How to Remove Black Mold from Walls and Carpeting
So you’ve made your way into a seldom used room for some routine cleaning or de-cluttering of your son’s G.I. Joe’s that he doesn’t play with anymore but wants to keep for whatever reason.
To your dismay, you find black mold spots. Don’t worry, it happens to everyone. Attics, basements, and dark cluttered areas with dampness are breeding grounds for black, green and other colored mold.
It is very important to deal with the problem as soon as possible because the mold can quickly spread if the conditions *allowing* the mold to grow are not remedied quickly.
What is Black Mold?
Stachybotrys chartarum or Stachybotrys atra is a greenish-black mold. It can grow on material with a high cellulose and low nitrogen content, such as fiberboard, gypsum board, paper, dust, and lint.
Growth occurs when there is moisture from water damage, excessive humidity, water leaks, condensation, water infiltration, or flooding.
Constant moisture is required for its growth. It is not necessary, however, to determine what type of mold you may have.
All molds should be treated the same with respect to potential health risks and removal.
What Causes Black Mold?
Mold spores are EVERYWHERE and will never be completely eradicated. Since we will never be able to remove all of the mold spores in our environment, the problem is excess moisture, whether it is a leaky pipe, flash flood, standing water or just that your roof needs to be patched. Mold will not grow without moisture- so if you have any water leaking into your home that's the very first thing to fix.
I lived in a home many years ago that had mold on the walls. There wasn't any water leak, but the home was very poorly insulated and condensation formed very easily on windows and walls allowing mold to grow.
My situation was helped by increasing the air ventilation and using fans to keep the air moving.
Is it Safe to Clean Black Mold?
The truth is that all molds; whether black, green, pink, orange or red can potentially cause cold or hay fever symptoms in healthy people and can aggravate symptoms in those with compromised immune systems, or people with breathing issues.
Black mold in particular is no better or worse than any other type of mold and if you see it, the worst thing to do is to ignore it.
Many people are under the impressions that black mold (Stachybotrys chartarum or Stachybotrys atra) should only be cleaned by professionals garbed in full out hazmat suits.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention sets out the facts on cleaning black mold very clearly:
- At present there is no test that proves an association between Stachybotrys chartarum and particular health symptoms.
- If Stachybotrys chartarum (Stachybotrys atra) or other molds are found in a building, prudent practice recommends that they be removed.
- We (CDC) do not believe that one needs to take any different precautions with Stachybotrys chartarum (Stachybotrys atra), than with other molds.
- A common-sense approach should be used for any mold contamination existing inside buildings and homes.
I Just Love Common Sense, Don't You? Let's CLEAN IT Then!
Removing Black Mold from Walls:
It's safe to use this solution on walls, wooden/rubber baseboards and drywall but keep it off rugs or fabric. Reduce future levels of humidity to stop the mold from coming back.
- Buy some rubber gloves (non-porous), a disposable paper dust mask, goggles and some cheap sponges or scrubbers.
- Mix up a solution of 1/4 cup of bleach to 1 quart warm water and 1/4 tsp. mild dishwashing liquid in a clean spray bottle.
- If you are making a larger batch the recipe is 1 cup of bleach, 1 gallon of water and 1 tsp. mild dishwashing liquid.
- Put on your gloves, dust mask and goggles then spray the bleach cleaning solution on the mold. Leave it sit for 5-10 minutes and then wipe the area clean with a clean damp sponge.
- Spray and repeat until the mold and stain has disappeared.
- Use a fan to make sure the area dries quickly and thoroughly.
- Once everything is completely dry, vacuum the entire area with a HEPA filtered vacuum to ensure any remaining mold spores are removed.
If you are at all concerned about airborne particles contaminating your face, there are N95 rated masks that you can purchase at your local home improvement stores that can offer a bit more protection.
Removing Black Mold from Carpeting:
Carpets that contain mold can be cleaned if there is not a significant amount of mold covering it. If there is mold covering a huge amount of the carpet, it needs to be entirely replaced.
Rugs and non-fixed carpeting do not need to be replaced. They can be cleaned to remove the mold.
- Take your rug outside and lay it out on a large surface such as your driveway.
- Hose the rug down with water.
- Apply cleaning solution like baking soda (¼ tablespoon added to a full spray bottle of water) or vinegar (about ¼ cup to a spray bottle of water) to the moldy area.
- Scrub thoroughly with a scrub brush.
- Rinse the rug out completely.
- Vacuum with a wet vacuum to speed up the drying process.
- Once completely dry, vacuum with a HEPA filtered vacuum to remove mold spores.
Preventing Black Mold from Returning:
Check your home for humidity problems. A great handy tool is a relative humidity sensor. They’re also called moisture meters or hygrometers. You can buy one for less than $20.
If the humidity in any part of your home is greater than 55%, your home is at risk for developing a black mold problem.
If you have high humidity in your home, keep a dehumidifier or air conditioner going AND make sure that it’s emptied often. Some people may not realize that mold can also grow inside the water container in a dehumidifier.
Repair Water Leaks
If you have had a flooding problem or a water leak, the water needs to be pumped out immediately and the area should dry completely. Check for roof leaks that may have seeped through into your attic. Remove any items from the floors or walls that are wet and then use fans and a dehumidifier to dry the area. Mold can germinate and grow in as little as 24 hours so be quick and thorough about cleanup.
Increase Air Flow
This is a major cause for mold growth in attics and basements. An easy solution is to make sure your basement or attic has air flow. Open the windows (even slightly) just to let fresh air in. It is also a good idea to turn on a fan to get stagnant air moving especially if you do not have a home air conditioning system.
- Regularly use your HEPA filtered vacuum.
- Limit houseplants. They retain moisture.
- Keep your house well ventilated.
- Let in as much sunlight as possible.
- Make sure that clothes dryers and other appliances that utilize steam or water are vented outdoors.
- Be vigilant about signs of mold regrowth: mildew odors, any increased allergy symptoms, stains on walls or places where paint is cracking or peeling, loose drywall tape and black growth on bathroom tiles or grout. If you see these signs look for mold and remove it immediately.
Now that wasn't that hard, was it?
Preventing mold is just as important as cleaning up its mess. With proper attention, black mold can become a rare occurrence. Great job!
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Image courtesy of Matti Mattila, CC BY.