Q. There are strange black spots that suddenly appeared on a wall in my basement. Should I be concerned that it is mold? What does black mold look like?
A: No homeowner wants to find black mold. Not only is it unpleasant to look at and smell, but certain varieties of black mold can be harmful to health as well. Usually, black mold is black in color, but it can also present itself differently depending on the stage of its growth.
If you think mold is growing in your home, you might be wondering: what does black mold look like and how do I get rid of it? To help you out, here’s what you need to know about black mold, including what it looks like and where it typically grows.
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It is a black spot that covers an area that has been inundated or damaged by water.
Black mold usually presents as a black spot covering an area with high humidity, most often inundated or damaged by water. It is most often found in bathrooms with frequently used tubs and showers, as this is an area that is most likely to suffer from flooding, water damage, or inadequate ventilation systems.
However, it can also affect any area with humid conditions, poor ventilation and high temperatures; damp basements, kitchens and laundry rooms can all serve as breeding grounds for black mold. Even stagnant leaks and flooding can contribute to mold growth.
Black mold usually appears on wood surfaces that have a water source nearby.
Black mold can also grow on wood surfaces if there is a water source nearby. Common areas include wood paneling on bathroom walls, cabinetry under kitchen or bathroom sinks, and wood furniture found in damp basements.
Because wood is very porous, mold can grow on the surface while growing roots deep inside. The growth of black mold on wood surfaces can be particularly difficult to remove.
Black mold usually spreads in patches or small circles, but it can also have irregular patterns.
Black mold typically grows in a circular pattern, with round colonies ranging from less than an inch to several inches in diameter. It can also spread in the form of a concentric circle pattern. However, it is also common to see dark or black irregular mold patches, ranging from a few inches to several inches in diameter.
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Most black mold shapes and patterns will appear slimy or shiny due to the humidity of the environment in which they thrive. However, if the leaks have been repaired, the mold will appear dry and even powdery.
Black mold is usually present in drywall, under carpets, or in the corners of walls that have been flooded.
In addition to damp rooms and wood exposed to moisture, mold can also grow in some less obvious (and less visible) spaces. Water leaks from pipes, bathrooms, HVAC units, or roofs of a house, along with inadequate ventilation, can all contribute to the growth of black mold in and on various surfaces.
Porous surfaces, such as drywall and carpets, are particularly susceptible to the growth of black mold after exposure to moisture. Water can also collect near the corners of walls after a flood or leak, causing mold to grow in those nooks and crannies.
Black mold can be gray or green in color.
Like most molds, black mold begins to grow as fluffy white fibers, resembling a cotton ball. However, this is not common outside of the lab environment, as this small, light mold is often well hidden in a home environment.
As black mold grows and begins to produce spores, it may appear gray or green in the center with white around the edges. As the spores fill up and the mold matures, it develops its characteristic black tint. Although black mold in the home is usually fully mature, also keep an eye out for any gray or green mold as it could be black mold in its early stages.
What should I do if I find black mold?
If a homeowner finds black mold in their home, the next steps will depend on the extent of the spread.
If black mold has settled in the walls, it is recommended that you call in a mold release specialist to prevent it from spreading further. In addition, people with a medical condition or who are particularly susceptible to mold are advised not to deal with a mold problem on their own.
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However, if the mold is confined to an accessible hard surface, such as a wood trim or a basement floor, healthy homeowners may be able to tackle the removal on their own.
For those who want to try a DIY approach before calling a professional, here is a step-by-step guide on how to remove black mold:
- Locate the source of the mold. Track the source of the musty smell and inspect any nooks and crannies or dark spaces with a flashlight.
- Get a spray bottle and create a mold solution. Tea tree oil and grapefruit seed extract are among the most effective disinfectant and deodorant agents, and they are also completely non-toxic. For each cup of water in the spray bottle, add a teaspoon of tea tree oil or grapefruit seed extract.
- Put on the appropriate protective gear. This includes disposable coveralls, rubber gloves, tight-fitting safety glasses, and a face shield or respirator. Exposure to black mold can lead to a host of problems, including respiratory infections, allergic reactions, and even blindness. Wearing protective equipment can significantly reduce the risk of exposure and associated health problems.
- Apply the cleaning solution. Shake the spray bottle of anti-mold solution, spray the area until fully saturated, and let the liquid sit for 5-10 minutes. Do not scrape dry mold, as this can allow toxic spores to spread through the air.
- Scrub the surface carefully with a nylon bristle brush to lift and remove the moistened mold. Then wipe down the area with rags or paper towels. Repeat as many times as necessary until the mold is removed and discard all of the materials used in a sealed plastic bag.
If mold returns or you are unsure of your ability to do this on your own, play it safe and hire a professional. While the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) say it is not necessary to identify the mold type present before treating it, the information can help homeowners in the event of a return of mold.
A working knowledge of common household issues can be a powerful tool in an owner’s arsenal. Being aware of what black mold is and how to remove it can help homeowners address this potentially dangerous problem.