Have you ever experienced those annoying sneezing fits? You know, that moment when you thought that big, shameful sneeze you just did was the last of it, only to be immediately followed by another sneeze. And another. And then another one.
Most of the time, it’s easy to identify what caused it. Dirt, dust, your beloved pets, flowers, the list goes on. But if you keep sneezing at home and you can’t really identify what’s causing it, there is a likely culprit you may not be aware of – black mold.
On this page:
- What Does Black Mold Look Like? How to Identify it in Your Home
- Signs of Black Mold
- The Difference Between Black Mold and Mildew
- Black Mold vs. Regular Mold
- Health Effects of Toxic Black Mold Exposure
- How to Test for Black Mold
- How to Get Rid of Black Mold in the Shower or on Wood
- How Long Does It Take for Black Mold to Grow?
- Does Bleach Kill Mold?
- How to Prevent Black Mold
- Black Mold in the Air Conditioner
- Get Free Quotes for Professional Mold Testing by Companies Near You
As homeowners, we know that they are a monstrosity. No one likes to see black spots randomly appearing all over the walls and ceilings. Unfortunately, this is one commonly underestimated issue. As a result, they treat it more as a nuisance that they can live with – they are not willing to spend money to get professionals to remove with.
There is more to black molds than an eyesore and causing allergic reactions. Read on to find out why you should get them removed ASAP.
What Does Black Mold Look Like? How to Identify it in Your Home
Would you believe that having molds at home are more common than you think? In fact, a study conducted back in 2003 by the University of Arizona led to the discovery that a whopping 100% of homes have mold infestations.
That’s right, we all have molds growing right at home and we are likely not aware of it.
But before you panic and run around your house to find where the mold is, you need to know that not all molds that grow at home are hazardous. Of course, you need to get them removed when you see them but out of all the different kinds of molds out there, it is the presence of toxic black mold that you should truly concern yourself with.
Contrary to popular belief, toxic black mold is not completely black – it is distinguishable by its greenish-black hue. Some types of mold look alike because of their colors but the dreaded black mold is distinctive because of its color. Do note that the lighter its color, the more newly established it is.
Some types of mold also form into various geometric shapes, but most of the time they are circular. Black mold, in general, is an exception. Aside from being circular, it can also look like streaky lines or randomly-shaped clusters.
Damp or humid parts of any home are the perfect breeding grounds for mold. This makes any part of your home that gets a lot of moisture a possible breeding ground. But, toxic black molds will thrive in any material where nitrogen is low but cellulose is high at the same time.
While toxic black mold may be found in any damp space in your home, these spots are where you can usually see them:
- Drywall, potentially on both sides
- Attic and crawl space
- Wood, including paneling
- Ceiling tiles
- Bathroom, including the shower, sink drain, and the toilet & toilet tank
- Furniture, especially those that are upholstered or use fabric
- Interior sills or frames of windows
- Air ducts
- Items that are made up of paper, including books and wallpaper
- Gypsum board
- Dusty spots
- Materials for insulation
Signs of Black Mold
Let’s face it – mold growth is not easy to find. And when we finally discover its presence, it is already too late because it has become widespread. The only way to prevent mold from reproducing is to discover it as soon as it starts growing. And we can only do that if we expect every inch of our homes every day, which is impossible. No one has time for that.
On the plus side, there are some other signs that you can watch out for to prevent the black mold infestation in your home from worsening. This means you can be alerted to its presence in your home even before you actually see it.
Presence of Leaks
Again, any surface that is damp or stays wet for a significant amount of time will attract the growth of mold. A perfect candidate for this is any area in your home where water leaks are present.
This is why it is highly encouraged that you get any kind of leaks in your home fixed as soon as you see them. If not, expect mold to make its appearance sometime later. So, if you see any leaks at home, also check if mold is already present anywhere near it.
More often than not, they develop in any basement with a leaking water heater or plumbing system. Bathrooms and kitchens are also usual areas where they appear. And if your ceiling has watermarks and black spots, the mold may be growing due to a roof leak.
