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man looking at wall full of mold in despair

Mold Removal: Types of Mold and How to Get Rid of It

Andrew Dehan9-Minute Read
June 16, 2020

Mold – the look, the smell, even the thought of it makes you recoil. You probably have visions of long-forgotten takeout food crammed in the back of your fridge, or an old decrepit bathtub that hasn’t been used in years. But aside from what might be growing in your refrigerator, household mold is actually very common, and can represent a significant health hazard if left unchecked.

The presence of mold, while unsightly, can also lead to ongoing issues, from respiratory distress to property damage. You need to pay immediate attention to any signs of mold, assess the situation and decide on a swift course of action for removal or remediation.

What Is Mold?

Mold is a fungus that reproduces by expelling microscopic spores into the environment. While mold is most readily identified by sight, high concentrations can also give off a musty or mildewy smell. When these spores land in a damp environment, they grow and spread and can potentially cause rot.

Some molds thrive in home environments where moisture is common, such as bathrooms, kitchens, attics, basements and crawl spaces. Most molds prefer dark environments and are deterred by sunlight. This is why you’re most likely to find molds in areas like garages, basements and windowless bathrooms. Homes also have a large variety of food sources for these molds. Ceiling tiles, paints, carpet and fabric are all attractive food sources for different mold varieties.

Different Types Of Mold

Molds comes in many different forms; in fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are probably tens of thousands of types of molds, if not more. Molds play an important role in breaking down leaves, plants and trees. While many molds are harmless, harmful types in enclosed places can lead to respiratory distress, manifesting itself in symptoms that include stuffy noses and wheezing. The effects will be more intense for those who are allergic to that mold or have asthma. Molds responsible for breaking down natural materials, like wood and leaves, can damage the structure of your home. Everyone has an aversion to that.

Here are a few types of mold that you might commonly encounter in various areas of your home:

Alternaria

This type of mold, which can cause asthma-like symptoms in the upper respiratory tract, is frequently found in showers and tubs, beneath leaky sinks and in homes that have suffered water damage. It has a velvety texture with dark green or brown hairs.

Aureobasidium

Typically found behind wallpaper or on painted or wooden surfaces, this mold starts as a pink, brown, or black hue, then turns to a dark brown as it ages. This type of mold can cause eye, skin and nail infections.

Black Mold (Stachybotrys)

This mold appears slimy and black or dark green and is commonly found in organic materials such as wood, hay and cardboard. It is also known as “toxic mold” because it releases mycotoxins that can cause a host of medical issues, including difficulty breathing, sinusitis, fatigue, headache, a burning sensation in your airways, a persistent cough, nose bleeds, fever and even depression.

Ulocladium

Also black in color, this type of mold is found in kitchens, bathrooms and basements – areas where there are high levels of condensation or where there has been water damage. It can cause severe reactions that include hay fever, skin infections and difficulty breathing.

Pink Mold

While pink mold is referred to as a mold, it’s bacteria. It is commonly found in bathrooms, especially showers – particularly on the tiles, in the grout, and on the doors – where it feeds on soap scum and shampoo residue. You can identify the bacteria by a colony that appears pink and slimy. While generally harmless, it can cause infections if it gets into your eye or an open wound.

How To Get Rid Of Mold

Just as there are many types of mold, there are numerous removal methods. The best option for your situation will depend on what type of mold you’re encountering, the surface that it’s on, and the extent to which it has spread.

If you choose to handle the mold removal yourself, make sure to don adequate protective gear. The CDC recommends that you wear long pants and a long-sleeve shirt, protective gloves and eyewear, waterproof boots, and a mask rated at least N-95 or more to protect your nose and mouth. Note that while these masks protect you from small particles like mold, they are not adequate if you are encountering any sort of gases, chemical vapors, asbestos or lead.

From Wood

Removing mold from wood is easy if it has not spread far and wide. Before starting, put on your protective wear, especially a mask and gloves. First, vacuum up the area with the mold. This will suck up any loose spores on the surface of the wood. Next, scrub the area with soap and water. On bare, untreated or unpainted wood, you can use bleach. Soak up any cleaner and extra moisture.

If mold is still apparent in the wood, you can try to sand it out. Note that sanding will take off any finish and some of the wood. Since mold can live deep in the pores of wood, you may need to do a lot of sanding to fully remove it.

From Walls

Mold on your interior walls can be a hint at a water problem. Behind that wall, you may have a leaky pipe or a drainage issue. Or it could mean you have a ventilation issue. Does the bathroom have a vent? If not, moisture may be building up whenever you shower, encouraging mold growth.

If there is a water problem, any mold you kill by scrubbing is only going to come back. Fix these problems first. If you suspect a leak, clean the area and see how quickly the mold comes back. If it pops up quickly, you may need to hire someone to fix the problem.

To scrub mold off your walls, use a heavy-duty sponge soaked in a bleach/water solution. While wearing a protective mask and gloves, scrub the tainted spot with your solution. For stubborn patches of mold, you may need to let the solution soak in for a few minutes. If that still doesn’t work, you can use specially formulated mold remover and mix it in with your bleach solution. Once done scrubbing, make sure to dry off the area you scrubbed.

