Black mold, often referred to as toxic mold, toxigenic black mold, or toxigenic fungi, is a term typically used to describe molds that produce mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are toxic byproducts released when some types of mold grow. Some examples of mycotoxins include aflatoxin, ochratoxin, and trichothecenes. These agents can cause harm to individuals who inhale them or come in contact with them. Infants, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems are the most vulnerable to health issues as a result of black mold exposure.
Not all molds produce harmful mycotoxins, and species that have been known to produce them do not spread mycotoxins 100% of the time. Therefore, even if the mold in your home is identified as a common indoor mold that can produce mycotoxins such as Aspergillus, Penicillium, and Stachybotrys chartarum, it does not mean that toxic mold is spreading in your home. Despite being used to describe several types of mold, the term black mold is most often associated with Stachybotrys chartarum.
Mold spores are extremely small and can spread quickly and easily with a slight gust of wind, airflow from an air vent, or even by attaching themselves to the bottom of people’s shoes and pets outside where they then get tracked inside. This is why having people remove shoes at the door can be one way to help reduce the chances of spreading black mold in your home.
Black Mold Symptoms
A toxic mold environment can cause the health of those living in the affected home to decline. Symptoms of black mold exposure can range from skin rashes, fatigue, and throat pain to difficulty breathing, blurred vision, and neurological issues. The stronger your immune system, the better chance you have of experiencing the less serious symptoms. But if you continue to remain in the contaminated home for an extended period of time, then the symptoms will likely worsen over time no matter the strength of the immune system.
If you think exposure to toxic mold is what is causing your negative health symptoms, then the first thing you need to do is remove yourself from the affected area. Get out into fresh air and consult a health professional. Have someone check out your home to determine if what you suspect is mold really is the issue that you are dealing with.
What Does Black Mold Look Like?
Since black mold is a term that can be associated with many different species of mold, it is difficult to give a blanket description that covers all of them out there. But to help readers identify what it could look like, here are some pictures of black mold.
How to Remove Black Mold
Mold is the earth’s most common form of fungus and makes up about a quarter of its total biomass. Mold is everywhere and cannot be completely eliminated indoors. These mold spores can exist inside without becoming a problem, unless they land on some moisture and begin to grow. If mold is allowed to grow in a home, it can do permanent damage to materials in the home like carpeting, drywall, and wood. It can also do damage to the structural integrity of a building.
This is why it is so important that once you spot black mold in your home, to remove it as quickly as possible. Here are some steps and tips for removing black mold:
The first step in black mold removal is cutting off its food source: moisture. If water is continuing to infiltrate the area, then find the source and cut it off. This will help curb the growth of even more mold. Use a wet vacuum to clean up excess water. Make sure to thoroughly clean the wet vacuum after use to reduce the risk of spreading mold spores with further use.
Infestations are usually categorized as small, medium, or large. Small infestations are under ten square feet of mold, medium jobs are between ten and 100 square feet, and large are over 100 square feet. Typically, the smaller the job the more likely you can clean up the mold on your own and the larger the job, the more likely that you will need to call in mold removal professionals.
But these rules go completely out of the window depending on what kind of material the mold has contaminated. If mold is growing on a hard, non-porous material like tile, that will be much easier to clean. If it has contaminated a porous material like drywall, it can be trickier to determine how far back behind the wall the mold growth has spread without professional help.
Sealing off the contaminated area will help reduce the risk of spreading the mold outbreak into other rooms in the home. You can do this by hanging thick plastic sheeting from ceiling to floor with duct tape from. Equally as important is sealing off your body so that mold does not have a way into it or a route to start negatively affecting your health. Your skin, eyes, nose, and mouth are the most vulnerable areas that need protecting. Read more on the Personal Protection Equipment page.
Use a mild soap and water to scrub the black mold off of the surface. This is going to be more successful on non-porous surfaces like tile, metal, and plastic. On materials like drywall and wood, the scrubbing may work, but if the mold has managed to spread deeper into the surface, then it might be too late and you may need to dispose of and replace the material.
For those materials that are unsalvageable, seal them in plastic bags before removing them from the building and throwing them away. The seal is important so that you do not spread mold spores into new rooms on your way out of the door.
HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) vacuums gather up extra mold spores that were missed during cleaning. It is good to do a once over with one of these to cover your tracks a bit. Keep your protective gear on when changing the filter and dispose of the used filter safely as it will have mold spores in it. Clean this vacuum thoroughly as well.
When cleaning up all of your excess moldy materials, removal tools, and protective equipment, take the same precautions as you did in step 5.
If after completing this process you still suspect mold is present in your home or if this all sounds like way too much work, then you can call in mold removal professionals to do the job for you.