It is something every home owner fears; discovering black mold in their home. However, with these tips and the proper products, you can prevent or treat this scourge in your home, safely and without harsh chemicals.
What Is Black Mold?
Black mold, or stachybotrys as it is named, is commonly called toxic black mold. However, this is a bit misleading as the mold itself is not dangerous. Rather, it is the mycotoxins released by the mold which can cause health concerns. As the name implies, black mold can be differentiated from other molds by its color. Common household molds will appear as green or grey while black mold will have an unmistakable dark black color.
What Are the Dangers?
While there have been a few unconfirmed cases of serious life-threatening conditions caused by chronic exposure to black mold, most health effects are less serious, although still cause for concern. They include:
- Irritation of the eyes, mouth, nose and throat
- Chronic fatigue and headaches
- Coughing, sneezing and wheezing
- Aggravation of asthma
- Hypersensitivity pneumonitis in those susceptible
- Fever and rashes
- Respiratory illness in children
- Development of asthma and respiratory allergies in susceptible children
Where Does It Develop?
Like most other molds, black mold grows in warm, moist, dark spaces. In particular, black mold is found where there has been a leak or flood, high humidity levels, condensation or other water damage. Basements and crawl spaces are common sights of growth, but anywhere that is warm enough that has moisture can be a breeding ground. If you see signs of a leak or water damage, make certain to check the underlying area as mold can live in walls and under carpets and flooring. If mold is found, don’t panic, we will discuss proper treatment methods below.
However, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and while you may not be able to prevent all mold growth in your home, you can take steps to minimize the likelihood. The best course of action is to eliminate the conditions in which molds thrive, with moisture as the main culprit. Any leaks or water infiltration into the home should be addressed immediately. Dehumidifiers, ventilation and air conditioners can help to alleviate humidity levels inside the home as well. If an area has suffered water damage, make certain to thoroughly dry all materials and replace any materials that cannot be completely dried.
How Can It Be Treated?
While you can hire a professional to eradicate the mold in your home, that is not necessary unless the affected area exceeds 10 square feet, in which case the EPA recommends hiring a professional. For smaller jobs, you can take care of the problem using commonly available cleaners.
Identifying the particular type of mold you have found is not necessary since all household molds will be treated the same way. To avoid excessive exposure to the spores while cleaning, make certain to wear a face mask rated for mold spores; these are commonly available at home improvement stores. While some surfaces can be properly cleaned, porous items, such as carpet, insulation, wall boards and ceiling tile will need to be removed and replaced, ideally with non-porous items or mold resistant material.
When treating the remaining surfaces you have a few options that will effectively kill the mold spores. Bleach and other harsh chemicals are not necessary and can have an adverse effect on you and the environment. Try these alternatives instead:
- Baking soda and vinegar mixtures– work well as an alternative to bleach without the possible harsh side effects. They can both be used as stand-alone products but work best together
- Tea tree oil is a natural fungicide with very little risk of adverse side effects. Although it is more expensive than alternatives, it is one of the safest options.
- Hydrogen Peroxide– produces no harmful fumes or residue and is relatively odorless and inexpensive. Be careful though as it can act as a mild bleaching agent so test spot first.
- Borax is a natural cleaner, although it is a bit harsher than the above alternatives, so wear skin protection and do not ingest it. For an added punch, it can be safely mixed with vinegar.
- Grapefruit Seed Extract works very similar to tea tree oil but can also be used as a weekly preventative.
While the thought of black mold in your home can be alarming, there are simple ways to prevent and treat the problem that won’t have harsh effects on your family or the environment.