Condensation is Evident
Leaks are not the only thing you need to be conscious of – any sign of excess moisture or humidity should also be dealt with immediately. This is evident in windows and pipes made of metal. Too much condensation is also a culprit for mold growth.
Your Home has Experienced Flooding
Basements plus floods? Such a horrible combination. After all, dealing with its aftermath means all-day cleanups, discarding your water-damaged belongings that are no longer useable, and drying the entire space out before you use it again to store your stuff.
The drying part is something that some homeowners don’t take seriously. They start returning their stuff back to where they were placed as soon as they see most of the spaces have dried up. Unfortunately, they neglect areas that are still wet, not to mention the floors or walls. This increases the likelihood of having mold in your basement.
Paint on the Walls or Ceiling is Damaged
Sometimes, leaks can cause the paint to form bubbles or bulges. When this happens, it is likely that there is water inside. Also, water can cause the paint to start cracking or even peel off. And when you see any of these, watch out for the growth of mold.
Watermarks and Dark Rings are Present
If there is water damage or buildup somewhere in your home, usually on the walls or ceilings, you will see water spots or rings. When these marks are present, you may eventually see mold nearby because these marks will not usually appear until the water has pooled there for some time.
You Smell Something Musty
Not a lot of people know that mold emits a certain scent as well. So, what does it smell like?
The scent of mold is something that is quite pungent. It is something musty and reminiscent of the smell of leaves that are decomposing and dirt, or even socks that are wet. Disgusting.
This smell is due to the gas known as MVOC, or microbial volatile organic compound, that it emits. This scent is not subtle at all, and you will immediately smell the difference when you enter a room with a mold infestation. If the mold is located in a room with an air conditioner, its smell can even travel throughout your home via the ventilation systems.
Respiratory Issues are Becoming Common to Your Household
This is the most unfortunate effect of having mold in your home. If you noticed that you or other members of your household show signs of allergies, headaches, itchy and watery eyes, respiratory issues, and other health issues but you can’t pinpoint what caused them, the presence of mold may be the likely culprit that triggers it, and ensuring good air quality is often something that people forget the importance of.
Mold Growth is Obvious
What’s the most telltale sign that mold is present in your home? It’s when you see it. Any dark spot that suddenly appeared, especially in places that often get wet, should be checked out. It’s likely mold.
You’re mistaken if you think mold will only grow on the drywall or ceiling of your home. If you see black spots on your furniture or carpet that got spilled on by water, or even your wet or damp clothes that you tossed in your laundry basket and forgot to wash immediately, it may likely be mold growth that you are seeing.
The Difference Between Black Mold and Mildew
Most people use mold and mildew interchangeably. That is, they think that these two are just the same, or at least highly similar. Sounds familiar?
Don’t worry, it’s a very common mistake. After all, both of them grow and reproduce in any wet or humid environment that receives minimal light, they are both fungi, their way of growing and reproducing are the same, and they also feed on the same stuff.
It may not be that obvious to you yet but mold and mildew have differences that are visible to the naked eye. In fact, their appearances are what actually differentiate them from each other.
To identify which one is mold and which one is mildew, you need to focus on these three:
- Color – mildew has a distinctly lighter color than mold. Depending on the type of mildew, it may start with a white or gray color, turn yellow, then become brown or black or just start with a yellow color before turning brown. Those are its only possible colors.
Mold, in general, comes in more varied colors, such as green, red, pink, orange, purple, and blue. Mold also comes in lighter shades, and this type of mold makes it harder to distinguish it from mildew. Black mold, on the other hand, has a distinct greenish-black color that makes it stand out from mildew.
- Texture – even without touching them, you can see the difference of the two in terms of their textures. If the growth looks slimy or fuzzy, like that of moss, you are dealing with mold. The texture of mildew is either downy or powdery, like that of talcum powder.
- Shape – if you see that the growth is flat or uniform and seems to be just on the surface, you are dealing with mildew. But if it is patchy, irregularly shaped or the cluster has different shapes, has uneven parts, and seems to penetrate below the surface, it is mold you are seeing.
