Household Safety Tips: What Is Black Mold?

How to identify, locate, and remove toxic black mold.

What is black mold?

"Black mold" is a form of fungi that commonly grows in warm, moist places. Scientifically, black mold is known as Stachybotrys chartarum. While mold is found everywhere in our environment, mold (sometimes called mildew) in your home can be harmful to your health. Exposure to black mold can cause respiratory problems including asthma, allergies, and chronic sinus infections.

How can you identify black mold?

All types of mold are not necessarily black""they can be white, black, green brown, orange, pink, or combinations of the colors. Not all molds that appear to be black in color are what is commonly called "black mold." What is commonly referred to as black mold is a slimy, sometimes fuzzy, greenish-black substance with a musty or mildew smell.

Where should you look for black mold?

Anywhere in your home that is dark is a possible breeding ground for mold. Small, obscure places frequently harbor mold because water leaks in those areas can easily go undetected. If you live in an area with 55% humidity or greater, you are at an increased risk for mold.



The first place to check for mold is water-damaged areas. This includes areas that have been exposed to any kind of water""from flooding to small leaks. Check the kitchen sink, cabinets, and bathroom thoroughly. Basements (or crawl spaces) are the next place to search; they are prime breeding grounds for mold. While inspecting your basement or crawl space, pay close attention to wood beams. Not only is wood a favorite mold food, the beams provide an easy way for the mold to creep into the rest of your home. If you believe that you might have a mold problem, you will need to check your entire home. This includes behind drywall, above the ceiling, under the carpet/baseboards, in and behind cabinets, and in home insulation.

How do you remove black mold?

Once you have identified mold in your home, the first step is to have a mold tester check your findings. This will help you learn the extent of your problem and what steps you should take next. Do not begin removing the mold until you have purchased a respirator. You need to be protected from the spores. Work for short periods, and take periodic breaks in the fresh air. Before removing the mold, seal off the area to prevent the mold spores from spreading. With a small mold problem, the next step is to correct the water source that is feeding the mold. This could be as simple as fixing a small leak, or as large as replacing a faulty roof. If no visible water leak can be found, and you are in a room with 55% of more humidity, you might consider getting a dehumidifier to help with the moisture problem. If you cannot find any reason for the increase in moisture, hire a professional to inspect the problem.

To begin cleaning up the mold, lightly mist any dry surface with water. Start by using basic soap and then a disinfectant to remove as much mold as possible. Be sure and thoroughly clean every surface in the room, even those without visible mold. The disinfectant should kill any fungi left after the soap cleaning. Allow the surface to completely dry before using it.

Mold is a very serious problem. Contact a professional for help if you have trouble locating or removing mold from your home.

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