In order for you to know how to find out if a house has black mold, it is first necessary to know what conditions mold spores need to survive.
Like all organic organisms, in order to grow, mold spores need food and water. Unfortunately for you, your entire home is made of organic material, all of which is potential food for mold spores. So the only place you’ll need to look for black mold in houses, is where there is water.
Unwanted water is most commonly found inside your home as the result of a leak. The easiest leaks to locate are around windows and from your roof, due to the discoloration of the walls. Also very easy to spot is water that seeps into your basement through the concrete walls or floor (usually the result of your home being built over a high water table, or underground stream). Less obvious are plumbing leaks that typically occur inside walls. Small, slow leaks are usually not found until they become larger problems soaking through the walls or dripping through to the floor below. Inside walls is where you are most likely to discover colonies of black mold hidden in your home.
Naturally, large scale problems, such as burst pipes, hurricanes or floods, need to be pumped out and dried up as quickly as possible. Typically, buildings that remain wet for >48 hrs will support visible and extensive mold growth. After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, in Aug and Sept 2005, and EPA assessment identified ~46% of all flooded homes sustained mold contamination.
When considering all the possible sources of water in your home, don’t focus on liquid water only. Humidity is just as dangerous as the vapors will condense on every available surface once the area cools. Water vapor is most commonly found in bathrooms and kitchens, which is why these rooms typically have exhaust fans installed in them. Water vapor rapidly condenses into liquid water when it encounters a colder surface, such as your bathroom/kitchen walls or ceiling.
This is why its important to exhaust as much vapor out of these spaces as possible, in order to minimize the possibility of mold growth. Two more not so obvious sources of condensate are inside your fireplace and basement crawl spaces. Water in the fireplace is usually the result of a malfunctioning flue, that allows external moisture to condensate on the brick walls inside (typically in the summer when the fireplace is not in use). In basement crawl spaces, condensation results from poor air circulation as the space heats and cools with the changing seasons.
When inspecting for black mold in homes, be sure to check as many locations as possible,that are potential sources of water; because when it comes to finding black mold in houses, where there’s water, there’s mold.
What Kills Black Mold?
You should only attempt to kill black mold when the affected area is 10 square feet or less. Larger areas will require special protective equipment and site preparation and should only be performed by trained professionals. Assuming the affected area is small enough, it is actually a very simple procedure to kill black mold.
First, it is essential to make sure that the source of moisture, causing the mold growth, has been removed. Secondly, the area of mold to be killed cannot be allowed to totally dry out. This will simply cause to mold spores to become airborne and spread to a new location. If the area looks too dry, almost dusty, lightly mist the mold with water from a spray bottle. You can now get rid of the black mold by simply washing the affected area with soap and water. Once as much of the visible mold has been removed, it is now time to kill the remaining black mold, lingering behind as microscopic spores.
Killing black mold spores is easily accomplished by the wiping down the affected area with a disinfectant, and then thoroughly drying. There are several types of disinfectants that can be used each of which has their advantages and disadvantages. The most commonly used disinfectants are:
- Quarternary ammonium compounds (Lysol)
- Hypochlorites (bleach)
When considering an alcohol to use as a disinfectant, the preferred choice is Isopropanol, commonly known as Rubbing Alcohol and Isopropyl Alcohol. When used for the killing of black mold, it is best to use a slightly diluted (60 – 90%) concentration. The advantages of using alcohol is that it is non-staining and non-irritating. The major disadvantage is that alcohol is highly flammable.
The most well known quarternary ammonium compound is known by the trademarked name of Lysol. As an active ingredient, the quarternary anmmonium constitutes approximately 0.1% of the total formulation. However, their biocidal activity is both fact acting and long lasting, activae against bacteria, fungi, and some viruses. Lysol also contains a small percentage of isopropanol (see above). The advantage of quarternary ammonium compounds is that they are inexpensive, the one disadvantage is that they have a limited effectiveness (recommended use in concentrations from 0.4 – 1.6%).
Household bleach is a 3 – 6% solution of sodium hypochlorite. As a disinfectant, bleach should be used as a 1:5 (1 part bleach to 4 parts water) dilution, and is effective against most bacteria and some viruses. In fact, bleach is the disinfectant of choice for cleaning surfaces in hospitals (in the United States). Due to the fact that sodium hypochlorite is corrosive, it is highly recommended that it be thoroughly removed, so bleach disinfection is often followed by alcohol disinfection. The obvious advantages of bleach are that it is so readily available and inexpensive. The disadvantages are that it will remove color from fabrics and dissolve protein fibers (wool and silk).
When deciding how to get rid of black mold, it is most important to first make sure that the source of the mold growth (moisture) has been removed, and that the area has been thoroughly cleaned. You then have several choices of disinfectant, after which you need to make sure that the area is completely dry in order to prevent a regrowth.
How to Clean Black Mold
Knowing how to clean black mold is an essential step in preventing a small colony from expanding into a large scale health hazard.
Home owners should only attempt to clean moldy areas that measure 10 square feet or less. Larger areas will require special site preparation and protective equipment and should be handled by mold removal professionals. However, if the affected area is small enough, you can clean the area yourself following the 5 simple steps.
- Step 1: Eliminate all water
Mold needs moisture to grow, so unless you first dry the area to be cleaned, the mold will simply return. Your first priority is to locate and eliminate the source of moisture where the mold is growing.
- Step 2: Not too Dry
Now that you’ve removed the source of moisture from the area, you need to make sure that the area is not too dry. The reason for this is that when mold spores dry out, they can easily become airborne (like dust) and spread. In order to prevent this, spray area with water to prevent the spores from dispersing when you actually clean the area.
- Step 3: Scrub Clean
Now its time to clean the area, and this is best done by scrubbing with warm Soapy water. Scrubbing will help to loosen any mold that has penetrated into a porous surface, while the soap will make sure that the mold is encapsulated and lifted away.
- Step 4: Sanitize the Area
The mold is gone and you definitely don’t want it to come back, so you now want to sanitize the area. Thoroughly wipe with a disinfectant, such as a mild bleach solution or Lysol. This will kill any lingering mold or spores that may be left behind.
- Step 5: Dry thoroughly
Remember Step 1 Eliminate all water. Your previously moldy area has now been cleaned and disinfected so the last thing you want is to allow water to accumulate and the mold to return. The key to preventing mold growth the elimination of moisture, so keeping the area as clean and dry as possible is essential.
These 5 simple steps are all you need to clean and sanitize small areas of mold growth.
Black Mold Test Kits
If you’re concerned about mold contamination in your home and want to know how to test for mold, you should be aware that there are multiple types of black mold test kits. Although each type is capable of detecting the presence of black mold, they are limited by their ability to detect either the airborne spores or the already propagating live mold colonies.
Here are some recommendations from Amazon:
Prevention With The Best Dehumidifiers
One of the most important things you need to know about mold is that it requires moisture to grow. Although theres not much you can do about a burst pipe or a flood, mold is equally at home in high humidity environments and that is something you can control. So do yourself a favor and help yourself avoid the dangers of black mold by checking out these top rated dehumidifiers.
Remember, high humidity is just as dangerous as standing water when it comes to encouraging the black mold growth. A little preventative maintenance can go a long way in saving you thousands of dollars in mold related health issues and structural damage to your home. Buying a top rated dehumidifier is an easy way to give yourself peace of mind.