What does black mold look like?

Mold is a word that rightfully sends shivers down the spine of homeowners everywhere. While any indoor mold growth is a problem, Stachybotrys chartarum, commonly known as toxic black mold, is infamous for its potential health risks.

Learning how to identify black mold and prevent it from occurring is critical for maintaining a healthy and safe home environment. This article will serve as your guide in identifying black mold and navigating your options when it comes time for mold remediation.

What Does Black Mold Look Like?

Contrary to both popular belief and its common name, black mold isn’t always black! Its color spectrum ranges from dark green to black, often with a slimy, tar-like appearance.

One of its key distinguishing features is its texture – it typically forms in a patchy pattern and is often slightly raised or bumpy.Black mold, like most mold, has a musty smell, reminiscent of damp basements or rotting leaves and wood.

In the wild black mold is relatively uncommon, as it does not compete well against other molds. However, our homes can be a particularly inviting environment for it – where it feasts on cellulose rich surfaces like drywall, wood, and wallpaper. It grows best at room temperature, although can grow in conditions as cold as the interior of your refrigerator. Like most molds, S. chartarum needs humidity to thrive, so it is more commonly found alongside water damage, water leaks, or in naturally moist environments like your basement, crawl space, bathroom, laundry room, or in cabinetry underneath sinks.

Mold growth on a wall

Effects of Black Mold on Health

S. chartarum produces toxic compounds called mycotoxins, although the exact toxins produced seem to vary by subspecies. Two toxins produced by black mold that have been associated with health problems include macrocyclic trichothecene and atranones. In mice, these toxins have been shown to be neurotoxic, and produce both inflammation and allergic sensitivities.

Exposure to black mold has been shown to cause allergic reactions including sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, and skin rashes. More serious health effects caused by black mold may include headache, fatigue, and serious respiratory issues such as chronic coughing and difficulty breathing.

While unproven, some people strongly believe that toxic black mold can cause additional health issues including memory loss and acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage in infants. The links to these health effects are less clear – but since black mold has been demonstrated to be toxic in other ways, there are more than enough reasons to want to get rid of black mold!

Even if it turns out that your mold infestation isn’t caused by S. chartarum, many people suffer from mold allergies and other species of mold can produce their own mycotoxins. If you, or anyone in your household has a compromised immune system, it is essential to protect against the detrimental effects of mold and mildew on indoor air quality.

How to Remove Black Mold

Removing black mold involves a careful process to ensure it doesn’t spread further or cause injury to the people removing the mold. Black mold, like all molds, spreads via microscopic airborne spores that can remain in the environment for years. It is inhalation and skin contact with these spores which is associated with its negative health outcomes – so you need to take care to avoid them.

What complicates black mold removal is that physical disturbance causes the mold to release its spores into the air! This means that it is absolutely essential to wear the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) including gloves, eye protection, and a respirator. If you can see the mold infestation, and the area it covers is less than 10 square feet (roughly 3 feet by 3 feet), you may be able to handle it yourself. For larger infestations or if the mold is in your HVAC system, under your floorboards, or otherwise inaccessible, professional assistance is recommended.

Person in PPE removing mold off walls

DIY Mold Removal

For small mold patches, start by wearing protective equipment: gloves, goggles, and a respirator. Ideally, you will want to have good ventilation to the outdoors, while protecting the rest of your home from being exposed to the spores which may be liberated during the mold removal process. While you can attempt to clean highly porous materials such as ceiling tiles or drywall – it is often easier to simply remove and replace these contaminated surfaces. After removing items and materials that cannot be salvaged, you should scrub the area with a bleach and water solution. The CDC recommends using one cup of bleach for every gallon of water. Dispose of any materials that came in contact with the mold in sealed bags and immediately launder the clothing that was used during the cleaning.

It is essential to identify the source of moisture that led to the mold infestation and failure to do so will inevitably lead to the mold returning. Once the area has been cleaned you will need to monitor the area and spot treat any areas that show signs of mold regrowth.

Professional Mold Remediation

For larger infestations, call a mold remediation professional. They have specialized equipment and expertise to safely remove mold and prevent its recurrence. Professionals will also look for the source of moisture causing the mold and help address it, further preventing future growth.

We recommend working with mold removal experts who offer a mold removal guarantee and have plenty of positive reviews. Mold removal is not a job to be left to amateurs or fly-by-night shops.

Person in PPE removing mold off walls

Preventing Black Mold in Your Home

Prevention is the best strategy against all types of mold. Here are a few steps:

  1. Control humidity levels: Keep your home’s humidity levels below 50% using dehumidifiers or air conditioners.
  2. Ventilate damp areas: Ensure adequate ventilation in bathrooms, kitchens, and basements.
  3. Fix leaks: Regularly check for leaks in your home’s roof, walls, and plumbing and get these issues fixed promptly.
  4. Dry out wet areas: Don’t leave damp clothes or other items lying around.
  5. Inspect and clean regularly: Regular cleaning and inspection, especially of damp areas, can catch mold early before it becomes a problem.

Avoiding Mold Problems

Black mold exposure can be a serious health risk, but by knowing how to identify it and the steps for its removal, you can effectively combat it. Keep an eye out for a greenish-black mold that is growing in shiny patches and act fast if you spot it. Fix leaks promptly and consider using a dehumidifier in any part of your home that experiences humidity over 50%.

When dealing with black mold, remember that it is generally a good idea to contact a professional. Removing mold can be dangerous if you do not use the right protective gear, and can actually spread the dangerous black mold spores to other areas of your home.

Cramer Pest Control and Environmental Services