Discovering mold growing in your home can be scary. Stachybotrys chartarum, or black mold, carries the most infamous association with toxicity and serious health concerns. Although referred to as black mold, it tends to have a dark green or dark brown tint to the slimy spores that grow along damp areas. Since it does share similarities with other species of mold, a mold exposure test is the only definitive way to determine if you are dealing with a black mold infestation.
7 Steps to Deal With Black Mold
Removing black mold is no small task, simply for the precautions that must be taken to avoid further spreading spores and for the need to thoroughly clean the area. Here are seven steps to follow when addressing contamination.
First start by taking precautions for your own health and safety. Select work clothes and shoes that you will be okay with throwing away after the cleanup is completed. You will need a special mask, such as a P-100 or N-95. You should also have gloves and goggles. In addition to personal protective equipment, you should set up an old fan or purchase a cheap new one to use while you will be working. It will be nearly impossible to clean the spores from the fan when you are done, so be prepared to part with it when you are done.
You will also need to prepare the area. Control the spread of airborne spores by taping cardboard or another protective covering over the windows or doorways. Leave one window open for the fan and room ventilation. Have plenty of trash bags on hand in order to bag up any mold-infested debris or materials. Have the air conditioner or furnace turned off in order to prevent spores from traveling through the ductwork, and tape the vents off as well. Lastly, have a wet/dry vacuum on hand for the cleanup.
There are many places where mold spores can hide, whether there is a noticeable presence of the growth or not. Carpet that is stained or contaminated needs to be removed. Cut the carpet into manageable sections with a utility knife and have the pieces double-bagged and sealed. Items that can’t be properly laundered or cleaned will need to be disposed of as well. Upholstered furnishing, stuffed animals, or other porous surfaces need to be thrown away. While you are cleaning, spray down surfaces with water to help control the spread of mold spores.
If you have seen evidence of black mold on the drywall or on any surfaces, you need to find out how deep the infestation has gone. Probe through heavily stained walls or flooring with a screwdriver to see how much moisture damage has occurred. Do the same thing to mark on the ceiling or coming through the vents. Ductwork and insulation can hide moisture and mold. Baseboards and trim should be removed if heavy water damage has occurred as well. You can’t leave any trace of mold spores in the house, so discovering how deep the problem goes is an important step.
Just as you did for the carpet or other contaminated items, spray down any portion of the building materials that you will be removing. It is important to be thorough, so don’t try to minimize the damage that you will be creating when removing drywall, flooring, or ceiling tiles. Not only does removing these materials take out the mold, but it also helps dry out any moisture that may be lurking in these areas. Continue to bag the moldy materials and seal them shut before taking them out of the room.
Your removal process may lead to the discovery of wood rot or serious deterioration in the building materials. Wall sheathing and soft studs will need to be removed. If it will be hard to remove some of the materials, treat the area with a wood preservative. Allow it to dry thoroughly before using pressure-treated wood to add an extra layer of strength and support.
After removing and bagging the large items, vacuum up the remaining debris. If you want to be certain that you avoid further spore spread, leave the vacuum outside, and run an extra-long length of hose out the window for cleanup. After you are done using the vacuum, you will need to wash out the hose, tank, and attachments with bleach water.
You can use a commercial grade cleaner, but you can also make a solution out of one-quart water and half a cup of bleach. Many use bleach to kill black mold on hard, non-porous surfaces. Bleach is inexpensive, making it a prime choice. However, bleach doesn’t always reach down to the root of mold growth in porous surfaces like wood, cement, or unsealed tile grout. Tea tree oil, white vinegar, and hydrogen peroxide can be alternatives to bleach. All of these target the roots of spore growth and make an effective, lasting solution.
You will need to spend a great deal of time thoroughly scrubbing the contaminated areas with your chosen mold cleaner. Take a soft brush and scrub the area until signs of the mold have begun to disappear. You can use the flat side of a putty knife to scrape away large growths but be sure these are vacuumed up or cleaned up into a garbage bag. Even though the stain begins to come clean, allow the cleaning solution to sit and penetrate the surface.
Do not use a spray bottle to remove the cleaning solution. Trying to rinse off the solution could create more problems with mold. Once your solution has set for at least 10 or 15 minutes, wipe down the area with a clean cloth. Set a fan in the area to help dry the surfaces and increase the ventilation. Any materials that can be left in the sun to dry should be taken outside. You should also put a dehumidifier in the area for at least three days to create a drier environment.
