Black spots on the walls. Powdery green blotches. Rust-colored dust. It’s every homeowners’ worst nightmare — You’ve got mold.
Mold isn’t just a cosmetic problem. It’s also a real threat to your health. Here’s what to do if you discover mold in your home.
What Is Mold?
Mold is a type of fungus that can grow indoors or outside. It produces spores that drift through the air, looking for a nice place to settle down and start growing. As mold grows, it sends out tiny little filaments that spread through fabric, plaster, paper, wood, and other surfaces.
Mold loves moist, dark, warm environments. It thrives in damp basements or anywhere there’s been a leak. Dangerous black mold often develops after flooding, but different types of mold can develop even with a minor plumbing issue.
Is There Mold in Your Home?
The CDC warns that “All molds should be treated the same with respect to potential health risks and removal.” But how do you know if there’s a mold problem in your home?
One of the first signs of mold is a persistent cough, stuffy nose, or chronic case of itchy, watering eyes. Those could be a sign that you’re having an allergic reaction to the mycotoxins produced by mold in your home.
People with asthma may have even more dramatic symptoms. Mold spores can make this lung condition dramatically worse, so don’t hesitate to get help if you think there might be mold in your home.
Physical signs of an advanced mold problem include a musty, mushroomy smell — especially in basements, chimneys, kitchen cupboards, and bathrooms. You might also notice the paint bubbling on the walls from moisture in the sheetrock or plaster. If the issue is in your floor, you might find that a spot has become squishy or soft underfoot.
Of course, the most obvious sign that you have a mold problem is the presence of black, green, white, or red patches made up of small dots of mold. At that point, consider the threat level to be high. You need to take action now!
How to Get Rid of Mold
The first thing you should do is find any source of excess moisture and get rid of it. That means repairing leaky pipes, sealing windows or other points where water might get inside the house, and breaking out the dehumidifier. You can also set up fans to help dry out any areas that have been subject to spills or standing water.
If patches of mold have already developed, use a solution of 1 part bleach to 3 parts water to clean the area. Make sure that you are wearing rubber gloves, old clothes that you don’t mind accidentally bleaching, and a dust mask. When working with bleach, you should always have plenty of ventilation.
Unfortunately, you’ll probably have to scrub your walls with the bleach solution multiple times to get the stains out. Make sure to thoroughly dry the surface each time. To kill the mold below the surface, you can spray it with a commercial anti-fungal cleaner or use undiluted white vinegar.
If mold has gotten into carpets, upholstery, or other porous surfaces, you may need to get a professional involved. You can’t use bleach on those areas, and while a commercial anti-fungal spray may be able to do the trick, there’s no shame in paying a pro to take care of your mold problem.