From Your Home’s Exterior

Mold on the exterior of the house isn’t just unsightly – it can also eventually migrate to the interior and cause further damage. A common place where mold may appear on the exterior of a home includes the decks, which can be cleaned with detergent or other light cleaning solution and a power washer. Clean vinyl or wood siding by power washing or scrubbing with a brush – hydrogen peroxide is a good solution choice, as it won’t harm your landscaping. For stucco or concrete walls, use a garden hose and sprayer attachment. Rinse the siding first, spray on non-toxic mold remover, allow it to sit while the mold starts to dissolve, then rinse it away.

In The Shower And Bathroom

Mold on bathroom fixtures and surfaces can be removed in a variety of ways: commercial cleaning products, such as Mildewcide; white vinegar and baking soda; a bleach solution of 1 cup laundry bleach combined with 1 gallon of water; or even plain soap and water. Match your scrubber to the area size – a large brush for broader areas or a toothbrush for smaller corners to remove mold from grout.

To prevent mold in the bathroom, make sure to open windows if you have them to improve ventilation and run the fan when showering, shaving or cleaning. Wipe water off hard surfaces, like shower walls and sinks, and fix plumbing leaks as soon as possible. Scrub mold from surfaces as soon as it appears, then be sure to dry the area to prevent it from spreading.

In The Kitchen

Spotted mold in your kitchen? Scrub hard surfaces with one of the solutions mentioned above, taking care to thoroughly rinse any food prep areas after. You may need to replace porous surfaces, such as wooden cabinets, that are contaminated.

To prevent mold and practice adequate kitchen maintenance, open windows to improve ventilation and run the hood vent when cooking and cleaning. Wipe water from hard surfaces, and fix leaky faucets as soon as possible. Always make sure your tableware and serving dishes are dry before storing them to keep mold from proliferating in cabinets. Scrub mold from surfaces as soon as it appears, then be sure to dry the area to prevent it from spreading.

In The Basement

Mold in the basement can be persistent, given the nature of basements – they tend to be much more humid than above-ground levels and typically have poor ventilation and little air flow, a combination that can cause mold to flourish. And of course, basements can be prone to flooding, due to extreme weather or undetected leaks in the pipes or sump pump. In addition, once mold develops, cinder block or concrete walls can be difficult to clean due to their rough texture.

To get rid of mold in the basement, scrub the walls using a large brush, and keep in mind that porous surfaces such as ceiling tiles or drywall might need to be removed and replaced. If basement carpet has become moldy, sweep it (while wearing a mask) to loosen the mold and let it dry in the sun if you can move it, or use high-powered fans to remove moisture if it’s affixed to the floor.

To prevent mold in the basement, you need to alter the conditions that can cause it to grow. First, remove dampness by installing a dehumidifier and making sure the dryer vent exhausts externally, if you use your basement for laundry. Then turn your attention outside: Shore up cracks and other foundation issues, and make sure that your soil is properly graded so that rainwater or melting snow goes away from the house, rather than collecting near your foundation.

In The Attic

Much like the basement, the dark, damp atmosphere of an attic is conducive to mold. Clean it as you would other areas by scrubbing the walls and making sure it hasn’t permeated porous materials.

To prevent mold in the attic, make sure that the vents are directed outside of your house rather than just ending in the attic. It’s also important to check the roof to alleviate issues that can contribute to moisture entering the attic, such as roof leaks, raised shingles, and gaps in skylights. Be sure vents and skylights are well-sealed to prevent moisture from coming in.

Cleaning Up After Mold Removal

Once the mold is gone, the chore isn’t over yet. Proper cleanup after mold removal is imperative to avoid recontamination. You should seal and immediately dispose of materials that may have contact with mold, like your mask. 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 be on your hair or skin.

Can You Ever Get Rid Of Mold Completely?

More serious mold problems are best handled by professional contractors or mold remediation specialists. Visible mold can be an indication of more extensive mold problems that might have permeated your drywall, insulation, subflooring, studs, ceilings, and other hidden areas, so it may be crucial to call a professional to ensure the growth is properly handled. However, the reality of mold is this: even though some can be removed from the home by cleaning thoroughly and taking out rotten materials, it can never be removed completely, which is why getting rid of it is often referred to as “mold remediation.” The important thing is to handle an issue promptly to help mitigate the nature of the problem.

Preventing Future Mold Growth

While spotting mold might make you question your housekeeping standards, remember that the presence of mold spores is inevitable anywhere with the potential for damp conditions – and that, of course, can occur in rooms throughout your home that get daily use, like the kitchen and bathroom, as well as in areas that you rarely visit, like the basement and attic.

However, that doesn’t mean you have to succumb to the growth of mold and the subsequent negative effects it can have on your health and home. Prevent mold by keeping surface moisture and humidity to a minimum, and then tackle spots as soon as they are visible to stop its spread.

Since it’s impossible to get rid of mold in the house completely, it’s important to keep your air clear by regularly replacing air filters. Consider using High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters, which are designed to trap 99.97% of particles that are 0.3 microns or larger (mold is usually 3 – 12 microns) in order to keep mold from circulating. You may also consider an air purifier that will remove mold spores. If you live in a particularly damp environment, find one with an antimicrobial filter to make sure that the filter itself remains free from mold.

The Bottom Line

By maintaining healthful air quality and mitigating mold as quickly as you can, your home will be healthier and safer. Read more Homeowner Tips on the Rocket HomesSM blog for additional ideas and advice on how to keep your property in excellent condition!

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Andrew Dehan

Andrew Dehan is a professional writer who writes about real estate and homeownership. He is also a published poet, musician and nature-lover. He lives in metro Detroit with his wife, daughter and dogs.