For homeowners, there is probably no uglier site to discover – save for maybe coming home to find an army of termites devouring your deck — than black mold. The stuff is drearier than an all-day rain storm. It can appear out of nowhere and scar and uglify your attic, basement, porch and any dark area of your home prone to dampness. And left unchecked, mold can grow faster than a Chia Pet and spread like wildfire on drywall, wood, carpets, rugs and tile.
Plus, mold causes cold and hay fever symptoms even in the healthiest of people and can aggravate symptoms for people with weakened immune systems or breathing problems.
Black mold, whose formal name is Stachybotrys chartarum, is a greenish black mold that grows on materials with high cellulose and low nitrogen contents, like fiberboard, paper, dust and lint. Moisture is its oxygen. Black mold spreads from moisture from water damage, water leaks, flooding, condensation and excessive humidity. Black mold spores are everywhere and cannot be completely erased from a home. But by removing excessive moisture from homes we eliminate mold’s essential life source. Mold cannot grow without moisture.
The first step in the battle against black mold is to eliminate all standing water. For homes with flooding or leak problems, water needs to be removed immediately. Fix leaky pipes, insulate drafty windows, check for roof leaks and use a dehumidifier to dry out your basement.
Next, we need to determine the extent of the moisture problem. Just like outdoors, high humidity is major mold danger for homes. A great low-cost way to measure the moisture in your home is to buy a moisture meter or hygrometer (available at most hardware stores for less than $20). If the meter reads the humidity level in your home at 55 percent or higher, your home is at risk of developing a black mold problem or having an existing black mold situation get worse.
Steady air flow throughout the home prevents stagnant and stale air from idling in one area, especially basements and attics. Using air conditioners, fans and opening windows (even slightly) lets fresh air in and allows it to circulate through the house. Raise the shades and let the sun in. Limit houseplants (which retain moisture) and make sure all appliances that utilize steam or water are vented outdoors.
Not even the most abstract artist could find value or beauty in black mold after it’s uglified drywall, wood, carpet, rugs, tiles and flooring. For moldy unpainted drywall, the best option is to start from scratch.
Use a marker or pencil to mark the infected areas (mark at least an inch above the mold to ensure you are targeting all of it). Take a utility knife and cut out and remove any infected drywall. Replace the drywall with new drywall (lock and seal the new drywall snugly into place with drywall screws and a screwdriver and joint compounds) and be sure to vacuum the room with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) vacuum after the project is complete to eliminate any remaining mold.
Fortunately, painted or primed drywall can be saved. Mold on the surface which has not penetrated the drywall can be wiped or scrubbed away using cleaning products or mold killing solutions.
Baking soda is the mildest and safest mold killer. Mixing baking soda with five parts water is a sure-bet mold killer for drywall. Unscented detergent and vinegar mixes are also safe options. Bleach, which can be harsh and largely ineffective for drywall, is not recommended.
Mold does not have to be drenched with cleaning product. Spray your preferred cleaning solution once or twice over all mold, but do not soak the drywall with the solution. This can lead to excess moisture and new mold forming.
Next, perform a mold test with an old toothbrush, a mold check method MacGyver would approve of. Scrub the surface until you no longer see any discoloration or visible mold.
Mold is especially tough on wood. But water, detergent, household cleaner and a sponge, clothe or scrubbing brush can remove mold and restore wood floors’ shine and beauty. For serious mold issues, sanding, restaining and resealing (with a fungicidal sealant or paint) can ensure that mold is removed for good and won’t be making any future unwanted appearances on your floor.
Mold Carpet Bagging
Unfortunately, once black mold spreads to fixed carpets, it’s all she wrote. There’s no way to completely remove mold from fixed carpeting. It’s the same sad story for wet carpet that has been thoroughly soaked through.
For carpets that have contained or small mold infections and little cosmetic damage, they can be saved by cutting out, removing and replacing the infected area (when cutting, cut an extra 12 inches on both sides of the moldy carpet). Before installing the new carpet, thoroughly clean the floor with a HEPA vacuum.
The situation is a lot less dire for rugs and carpets that aren’t permanently fixed. They can be cleaned and saved by taking them to a professional carpet cleaning service or mold removal professional. But for low cost carpet cleaning options, take the carpet outside to the driveway or sidewalk and use a mold killing or cleaning solution on the moldy section of the carpet and scrub the mold away.
Next, rise the carpet well, allow it to dry, and, as always, use a HEPA vacuum to remove any lingering mold spores and dirt and dust.
Thankfully, tiles and grout are the easiest surfaces to de-mold. Use a scrubbing brush and an effective mold killing product like Lysol Mold & Mildew Blaster can quickly erase mold from bathrooms. And for tile surfaces, there’s no meaner mold killer than good old bleach like Oxiclean (which needs only around 10 minutes to work).
For any large-scale mold infestation of your home or business, we recommend consulting a professional mold expert.
Mold is an ugly, gross mess. But in many cases, it can be quickly erased from homes with a good, thorough mold removal plan.