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3 Signs of Black Mold and How to Get Rid of It

7 min read

Wet and slimy, black mold is not just unsightly — it’s toxic. And, if you suspect its presence in your home, you may have many questions about it. For example, what does black mold look like and is black mold vs. regular mold so much worse? Some say you can recognize it by its smell, but what does black mold smell like? Once you identify it, how do you get rid of black mold? Perhaps most critically, how can you prevent black mold in your home? Our blog post will address your questions and highlight three clear signs that alert you to the presence of black mold.

But does it matter what black mold looks like or how it smells? The thought of any type of mold growing in your home might have you reaching for the nearest scrub brush and cleaning agent. But 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 vs. regular mold poses more health risks and should be cleaned carefully.

All mold grows in areas that are warm, dark, and damp, like bathrooms or around heating and cooling units that produce condensation. So, let’s dig into what black mold looks like and how it smells so you can identify it and prevent it from contaminating your home.

What is Black Mold?

Black mold or toxic black mold is the common name for Stachybotrys chartarum. This is a microfungus that triggers a response from our immune system. Black mold worsens asthma symptoms and can trigger sneezing, coughing, watering eyes, and congestion in those without asthma. People with mold allergies or a compromised immune system can become sick from black mold.

Like other types of mold, black mold is commonly found in warm, 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.

What Does Black Mold Look Like?

While it’s very dark, it’s not a single color, as the name implies. Instead, black mold is actually very dark green, brown, or black and is wet, shiny, and slimy. Black mold often looks fuzzy. It tends to form clusters of circular spots that may have fuzzy white edges and when wiped, leaves a green stain behind.

Black Mold vs. Regular Mold

Where black mold differs from other common household molds is its reputation for being toxic. Many people refer to black mold simply as toxic mold. When left untreated, 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 at higher risk, like infants or someone with existing respiratory issues, could experience long-term health consequences from black mold exposure.

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. But before learning how to get rid of black mold, let’s be sure you can identify it. You might have a black mold problem if you notice:

1. A Musty Smell

So, what does black mold smell like? Black mold has a distinct smell. It’s often described as musty and earthy and may even smell like rotting vegetables, plants, or paper. Some think it smells like cedar.

You might notice a musty smell but cannot see any mold growing. In this case, you should look for areas that might be exposed to water. Look inside cupboards under the sink in the kitchen and bathrooms, around the base of toilets, under the refrigerator, on windowsills, on the bathroom walls and ceiling, and in the basement. 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. Multi-Colored Growth Spots

Although the name implies a uniform coloring, black mold may appear black, dark green, or dark brown. It typically grows as a cluster of round spots with a distinctly wet, slimy appearance. As stated, black mold typically appears fuzzy or furry. These are the individual spores, the instruments of mold propagation. The tiny spores are picked up by the breeze or the brush of your clothing to settle on a new surface to grow.

3. Water Damage Spots

Now that you know what black mold looks like, you’ll want to catch it before it spreads. 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 developing. Water spots might look like darker rings on your walls or ceiling. Inspect any water rings right away to help reduce the chance for mold to grow. Water damage is expensive to restore and less so the earlier it is caught. So, the sooner you spot and respond to water damage, the better off you’ll be.

How to Get Rid of Black Mold

While it’s great to learn what black mold looks like and how to recognize it by smell, all of that is in service to your primary concern: how to get rid of black mold. Depending on the severity of the 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 widespread 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
  • Goggles
  • Protective mask, preferably a dust mask
  • Long sleeves and pants or a full-body jumpsuit like a painter’s suit

Once you’re dressed to tackle the job, here’s how to get rid of black mold:

  • 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.
  • Mix a solution of five parts distilled white vinegar and five parts water to one part baking soda. Mix well and apply with a spray bottle. Saturate the mold and allow the spray to sit for 30 minutes to an hour before scrubbing with a sponge or scrub brush.
  • Get rid of any items that have 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 the fumes from your disinfectant have diminished.

Preventing Black Mold in Your Home

The best way to keep your family safe from black mold is to prevent it from growing. Since mold grows and thrives in warm, damp and 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. Consider installing a smart water sensor to watch for potential leaks. 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 the problem, the better chance you have to get rid of black mold before it causes health problems.

Another critical way to protect your home is contacting a friendly Wawanesa agent to review your homeowner’s insurance policy to be sure it’s up to date. Contact us today.

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