Black mold can be found in nearly any place in the home or commercial building, but there are certain places that it seems to favor. Dark, damp and tucked away places are often the first places that you will stumble upon black mold. It can be growing for months before it is noticed or can be found relatively quickly because of the smell. It is important to know how to deal with the mold properly and to remember that there are steps that must be taken to prevent it from coming back. You can also work to keep black mold from ever starting in the first place, especially if you know an area might be more susceptible.
Surfaces Where Black Mold Can Occur
Black mold as well as some of its related mold cousins can grow on virtually any surface, but there are some that it prefers…
- It grows best on softer or more porous surfaces that are high in cellulose and low in nitrogen content.
- It also grows best in dark and tucked way corners because it can become established before anyone notices it.
- Black mold likes to grow where there is a constant or near constant presence of damp to wet conditions. These conditions are all why basements are nearly ideal for this mold to set up and start growing.
- You will likely find black mold in the back of cabinets where water may run down from poorly sealed fixtures or on walls that are directly adjacent to leaky pipes. Corners with poor air circulation are also good places to look if you suspect that you have a black mold problem.
- Other places to look for black mold include ceiling panels, flooring (especially carpets), and behind appliances such as hot water heaters and washers. Flooring and walls near basement windows are also highly likely to have black mold problems.
How to Identify Black Mold
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has an informational booklet as well as information on their website about black mold. Because all mold should be treated the same, it is not as important to identify what type it is as it is to just find it wherever it might be.
- It is important to find all areas of mold because if you have it in one place it is more likely that you have it in several other places as well.
- Black mold is greenish-black in appearance and may either appear slightly furry or hairy or more clumpy. Another type of mold is slimier in appearance and is not formed in the same way as black mold and its directly related cousins.
What Are Common Causes of Black Mold?
- Moisture is the most common cause of black mold and comes from a variety of sources. Leaky or sweaty pipes, poorly sealed sinks, faulty appliances, water damage, and flooding are the most likely causes of this problem.
- High humidity may be one of the most overlooked causes of black mold, especially in a home that has been assessed for every other type of water damage.
Preventing Black Mold
- Black mold can be prevented by lowering the humidity in the home, which will reduce things like pipe condensation.
- Check for water leaks periodically. If your water bill suddenly spikes upward without any known reason, you might have a leak. Some leaks are so small that they may not cause the bill to go up by enough to really notice so a visual exam of exposed pipes is also a good idea.
- Watch for damage around basement doors and windows especially after very heavy rains. If the floor in the basement gets wet and takes a long time to dry, you are more susceptible to black mold. Consider adding floor drains in addition to the sump pump if there are none already in place.
- Remove any damaged pieces of wall or ceiling material and thoroughly clean any surface that might have been contaminated with mold spores.
- Carpeting might be tricky to save, especially if the mold is extensive or the carpet has a deep pile. Some commercial cleaning products are too toxic to be used by the average person, especially in a basement where airflow might be minimal. It is easier to replace a carpet than to recover from a serious illness.
Cleaning Up Black Mold from the Basement
- Your absolute first step here is to determine if your family’s health is at risk. According to the CDC, black mold becomes toxic only to those who have compromised health issues, allergies, or sensitivities to mold of any kind or those who have chronic lung issues. Those people may also be at risk for issues with the cleaning process so they should be moved to a different location until the house has been cleaned and the air cleared out.
- Your second step is to find and eliminate the water source. Faulty pipes should be repaired or replaced. A dehumidifier might be needed to address the humidity problem. Seal leaky sinks and fix or replace faulty appliances, windows and doors. If you do not take these steps, the black mold will just come back over and over again until you do.
- All hard surfaces can be cleaned using water and detergent. The use of bleach for mold removal is discouraged by the EPA. Use gloves and a mask to protect yourself from airborne mold spores. Open windows or use fans to help with air flow and to aid in the drying out process.
- Soft or porous materials that have only light mold might be cleaned with a similar method, however if the mold is extensive or there seems to be substantial damage, the item will need to be replaced. This includes ceiling panels and wall sections. Some wall sections may need to be removed to access pipes as well.
- If you’re not confident in your ability to remove mold effectively and safely, hire a professional. Get free quotes from local professionals on our estimates page.