The similarities of mold and mildew doesn’t end with their appearances and their ability to be an eyesore in your home. We know that mold has health effects but did you know that mildew also does? Both of them can trigger various health issues to anyone, with asthma being the most common, with prolonged exposure.
If we talk about the health effects of mildew, these are present but are minor in comparison to that of mold. The presence of mildew in your home can trigger sore throat, coughing, difficulty in breathing, and headaches when its spores are inhaled. The effects of mildew are more pronounced in crops and plants than to humans.
Mold, on the other hand, has a longer list of possible illnesses you can get. Worse, the effects are more serious than that of mildew. Long-term health effects can be expected with mold. We’ll get to that part later.
Black Mold vs. Regular Mold
Not all molds are the same. Yes, the visible presence of these molds in your home should push you to call professionals to address the issue asap, but their effects will vary.
There are some types of mold that are relatively harmless, referred to as the regular mold. If you are familiar with the popular antibiotic penicillin, did you know that this is produced by the mold of the same name?
But then, there are also the types of mold that are harmful. This side is the one we are most familiar with. Some types of mold are allergenic molds that will just cause allergic reactions, there are also those pathogenic molds that can aggravate existing illnesses, but the worst molds are the toxigenic ones. That is, they are capable of producing substances that are considered toxic.
Both regular mold and the so-called black mold, by itself, are not toxic. It is the mycotoxins that certain types of mold produce that you should watch out for. Among these types, the toxic black mold is probably the most talked about and is also the one most misunderstood. Although not completely considered rare, toxic black mold is not something that occurs frequently. So, that’s a silver lining of sorts for you.
If we talk about black mold, it is a widely held belief that all of them are lethal. However, this is not completely true. You need to know that the term ‘black mold’ is misused – there are a lot of black-colored molds but not all of them can be considered toxic.
It is the black-colored mold that produce mycotoxins, namely the Starchyborus chartarum or Starchyborus atra, that is being referred to when talking about the toxic black mold. This type is the one that should be removed immediately, since its spores are the ones that are dangerous and can cause harm to anyone exposed to it.
Toxic black mold can be easily found in spots that have been soaked by water, particularly those that have cellulose. The presence of cellulose where black-colored mold thrive will help identify if the mold is toxic or not.
Do note that it is not only the black-colored mold that is capable of producing mycotoxins. Some molds of a different color are also considered toxic. Other types of toxic mold exist, but it is the toxic black mold that is more visibly seen by so many homeowners. As a result, it is more widely talked about, and for a good reason.
Health Effects of Toxic Black Mold Exposure
Some homeowners tend to underestimate the effects of toxic black mold. They believe that they can only get allergies from it, which can be fixed with good old antihistamines. Unfortunately, this is not the only effect that exposure to toxic black mold can give you.
Whether you are exposed to it for a short time or longer than you would have liked, toxic black mold can exacerbate the symptoms of any illness or pre-existing condition you have, it can also add complications to it, or you may acquire new illnesses because of it.
Some of the effects of exposure to toxic black mold of people that do not have any respiratory ailment are:
- Stuffiness in the nose and chest
- Rashes and other skin irritations
But if you have preexisting conditions, specifically asthma and allergies, that get triggered by mold exposure, you can experience the following:
- Headaches that are persistent
- Coughing fits, especially at night
- Feeling of constant lethargy
- Allergic reactions, such as sneezing and irritation of the eyes
- Breathing problems
- Sore throat
And if you get exposed to it for a long time, it ups your risk of acquiring any of these serious health issues:
- Lung scarring, known as pulmonary fibrosis
- Various conditions involving the heart, kidney, liver, and digestive system
- Complications with pregnancy
- Disorders of the blood or immune system
- Neurotoxicity or damage affecting the nervous system or brain
- Hair loss
- Photophobia or light sensitivity
- Unexplained weight gain
- Loss of memory or confusion
- Numbness, particularly in the feet and hands
- Muscle cramps
- Pain in the stomach
- Sight problems
- Fungal infections
- Muscle and joint soreness
Those with the following conditions are at great risk of experiencing complications and more severe symptoms, especially with prolonged exposure to mold:
- Compromised immune system
- Allergies, whether chronic or seasonal
- Immunodeficiency disorder
- Cystic fibrosis
- COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder
Aside from those with existing conditions involving the respiratory system, have asthma and various allergies, and those with a weak immune system, there are certain people who have a higher chance of showing the symptoms above. Those who are pregnant, elderly, and young children are supposedly much more vulnerable to mold exposure.
