Mold is something you should never overlook in your home. When you spot it, it’s important to take the necessary steps to remove it as quickly as possible. But tackling the issue of mold growth isn’t always simple to do. There are certain types that are easier to get rid of than others. In fact, some mold can be toxic so it’s not even a good idea to attempt removing it but should be left strictly to experts.
It’s crucial to address mold issues quickly because not only does it destroy parts of your home, but it can even lead to serious illnesses. To know how to best combat mold, you have to know how to identify it. From there, you can determine if you can take care of the problem yourself or call a professional.
What is Mold?
Mold is a type of fungi that thrives in dark, damp areas. It releases spores, which travel through the air, and that is how it spreads. There are thousands of species of mold: Some are harmless, while others can be toxic.
Mold can have a fuzzy, raised appearance or look slimy. It also can come in a broad spectrum of colors from red and yellow to green and black. Still, that isn’t a reliable way to determine the species. Stachybotrys Chartarum, commonly called black mold, is a toxic type that can lead to respiratory issues if its spores are inhaled. It sometimes can look like a blackish-green color. You can buy an at-home black mold testing kit if you suspect this could be an issue.
For the most part, if you have a problem with mold, you may be able to smell a musty, earthy odor so follow your nose to see if you can find the source. Other clues could be the presence of water staining, warping, and dampness. Oftentimes, mold can be mistaken for dirt, so try this simple test: Place a drop of bleach on the spot; if the color lightens in a minute or two, it’s mold.
You can hire a professional inspector to test the mold in your house but know that this can be expensive. Unless you need documentation for insurance or legal reasons, the EPA says that testing is generally not necessary. Usually, the recommendation is that if you have an area of 10 square feet that is growing mold, hire a remediation service to remove it because exposure to those levels can be dangerous.
To start the process of getting rid of mold in your home, it is good to know its favorite spots: moisture-rich places with poor ventilation. It also likes to grow where water was once sitting, as is the case when you’ve had a flood or a leaky pipe. Here are a few common areas you can find mold:
- Near pipes
- Laundry room
- Crawl spaces
- Inside HVAC system
Mold is dangerous because it shows up in obvious spots like a steamy shower, but also might be lurking in some places you may not expect. And if you don’t know where to look for it, it can go unchecked and leave you and your family vulnerable to prolonged exposure, which can have toxic effects on the body. Here are a few less common places where mold may grow in your home.
- Refrigerator drip pans
- Carpet padding
- Behind baseboards and wall cavities
- Underneath and around appliances
- Windowsills and panes
- Between flooring and subfloors
- Behind cabinets
- Inside sump pumps
First things first: You should take steps to fix the water or moisture problem. Then you should remove the mold. Otherwise, your cleanup efforts will be in vain and the mold will simply return.
It’s also important to take precautions and wear protective gear like elbow-length household rubber gloves, goggles, and an N-95 face mask to limit exposure to mold spores. If possible, open a window and/or run an exhaust fan to help move spores out of the room. Be sure to close the door or hang plastic sheets to limit spores from entering other areas of the house.
The CDC provides an enormous amount of information on how to clean up and remediate mold in your home. But one way you can remove mold from a surface of your home in which mold hasn’t penetrated and taken root is to use household products.
Items or surfaces that are non-porous don’t absorb water, such as counters, tile, metal, glass, plastic, or ceramics. There are a few different solutions that could work. For each, spritz the affected area, then let it sit for 15 minutes to an hour. For tougher stains, you may need to scrub them with a brush. Then wipe the area with water and a clean rag and let dry completely.
• Undiluted white vinegar alone
• One cup of bleach mixed with a gallon of water
• 50-50 mixture of ammonia and water
Whatever solution you use, remember never to mix bleach and ammonia together. Also, don’t mix bleach with vinegar or ammonia with vinegar. These combinations can create dangerous fumes.
Porous surfaces, like carpeting, wallpaper, textiles, and ceiling tiles, can absorb mold into its small openings. This can make cleaning mold on these surfaces extremely difficult, and sometimes impossible. Your safest bet may be to discard the damaged material and replace it. Though you may be able to remove mold from wood as well as remove mold from drywall.
