield more accurate and detailed results than the at-home versions.
For instances where you fear there is a large amount of mold growing in your home, it might be worth the investment to call in a professional to do the testing right inside your home. This will give you the most accurate results and also help you to quickly learn if there is any danger to your health by remaining in the home.
Even though not all mold is dangerous to your health, you should treat all mold as if it is dangerous just to be safe. By paying a professional to come in and test for mold in your home, you can get a better handle on the situation and decide what steps need to be taken from there.
If you suspect that you have mold growing somewhere in your home, either because you smell it or see a small spot of it, you will want to test to make sure that you do, in fact, have a mold issue.
In fact, using your nose and your eyes are some of the most-effective tests for mold that you can do. If your home smells moldy, or you are seeing signs that there is mold growth in damp areas, chances are good that you do have a problem that needs to be dealt with.
What is The Best Product to Kill Black Mold?
Most products can be easily found at most hardware stores, and they can be ordered online as well. The important thing to consider when getting ready to do a mold cleaning is to make sure you have the right products for the job and that you have enough to completely clean all affected areas.
Cleaning mold cannot be done halfway because you are then likely to have a recurrence of the problem. Household mold should be taken seriously and done properly to prevent the issue from coming back.
The type of products that you want to use depends on what kind of surface you have mold growing on. For example, when mold is found growing on finished or treated wood, it is likely that the mold is only growing on the surface.
However, with unfinished wood, the mold may have worked its way into the wood itself and will need to be more aggressively treated in order to be eliminated. Therefore, you have to pick the right products based on the situation at hand.
For finished wood that simply needs mold removed, there are a variety of household solutions that you can use, including distilled vinegar or a mix of water and household detergent. When you need to get into unfinished wood to actually kill off the mold, you will be better off with a commercial product that is designed for the job.
Be sure to always read the instructions on any commercial mold cleaner and use it in the manner that it was intended. DIY removal is a job to be taken seriously, so don’t cut corners in order to save a little time or effort. Be thorough in your work so you can feel confident that you won’t have to deal with this problem again in the future.
The mold removal cost depends greatly on the size of the problem you have and where it is located in your home. If you have to open up walls to get to the mold, you will need to consider both the cost and the cost of repairs to your home once the mold is removed. Getting rid of the black mold is an important and urgent job, but you also want to take care of it as affordably as possible.
If you choose to do it yourself, the costs will be relatively small. You may be able to treat the problem with products you already have around the house. If you decide to purchase a commercial mold cleaning product, that cost will range from around $10 up to $50 or more. Additionally, any work that needs to be done to repair walls or carpet, or fixes water leaks, will add to your total removal cost.
For a large mold project that requires the use of a professional service company, you could be looking at spending anywhere from several hundred dollars to several thousand.
Again, this cost will vary greatly depending on the specifics of the job, so try to get at least two or three bids for the work before you select a company. Large-scale mold cleanup can get expensive, but making your home a safe place for you and your family to live is necessary.
Preventing Future Mold Growth
To ensure black mold doesn’t make a comeback:
- Keep your home, especially prone areas, as dry as possible. Use dehumidifiers and promptly address any leaks or seepages.
- Regularly inspect areas like bathrooms and basements.
- Ensure your home is well-ventilated. Encourage the circulation of fresh air and let sunlight in.
- Consider using mold-resistant paints and products when refurbishing or renovating.
Additional Tips and Tricks
- Invest in a humidity meter to keep track of moisture levels in your home.
- Essential oils like tea tree and clove can act as natural mold deterrents.
- Incorporate routine checks into your spring and fall cleaning schedules.
Sometimes, the mold situation can be too overwhelming for a DIY approach. If the mold covers a large area, or if, after cleaning, it keeps returning, it’s time to call in the experts. Professional mold remediators have the equipment and know-how to address extensive mold infestations. When seeking out services, always check for credentials and customer reviews.
Black mold is a silent invader that can sneak up if conditions in a home are conducive. While small patches can be tackled hands-on, prevention remains the best strategy. Regularly check, clean, and dry areas prone to moisture. Don’t hesitate to seek professional help if the situation demands it.