Minimal exposure to mold is not something you should really worry about, as these symptoms and issues will generally only manifest if you are exposed to it for a long time. However, it is always better to be safe than sorry. These health risks are why we place great emphasis on getting suspected toxic black mold addressed by a professional immediately.
How to Test for Black Mold
You might recall that not all black-colored mold is considered toxic. So, what do you do when you see spots of it in your home?
Testing for molds, in general, is a topic of much debate. Since it has been proven that molds are present in all homes, some people see testing as unreliable. In fact, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, and the US Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, advise against it.
Identifying the type of mold present in any home is the focus of testing. However, it is a very expensive process that has a higher risk of being inaccurate, especially when done incorrectly or by someone unqualified to do so.
Testing is usually done by one of these methods:
- Air-test that measures the amount of mold particles present in the air and even on the surfaces and dust
- Taking mold samples from the suspected area and checking the type or the amount of mold present
Because the levels of mold are not constant at all times, the amount of mold present or severity of the infestation will also vary in a single day. And even if your aim is to identify the type of mold present, only the sample taken will be identified, discounting the possibility that other types of mold are also found in your home.
Only the specific area where the mold samples are taken will be the focus of mold testing; the other areas of your home are not included in the test results. This scenario is why mold testing is not that advised by many. Some would even go so far as to advocate just using your senses in lieu of testing. That is, try to look and smell for mold, especially the toxic black mold.
If you recall, there are various types of mold that can cause allergic reactions and other illnesses; it’s not just the toxic black mold you should concern yourself with. Since all types of mold is recommended to be eliminated, especially if they are found in large amounts, testing to find out what kind of mold is present before having it removed is basically useless.
It is more practical to skip the testing part and just go ahead with hiring the services of a professional if you suspect that the presence of mold has compromised the health of anyone in your household. You will just be wasting time and money, ranging from $300 to as much as $500 for professional testing, trying to identify the type of mold present in your home before getting it removed.
But if you are planning to sell off your home in the future, you will be required to get your home tested for mold at some point.
How to Get Rid of Black Mold in the Shower or on Wood
Earlier, we mentioned the likely spots where all kinds of mold can grow and reproduce in a home. But more often than not, they can be found in areas that are regularly exposed to water and do not get dried up quickly. The shower area and any wood surface top that list.
A rule of thumb is to try to remove mold growth and clean the surfaces where they used to be if the spot where they grow is less than three feet by three feet. But if a single area of your home has been affected by mold growth and it covers roughly ten square feet, it’s time to step away and let the professionals handle it.
When removing mold by yourself, you first need to protect yourself. Even if you are just using ordinary household chemicals, the mold and its spores that will be remove can still trigger allergic reactions when inhaled.
Ideally, you should wear the following to keep yourself protected during cleanup:
- Respirator, particularly the N-95 type
- Goggles, specifically those that do not have holes for ventilation because spores can enter those holes
- Gloves. If you are planning to use bleach and other biocides, make sure that it is made up of neoprene, PVC, or natural rubber
- Long-sleeved shirts
Removing Black Mold in the Shower
Contrary to popular belief, the growth you commonly see in the shower or bath is rarely black mold of the toxic kind. More often than not, it is actually mildew or a type of regular black mold. This is because bathrooms do not usually have cellulose present for toxic black mold to feed on.
In the case of molds in the shower, removing them is something you may do yourself if the infestation is not so bad. It is easier to remove mold here than in most parts of your home.
