Why and How to Get Black Mold Out of Your Home
Mold can grow fast. In the right conditions, 24 to 48 hours is all it needs to grow.
And it can spread fast, too, so your home can go from just fine to mold-filled in a short time.
If you see mold growing or if your home has a history of mold, that means you have a narrow window to deal with any small spots you see before it can potentially become an overwhelming mess and possible health hazard.
Here’s what you need to know about mold and how to deal with it when it appears.
What is black mold?
No one wants mold or mildew in their home. Still, black mold—specifically Stachybotrys chartarum (S. chartarum), also called Stachybotrys atra—is a substance you especially don’t want growing in your bathroom, kitchen, crawlspace, or basement.
All mold is a fungus, and fungi are commonly present in the air and on surfaces. While some people are susceptible to mold, normal amounts won’t cause most individuals to suffer any ill effects. But people with asthma, lung problems or severe allergies can have severe reactions to mold, and high levels of mold and mold spores in the environment can cause even normally healthy people to become sick or experience adverse reactions.
Toxic molds are those that release mycotoxins into the atmosphere. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention haven’t found a prevalence of health conditions resulting from mold exposure, some people experience symptoms. If mold is present in homes or office buildings, people can experience headaches, breathing problems, muscle aches, mood changes, memory loss, and other physical and psychological issues.
Allergy symptoms are most common with high mold levels, especially toxic molds. People may experience a runny nose, dry cough, itchy or watery eyes, a sore throat, sinus infections, and rashes.
It can be hard to figure out what type of mold is growing in a building without performing tests, and while many different molds appear black, not all are considered black mold. No matter what type of mold or mildew is growing, you don’t want mold in your home or workspace. Any time mold is found or suspected; it’s important to have it removed in a way that prevents recurrence and spread.
Steps to rid your home of black mold
There are two main ways to remove black mold: clean it up, or remove the moldy surfaces.
For small areas, cleaning is usually the best way to go. But for large areas, removing the surfaces and starting over clean can be the only way to ensure mold is gone and doesn’t return.
For small areas, find the right mold killer for the job (available at a hardware store or homemade green solutions) and follow the directions closely. After the area is clean and dry, watch carefully for future mold growth.
Whenever you deal with mold, you’ll want to wear old clothes that can be thrown away or washed in hot water with bleach. You should also wear a mask (preferably an N-95 or P-100 respirator or greater) and take great care to ventilate the space and prevent mold spores from spreading to other rooms in the home.
Start by using plastic sheeting to separate the room with the mold from the rest of the house. Put an old fan in the window to blow air out of the room, and remove the carpet, drywall, insulation, and other infested surfaces. Mold spores are nearly impossible to remove, so all old materials should be carefully bagged and thrown away.
Watch for signs of rot or larger damage as you work. Spray down and scrub all moldy surfaces with mold cleaner, and spray all other room areas that may be impacted. Once the moldy areas are dry, let them sit for at least three days. Check again for the sight or smell of mold and treat again if needed. If no new mold has grown, seal the areas with special sealants containing a mildewcide. Then repair the areas taking special care to avoid future moisture, allowing mold to return.
Natural ways to get rid of black mold
More people than ever embrace natural and eco-friendly approaches to living, and mold removal is no exception to that trend. While many solutions for mold removal are chemical-based, there are more natural cleaning options.
- White vinegar kills more than 80% of mold species, so it’s a great choice for natural mold removal. It can be used undiluted by simply spraying on most surfaces. Let it sit for an hour before wiping clean with water and allowing it to dry. It also gets rid of mildew and the musty odor that often accompanies mold and mildew growth.
- Hydrogen peroxide is anti-bacterial, antifungal, and antiviral, so it kills mold spores and growing mold. It’s a safe product to use on most surfaces, and it’s inexpensive and easy to find. Choose a 3% concentration of hydrogen peroxide, use a spray bottle to apply it to molded areas, and let it sit for at least 10 minutes. Scrub and let it dry. Repeat as necessary.
- Lemons can remove black mold. Juice five lemons and spray or wipe over the mold surface. Let soak for 5 minutes, then scrub away. Reapply as needed until all the mold has been removed.
- You can make your own mold removal spray by combining 1 part baking soda with 5 parts distilled white vinegar and 5 parts water in a spray bottle. Spray the mold and surrounding areas and let sit for 30 to 60 minutes. Use a sponge soaked in the same solution to wash the mold off of the infected area and let it dry. Repeat until the mold is gone.
- Essential oils can also be used to remove mold. Tee tree oil is a common antiseptic and deodorizer and because it’s a natural fungicide and kills mold and spores. Add 1 teaspoon of tea tree oil per one cup of water in a spray bottle. Shake well and spray on moldy areas. After one hour, wipe down the area. Repeat as necessary. Tee tree oil can be toxic to pets in large amounts, so use caution if you have pets or sensitivities to essential oils. Grapefruit seed extract oil is another essential oil that can be used. Blend 10 drops of grapefruit oil for every cup of water, shake well and spray on the surface. Wait 10 minutes to an hour before wiping away the residue.
Prevent mold growth in homes and offices
Mold loves damp spaces and humid air, so the best way to prevent mold growth is to keep your home dry. Try these tips to keep mold at bay:
- Mop up spilled water, fix dripping pipes, wrap or insulate pipes that often sweat, repair roof and window leaks, and run a dehumidifier during humid times. Try to keep your home’s humidity level less than 50% during the day, especially during warm months.
- Wet and damp spaces like bathrooms, under kitchen sinks, basements, and crawlspaces should have fans pull out humidity and circulate drier air.
- Mold and mildew should be cleaned immediately with mold-preventing commercial cleaners.
- Keep windows closed at night when more mold spores circulate in the outdoor air.
- HEPA air filters can remove mold spores from the air.
- Mold inhibiting paints and sealants can prevent mold from growing in damp areas.
- Flood damage should be immediately cleaned and dried, including furnishings, carpeting, and other surfaces that can trap and hold water. This may require a professional to ensure that every spot that had been flooded gets completely dry, including behind drywall and small spaces.
Do I need to hire a professional to remove black mold?
If your home has just a little mold, you may be able to clean it up and prevent its return by yourself. But if you experience a lot of molds, believe there is mold between walls or other hard-to-reach places, or you aren’t handy, it’s best to call a good mold removal service. Professionals will do the job right, make sure all the mold is gone, and return your home to better-than-before condition. Many also will guarantee their work, so if the mold comes back, so will they.
Thank you for reading!