After several days have passed, re-enter the area and check the materials for both sight and smell of mold. If mold is still present, you can repeat the cleaning step. However, black mold needs to be handled by a professional remediation team. Once you are sure that the mold has been taken care of, it is important to seal the surfaces with shellac or primer. When you are ready to repaint any repaired drywall, consider using latex paint that contains a mildewcide in order to prevent future mold growth.
How Black Mold Effects Your Health
Black mold can instigate a number of health problems and allergic reactions, with symptoms and side effects that become more severe as exposure increases or the presence of mold spores rapidly multiply. The number of spores inhaled has a significant impact on how a body will react, but more mild symptoms include irritation to the eyes, a runny nose, a persistent cough, or sneezing. As exposure continues, the symptoms can grow to include skin conditions or rashes, acute or chronic respiratory illness such as asthma, inflammation of the mucous membranes, chronic fatigue, muscle weakness, and cognitive decline.
The most severe consequences of black mold exposure can be toxic. Individuals can experience nausea, bleeding in the lungs, or tremors. These conditions can overlap with other illnesses, often making it difficult for you or your physician to pinpoint the origins of the problem. There are tests that can determine if the conditions are the result of mold exposure, like a blood test or an allergy skin prick test.
Black Mold is A Problem
In addition to the serious health concerns presented by black mold, the nature of the growth, the location, and the source of the moisture in the air make it more difficult to address. The damage of the infestation may mean that pieces of drywall need to be removed or carpet replaced. Ventilation in a basement or crawlspace may not be adequate to prevent moisture and humidity from building up. The serious nature of black mold calls for a serious and immediate response. Failing to take care of the problem at the source and removing the growth is only setting yourself up for another mold incident later on.
If the infestation is minor, then it is possible that you can adequately handle cleaning the black mold from the contaminated area. For more severe infestations, you should consider hiring mold remediating and removal specialists.
The Growth of Black Mold
There are over 100 types of mold present in the U.S., and your home, apartment, or office could be host to any number of them. The conditions for growing mold are generally the same, regardless of what strain of mold you are dealing with, and the speed at which black mold grows can vary. Black mold can be found where there is a damp, moist environment with plenty of organic material for the mold to feed on. Water leaks in the attic could cause spores to colonize on the beams, or the winter Christmas tree could harbor mold spores that are released into the home and make their way into the HVAC ductwork.
Crawlspaces and basements are notorious for black mold growth given the sources of moisture that are found within. However, any damp, humid, and warm space can become a breeding ground for growth. The dark black nature is typically an indicator that distinguishes toxic severity. Another indicator is smell. Mold growth can have a terrible musty odor. If you want to be sure about the species you are dealing with, consider an at-home testing kit or call in a professional environmentalist to test the air quality for the presence of spores.
The Prevention of Mold Growth
No matter how thoroughly you may have cleaned, this does not mean you have you completed mold remediation. By knowing the source of the mold, you can prevent the cause. Controlling the moisture in the air is key in preventing mold growth. Water damage from severe flooding or an unrepaired leak can bring on a sudden growth of mold, but usually, mold infestations occur more subtly. Poor ventilation in certain locations contributes to a build-up of moisture. Poor drainage around the foundation of a house contributes to overrunning basement windows or vents with water.
The best defense against black mold starts with a good offense. Start by keeping the humidity level in your home as low as possible. Using a dehumidifier or running an air conditioner can help achieve a 50% or less humidity level. You can also purchase a meter to measure the humidity level at a hardware store. In addition to keeping down the moisture in the air, make sure the air flows freely throughout the house. Use exhaust fans in the bathrooms, kitchen, or laundry areas. Have the dryer vent to the outside of the home and not a basement or garage.
Address maintenance needs as quickly as you can. Tiles or shingles that blow off the roof can allow drips or leaks into the attic. Downed tree limbs can puncture holes in the siding or roofing. The seals around the windows or doors can leak. Any signs of water entering the home need to be addressed right away. Even a small leak will create moisture concerns.
Though you may be able to handle the mold removal process, black mold is a serious situation that needs to be addressed by those who have experience in remediation services. Thorough mold removal requires protective gear, strong cleaning solutions, and specific equipment. The removal of mold by professionals is the safest, most effective way of dealing with this dangerous contaminant.
Hiring a professional mold inspector will give you peace of mind. Being in a position where you are uncertain as to the toxicity of mold in your residence can be extremely stressful.
At moldremediation.io, we pride ourselves on being quick, thorough and effective in how we communicate the mold remediation tests that we perform for our homeowner clients.