Here’s a handy guide that lists down where mold usually grows in the bathroom and how you can safely remove them:
- Shower curtains – are you guilty of not changing your shower curtains every now and then? If so, that would explain why mold is present.
Fortunately, it is also easy to remove. You can start by mixing baking soda with water and use that paste to scrub off the mold. Afterwards, wash it off with water. You can then spray some vinegar on the spot where the mold used to be to stop them from growing back.
Another method is to clean it up using the washing machine, but add some baking soda with the laundry detergent. And during the rinse cycle, add vinegar to the water. Half a cup each of baking soda and vinegar is enough. Make sure to hang it to dry afterwards.
If mold persists, you can use bleach, which is a lot stronger. You can also use the washing machine method by mixing half a cup of bleach with a quarter cup of laundry detergent. Make sure to add this mix only when the tub has been filled up with water.
But if all these methods fail, it would be more practical for you to just replace it.
- Tiles – if there is mold growth on the tiles of your shower room, just scrubbing it off with a brush or wiping it away with a cloth works. Make sure to wet the area first because removing the mold when it is dry will make its particles and spores airborne, which is another problem you don’t want to have.
- Grout – removing mold on grout follows the same process as removing them on tiles, but it requires more effort. After scrubbing it away, you are still likely to find some leftover mold. You can either scrub it away using the baking soda and water mix or apply hydrogen peroxide, any product that has oxygen bleach, or chlorine bleach on the spot and allow it to sit for around 10 minutes before washing it away.
As a precaution, you can also add grout sealer after removing the mold on the grout. This sealer stops the leftover mold from spreading further and also helps avoid new mold growth.
If these methods fail, your best option is to remove the current grout and replace it with a new one.
- Sink drain – the most likely place for toxic black mold to grow in the shower is the sink drain, due to the soap scum, oils, and hair that pass through it, and these are sources of cellulose that will promote its growth.
Since water regularly passes through it, you cannot control the water that flows through the sink drain. If you suspect mold is already present, you can also the baking soda plus hydrogen peroxide or white vinegar mix to try and resolve it.
First, pour around half a cup of baking soda on the drain and allow it to settle overnight. Next, pour two cups of hydrogen peroxide or white vinegar on the same drain. Foam should be produced and this will likely be enough to loosen up the hold of the mold on the drain and kill it.
Afterwards, pour very hot water on the drain to flush away the mixture with the mold. Don’t use boiling water because this might cause damage to your plumbing system, especially if it is made up of PVC pipes.
Another method to get rid of mold in a sink drain is to pour the hot water first and follow it up with the with vinegar, then the baking soda or borax. This should also cause a reaction and act as a fungicide for mold.
- Caulk – similar to grout, the shower caulk can also house molds, but the way to remove it there is different. You need to make a paste out of baking soda and bleach, with the bleach slowly being added, and apply it to the mold using a brush. Cover it up with a plastic wrap, such as cling wrap, and leave it for 1 to 2 hours. Remove it afterwards and if mold is still present, just repeat the process.
- Ceiling – the ceiling is also a candidate for mold infestation. Unless your ceiling is made of non-porous material, which lets you just scrub off the mold, you will likely have to replace your ceiling to get rid of the mold.
Removing Black Mold on Wood
If black mold is present on any wood surface of your home, the risk of it being toxic is higher than that of black mold in the shower. Unlike getting rid of it in the bathroom, it is a much more straightforward process for wood. That is, if the mold has not gotten deep into its fibers. Otherwise, your only option is to remove the wood.
If you think removing the mold on the wood is still possible, here are the steps you need to do:
- If you have a vacuum with a HEPA filter, use it first to get rid of loose mold particles and spores.
- Wipe off the moldy surface using a cloth and a non-abrasive liquid. Dishwashing liquid works well, and other options are white vinegar and bleach. Do make sure to dilute the bleach and vinegar first.
- You can then wipe it again with a cloth soaked in clean water and check if mold is still present. If so, repeat the second and third steps. You can also use a soft brush dipped in the non-abrasive liquid to remove the stubborn mold.