To prevent the redistribution of mold spores, it’s crucial to dispose of the cleaning materials properly. Put all used rags, sponges, brushes, and gloves in a heavy-duty garbage bag and keep it tightly closed outside or in the garage until trash day. You also want to make sure to immediately launder the clothes you are wearing in their own separate load in the washing machine with hot water in order to avoid contaminating other garments in the hamper.
It’s tricky to differentiate between types of mold and know for sure if what’s present in your house is toxic. But generally, if the area affected by mold is greater than 10 square feet (about 3 feet by 3 feet), that is a clear sign to let a professional handle the removal process. And if you have a compromised immune system or respiratory issues, it’s also wise to hire an expert.
A professional mold remediation service will not only eliminate the present mold problem but will also minimize the chances of it recurring in the future. They can also provide you with tips on how to keep mold out of your home in the future.
It’s important to do your research. Search the accredited organizations below to find a top-rated inspector or remediator in your area, and be sure to cross-reference your potential picks against the Better Business Bureau as well as online reviews.
- Indoor Air Quality Association (IAQA)
- American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA)
- National Organization of Remediators and Mold Inspectors (NORMI)
- National Association of Mold Remediators and Inspectors (NAMRI)
As with all home maintenance companies you hire, choose the best of three and narrow down your choices based on your specific criteria and your budget. You can expect to pay, on average, between $10 and $25 per square foot for mold remediation. However, in extreme cases, you may have to pay upwards of several thousand dollars if your entire home is affected. In the worst cases, you may have to move out of your home permanently to protect your family’s health.
Mold is all around us in nature, much the same way germs and bacteria are. But there are a few ways to stop toxic mold before it has a chance to grow. Follow these guidelines for keeping this hazardous microorganism out of your house.
- Minimize long, steamy showers, and be sure to run the exhaust fan.
- Clean up large water spills immediately.
- Try to discover the source of unusual odors immediately, particularly musty, damp smells similar to wet socks.
- Remove and replace water-damaged items in the home, especially any type of flooring, carpet, or rugs.
- Use a moisture meter to periodically test the moisture levels in different areas of your home.
- Check that your HVAC system has proper moisture levels with regular annual inspections.
- Be on the lookout for signs of wet wood, such as termites. Get to the source of this problem immediately: Clear the infestation and remove the rotted wood.
- Ensure crawl spaces are properly aerated.
- If you see any evidence of efflorescence, take action quickly. This white chalky, powder-like substance typically grows on walls or floors, oftentimes in damp basements. It can turn into a mold problem or indicate one is present. First, you must remove the source of the moisture, then try dry brushing the efflorescence off with a strong brush, rinse with water, and dry thoroughly.
- Avoid storing cardboard boxes on cement floors.
- If your clothing has been exposed to mold spores, wash it in its own separate load in the washing machine to keep the mold spores from spreading to other clothing.
- Install exhaust fans in high-moisture rooms, like bathrooms, the kitchen, and the laundry room. Run a dehumidifier in damp areas, like the basement.
Adverse reactions to mold exposure can lead to an allergic reaction with coughing and/or wheezing, asthma, or a respiratory infection like the cold or flu. Other symptoms may be a skin rash on parts of the body or muscle soreness that is similar to the pain felt by those who suffer from fibromyalgia. Those who are most susceptible are infants, children, seniors and those suffering from pre-existing respiratory illnesses or who have compromised immune systems are more susceptible. If you notice any of these symptoms and you suspect that mold may be the culprit, the best thing to do is to consult a physician who can administer the appropriate tests and treatments.
Home inspectors will always be on the lookout for signs of mold during an inspection. However, if mold is beneath the surface, they may not be able to detect it because they aren’t required to open walls or look behind cabinets.
So, if you want to be doubly safe that your home is free from mold, it is a smart idea to set up a separate mold inspection. After all, once you purchase the home, any problems you find behind the walls are yours, and you may not be able to recoup any money or get help from insurance to fight the mold problem.
What Do You Do If You Have Mold and Water Damage?
Unfortunately, removing toxic mold may be challenging if your home is inundated with water. If the water damage is due to an accident in your home, such as a flooded toilet or a burst pipe, your homeowner’s insurance may cover its removal. However, you may have difficulty getting insurance to cover it if it is due to negligence. Also, if the mold is due to a natural disaster that causes flooding and you don’t have flood insurance, mold isn’t covered either. In the most extreme cases of mold buildup, you may be better off moving away from your home if it causes health problems.