How To: Remove Black Mold
Don't let an infestation of black mold damage your home and health. With a few natural ingredients, you can eliminate the harmful substance without the help of a professional.
As a naturally occurring and pervasive substance in our world, mold exists in a variety of different forms—many of which are non-toxic and mainly affect those with allergies and asthma.
Black mold, specifically, though, is a more serious offender. Exposure to the toxic variety of Stachybotrys chartarum can cause respiratory issues ranging from mild to severe. It, like most kinds of mold, grows at an alarming rate in the right conditions—namely in places with prolonged exposure to moisture and humidity, such as bathrooms, basements, under-sink cabinets, or recently flooded areas.
For this reason, homeowners should take action at first sign of it, and learn how to remove black mold before it transforms from a benign player to an invasive species.
Because black mold can form in the walls before spreading to drywall or other surfaces, chances are that homeowners may smell its musty, mildew odor before seeing it. When you do start your inspection, look for its characteristic slimy texture, dark green-black (sometimes gray) color, and spotty appearance.
If someone in your home has recently experienced an unshakable increase in respiratory symptoms (sniffling, sneezing, forgetfulness, congestion, and so on) and you suspect a recent mold infestation, you may be facing a more serious mold strain. Under such conditions, hire a licensed mold inspector to examine your house and advise on the best way to mitigate it based on its pervasiveness.
You should also hire a mold-removal specialist if the black mold has moved into your walls, in order to stop the problem before it spreads further. Otherwise, a mold problem confined to accessible, hard surfaces—such as bathroom walls, basement floors, or wood trim—can be tackled with the right gear and some persistence. Here’s how to remove black mold from your home.
First, locate the source of mold in your home. Black mold can be identified by its often-slimy texture, dark-greenish/black (sometimes gray) color, and growth that appears as spots or patches that spread over time. Common sources of black mold include corners, covered areas under sinks or cupboards, baseboards, under cardboard boxes in the basement, and anywhere else with high levels of moisture. Pay attention to your nose, and follow musty scent of black mold to locate the source. A flashlight will help you inspect nooks, crannies, and dark corners.
Once you’ve spotted the offending growth, whip up a mold-fighting solution. While plenty of agents can fight mold (Borax, vinegar, bleach, and ammonia, to name a few), tea tree oil and grapefruit seed extract are often considered the most effective products to disinfect and deodorize the problem area. Moreover, they’re completely non-toxic. You can purchase tea tree oil online and in health stores; just ensure that its from melaleuca alternifolia (an Australian tree) and that its active ingredients include 30 percent terpinen 4-ol and no more than 10 to 15 percent cineole. Grapefruit seed extract may be slightly less effective but easier to find, also available from these sorts of retailers.
For every one cup of water the spray bottle holds, add a teaspoon of either tea tree oil or grapefruit seed extract. Both of these essential oils have a long shelf life, so as long as the spray bottle can be turned to an “off” position for air-tightness, the solution will last for at least a year.
Before removing any black mold, gear up: Don disposable coveralls, rubber gloves, airtight safety goggles, and a face mask/respirator. This protective gear will reduce the risk of health issues that may result from exposure to the substance, including respiratory infections, allergic reactions, joint inflammation, and rashes. Because a single black mold spore hitting your eye can even induce blindness, you don’t want to cut any corners.
Thoroughly shake the spray bottle of mold-mitigating solution, then spray the affected area so it’s well-saturated. (Continue to shake the bottle repeatedly during this process in order to ensure the solution stays well mixed.) Allow the liquid to sit on the mold for 5 to 10 minutes so the antibacterial properties have time to work through the grime. Never scrape dried mold, or else the toxic spores could spread into air and cause negative health effects.
Take a nylon bristle brush and scrub the surface area to lift and unsettle the dampened mold. Move the brush in careful strong strokes so you aren’t splashing the mold on the surrounding areas—even dead mold spores can be an allergenic health issue. After scrubbing thoroughly with the brush, wipe the area clean with old rags or paper towels.
If the mold proves difficult to remove, repeat Steps 4 and 5. A light stain may remain after you’re through, but as long as you’ve cleaned the surface thoroughly, the mold should be properly killed.
Do not rinse the area with water, since the tea tree oil and grapefruit seed extracts are mold-fighting agents that help prevent mold’s return. Instead, shake the bottle of solution, give the mold-infested area a final light spray, and then allow it to air-dry.
Dispose of the coveralls and paper towel in a plastic bag, which you should tightly seal before taking out with the trash. Wash soiled rags and the nylon scrubber in hot water, or throw them away with the coveralls and paper towel as an extra precaution.
Remember, mold is naturally occurring. It may return. To tackle a few random spots of a fresh resurgence, it’s not necessary to don coveralls. Instead, grab a mask, goggles, gloves, and the leftover mold-killing solution, then proceed from Step 3 onward. Armed with this information on how to remove black mold, you’ll stay on top of the household menace in the future.