Black Mold On Window Sill

Black Mold: How To Identify And Remove It

Emma Tomsich4-minute read
UPDATED: November 08, 2022

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Most commonly identified by sight and smell, mold is a fungus that reproduces by expelling microscopic spores into the environment. Nearly everyone has had a frightening experience with mold, from an infected basement or attic crawlspace to an ancient bathtub with surfaces sheathed in slime.

Household mold can be quite common and can result in serious health hazards if ignored. There are many different types – thousands, actually, including the dreaded black mold – but we won't get into the intricacies of all of them here in the interest of brevity.

Instead, we’ll focus on black mold, helping you identify what it looks like and how to remove it.

What Is Black Mold?

Black mold, or stachybotrys chartarum, is a slimy, black, brown or dark green mold often found in organic materials such as wood, hay and cardboard. Constant moisture is required for black mold growth. For example, water damage, water leaks, condensation, water infiltration and flooding are all likely causes of black mold growth. In addition to areas that are damp with moisture and humidity, black mold also grows in areas with little sunlight.

Black mold is also referred to as “toxic mold” because it releases mycotoxins that can cause a host of medical issues.

Now that you know more about black mold and how it’s caused, we’ll help you identify it in your home.

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What Does Black Mold Look Like?

When searching for black mold in your home, keep an eye out for water damage spots with dark growths appearing. In addition, sniff around the problem areas of your home for a musty smell.

Look for water damaged spots in dark, humid parts of your house. Darker rings on your walls or ceilings can be signs of leaks or damage caused by water damage, such as a pipe burst or a leak in your roof. Identifying potential leaks and water damage is the best way to catch mold growth early on.

If you already have black mold growth in your home, try to identify it as soon as possible. As mentioned, the physical appearance of black mold can present itself as furry, circular-shaped spots that are dark green, dark brown or black. Sometimes, black mold can also have tints of orange or white flecks in it. The smell of black mold is musty and distinct. It may smell like rotting plants or earth.

If you notice a musty smell in your house but don’t see mold growing, look for areas with water damage. It might also be helpful to get a second or third set of fresh eyes and noses to investigate, just in case you’ve already adjusted to a potential infestation.

Black Mold Vs. Mildew

Mold and mildew are commonly mistaken for one another. Although they are both fungi that thrive in damp, dark areas, there are some key differences between mold and mildew. In comparison to black mold, mildew has a white or grayish color in its early stages of life and turns brown as it grows. In addition, mildew has a flat, powdery texture, in comparison to mold, which is more fuzzy.

Both mold and mildew can pose health concerns for people exposed; however, black mold can be more harmful than mildew. Let’s look at the symptoms and health risks of black mold exposure.

Black Mold Symptoms And Health Risks

Exposure to black mold in your home may cause a variety of general health risks. Here are some possible symptoms humans can feel after an exposure:

  • Immune system response symptoms (stuffy nose, sore throat, cough, wheezing, and red or itchy eyes, or skin)
  • People with allergies to molds or asthma may experience more severe symptoms or allergic reactions
  • Severe reactions may include fever or shortness of breath
  • Other symptoms may include aches and pains, changes in mood, headaches, memory loss and nosebleeds

As you can see by the long list of medical issues black mold can cause, black mold removal is essential when found and should be done as quickly as possible.

Black Mold Removal Process

Here are the steps of removing black mold from your home:

Step 1: Find Source And Wear Protective Gear

The first and most important step to removing black mold is locating the outbreak and containing it. To protect yourself, it is crucial to wear protective gear when cleaning it up to protect against the previously mentioned black mold symptoms and health risks. Suit up with latex gloves, goggles, a mask and long sleeves and pants.

Step 2: Dry The Environment And Cut Off Moisture

Next, close off the area with the black mold. The best ways to dry out mold and mitigate moisture are to tape paper or plastic over vents and set up a fan to blow air through an open window and out of your home.

Step 3: Wash Away The Mold

Use soap, water and a scrub brush or sponge to clean the moldy surfaces. Then, sanitize the area with a strong disinfectant like hydrogen peroxide, white vinegar or bleach. If you choose to use bleach, dilute the mixture and use caution, keeping it away from your skin and eyes.

Step 4: Properly Dispose Of Cleaning Products

After you clean up the black mold, ventilate the area and dispose of cleaning products. Avoid recontamination in affected areas by sealing and immediately disposing of any materials that may have had contact with the mold. Rinse off the shoes or boots you wore while cleaning, wash your clothing in hot water, and shower to wash away spores that might have been on your hair or skin.

Black Mold Prevention Tips

Ultimately, the best way to prevent black mold from recontaminating your home is to keep your home free from moisture and humidity. If you do detect another damp and dark problem area, be sure to tackle water damage and mold growth as soon as possible to contain any spreading. To take extra precautions, keep your air clear by replacing air filters or investing in an air purifier.

The Bottom Line

By now, you know how to identify, contain and remove a black mold outbreak in your home. Remember to monitor damp and dark spots in your home that could turn into problem, or high-mold areas, such as basements and bathrooms. If you run into further issues with black mold, call professional contractors or mold remediation specialists.

Read on for more tips to take care of your home.

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Emma Tomsich

Emma Tomsich is a student at Marquette University studying Corporate Communications, Marketing and Public Relations. She has a passion for writing, and hopes to one day own her own business. In her free time, Emma likes to travel, shop, run and drink coffee.