Do you know if there’s mold in your home? Mold grows in areas that are dark and damp, like bathrooms or around heating and cooling units that produce condensation.
The thought of any type of mold growing in your home might have you reaching for the nearest scrub brush and cleaning agent. Before you start scrubbing, be sure to evaluate what type of mold you’re facing. While you don’t want any mold in your house, black mold may pose more health risks than other types.
Learn more about black mold so you can identify it and prevent it from contaminating your home.
What is Black Mold?
Like other types of mold, black mold is commonly found in dark, humid areas of homes. It releases spores into the air that you can absorb through your skin or breathe in. These spores can also catch a ride from you to other areas, spreading it throughout your home.
Where black mold differs from other common household molds, however, is its reputation for being toxic. Many people refer to black mold simply as toxic mold. When left alone, black mold can cause serious health issues, especially for high-risk individuals.
The most common health issues from black mold are respiratory. You might experience coughing, sneezing or an itchy throat after prolonged exposure to black mold spores. People who are at higher risk, like infants or someone with existing respiratory issues, could experience long-term health consequences.
Signs of Black Mold
The best way to reduce your risk of breathing in black mold spores is to eradicate it when you find it. You’ll need to know how to identify it so you can determine how to remove it. You might have a black mold problem if you notice:
1. A Musty Smell
Mold has a distinct smell. It’s often described as musty and earthy, and may even smell like rotting vegetables or plants.
You might notice a musty smell, but not be able to see any mold growing. In this case, you should look for areas that might be exposed to water. Mold needs moisture to grow. If you’re smelling mold in a usually dry area, you might have water damage or a leaking pipe.
Consider asking a friend to give your house a sniff with a fresh nose if you suspect mold but can’t smell it. Your nose is likely to get used to the smells of your home, even if those smells are less than pleasant. An outsider should be able to smell the mold if you can’t because your nose has adjusted to it.
2. Growth Spots of Varying Colors
Black mold, as the name implies, is often dark in color. When searching for black mold, look for circular-shaped spots that are black, dark green or dark brown. Some black mold can also take on shades of orange or have flecks of white within it.
Most of the time, black mold has a slightly furry appearance. Larger growths of mold may appear as a black stain that stretches along your wall, floor or ceiling.
3. Water Damage Spots
To catch black mold early on, look for water damage spots. Did you recently have a pipe burst or find a leak in your roof? These can quickly become breeding grounds for black mold spores.
Any time you find water leaks or signs of water damage, there’s the possibility of mold. Water spots might look like darker rings or your walls or ceiling. Inspect any water rings right away to help reduce the chance for mold to grow.
How to Get Rid of Black Mold
Depending on the severity of your black mold infestation, you can either clean it yourself or hire a professional. Hiring a professional is more expensive, but it prevents you from being exposed to the mold while trying to remove it. You’ll probably want to hire a professional cleaner if you have wide-spread growth in multiple rooms.
If you choose to remove the black mold yourself, be sure to take the proper safety precautions. You want to avoid letting mold spores touch your skin or breathing them in by wearing:
- Latex gloves
- Protective mark, preferably a dust mask
- Long sleeves and pants, or a full-body jumpsuit like a painter’s suit
Once you’re dressed to tackle black mold, follow these steps to remove small infestations:
- Close off the area with the black mold. Spores can drift through the air and end up in other areas of your home. Consider taping paper or plastic over vents and setting up a fan to blow air through an open window and out of your home.
- Use soap, water and a scrub brush or sponge to scrub the mold from surfaces. Get rid of any items that have the mold, such as old towels or toiletries.
- Disinfect the area where you found the mold with a strong disinfectant, such as hydrogen peroxide or white vinegar. Bleach can also work, but you should use caution and be sure to dilute it. Bleach can potentially cause burns on your skin and irritate your eyes.
- After clearing the mold, open the area up and ventilate it as much as you can. Try to avoid the area until fumes from your disinfectant have diminished.
Preventing Mold in Your Home
The best way to keep your family safe from black mold is to prevent it from growing. Since mold grows in damp, dark places, you should aim to improve ventilation and reduce humidity in areas that are prone to mold.
In your bathrooms, for example, you can use a shower squeegee to remove excess water from shower walls and bathroom mirrors. You can also install a vent fan or open a window when showering to allow humidity to leave the room. These steps help reduce the moisture in your bathroom and make it more difficult for black mold to grow.
Make searching for black mold or potential growth areas a part of your spring cleaning routine. The sooner you catch a mold growth, the better chance you have to get rid of it before it causes health problems.