- Wipe off the surface with a dry cloth.
- If necessary, use a vacuum-sander to remove specks of mold that refuse to budge.
How Long Does It Take for Black Mold to Grow?
The bad news is, it only takes a short while before black mold, including the toxic kind, starts growing in your home. As soon as mold spores settle in a moist environment, it will immediately start growing and reproducing. And in just 1 to 2 days, it already starts the germination process, eventually forming a colony.
It takes as little as 3 days to as much as 12 days for the colony to develop. Left unresolved, you will already see it spread around in your home within 18 to 21 days. By then, it is already visible and would only take hours before it affects other areas of your home.
Does Bleach Kill Mold?
Short answer? Yes. But, there’s a catch.
While bleach used to be the method of choice when it comes to addressing mold infestations at home, it is also considered unsafe. There is a risk of causing burns on your skin when you come into direct contact with the strong ones, as well as eye and mouth irritations and issues involving the respiratory system.
And if you still plan to use bleach, make sure to avoid mixing it with other chemicals, such as ammonia and most household cleaners. Doing so will create fumes that are dangerous to anyone who inhales it.
Using bleach is also not guaranteed to completely kill off the mold. Sure, they may be gone today but it will likely grow back in just a few months. And it will be on the same spot where it used to be.
Black Mold Removal Cost
If the mold growth in your home is so bad that you already need professional help, we have bad news for you: professional mold removal is expensive. Mold removal often involves using specialized tools, materials, and other equipment to get rid of it safely, not to mention the risks involved for anyone working on it.
On average, it can set you back by over $1000 to as much as $3500. If the infestation is still considered minor, you may just be charged $400 for the work. In extreme cases, don’t be shocked to get a bill amounting to $6000. It happens.
How to Prevent Black Mold
You’re probably wondering what’s the best way to stop black mold, or any kind of mold, from growing in your home. The answer to that is to keep your home as moisture-free as possible. This means:
- Addressing all leaks immediately. This includes leaks on the roof, ceiling, and even your water heater, not just your pipes. Make sure to look for signs of mold on your roof also.
- Keeping rooms well-ventilated, especially those that are regularly exposed to water. Bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry areas are a priority
- Making sure that the humidity level in your home is 50% or lower
- Not installing a carpet in any known humid or moist area
- Using mold inhibitors
- Getting an air purifier that has a HEPA, or high-efficiency particulate air, filter
- Doing some regular cleaning and vacuuming
- Allowing water to drain well and not be blocked by anything
Fortunately, the amount of moisture in your home is something that you can easily address. Just follow these tips and the chance of getting toxic black mold in your home is severely decreased.
Black Mold in the Air Conditioner
What makes mold very troublesome is that its particles, particularly its spores, can travel by air. And when it does, it can go to all areas of your home, especially if you have an HVAC system in place.
Your air conditioner is one of the places where black mold can grow because of all the moisture that flows around and in it. Not only that, it can eventually spread to the nearby walls, especially a drywall, if left untreated.
Ridding an air conditioner of mold is a complicated process. You may clean its filters, covers, and ducts to remove visible mold but this does not guarantee that it solves the issue. The problem is when the mold has affected the internal components of your unit. If this is the case, only qualified HVAC companies should clean your air conditioner.
If you use a central air conditioner, attempting to clean it by yourself is out of the question – only professionals should do the work. And if the total area affected by mold is greater than 100 square feet, you may be legally required to hire a contractor to do the work.
Get Free Quotes for Professional Mold Testing by Companies Near You
If you believe that the mold infestation in your home makes testing a necessity, especially if you plan to sell your home, the cost of doing so may worry you.
Want to know a secret?
Professional mold testing companies can actually provide you with free quotes for their service. You can compare their estimates and choose which one gives the best value and fits your budget. And if they are aware that you are also getting quotations from the competition, they will more than likely lower their prices.
And if you want to save time on that, why not try out our service? Just fill out our form and the contractors near you will be the one to reach out to you with their quotations. It’s that convenient.
Just remember, address excessive mold growth in your home as soon as you can.