Types of mold and mold removal

Homeowners guide: 8 tips on how to clean mold

Nearly every home is susceptible to mold growth at one time or another. Several things can contribute to mold growth — from a room with poor ventilation to minor flooding in a basement. If you are concerned about mold growth in your home, this guide will help you identify types of mold, help you answer, “What is black mold?” and provide tips on mold removal.

Types of mold and where to find them.

Mold can take on a variety of colors. Black, white and green are the most commonly identified molds, and mold found outdoors may take on an orange hue. Mold also is commonly identified by three types:

  1. Aspergillus: This is the allergenic mold that is found growing on food or in home air conditioning ducts.
  2. Cladosporium: This mold may be black or green. (Though it is black in color, it is not the same as black mold.) It grows on the backs of toilets and painted surfaces and in fiberglass air ducts.
  3. Stachybotrys atra: This is commonly known as black mold, the mold that may cause the most health issues when inhaled. Black mold is found in its perfect habitat — warm, humid and damp areas like basements and crawlspaces.

Note: Mold that is white actually brings good news—it’s technically not mold because it’s in the early stages of growth and can, therefore, be easily treated.

What is black mold?

Black mold is often cause for concern because it may contribute to health issues when inhaled. It’s important to note that with 100,000 types of mold, many are black, so you need to use your nose to determine whether your black mold is Stachybotrys atra. True black mold smells stronger than other molds, reminiscent of musty, rotting leaves.

You may hire a professional to test whether the dark mold you see is black mold. However, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says the cost is not worth it because any mold—black or otherwise—should be removed from your home.

How to clean mold

If you notice mold growth, you’ll first want to determine whether the cleanup is a DIY project or one for a professional. The size of the area covered by mold is a good place to start. An area less than 10 square feet may be small enough to tackle yourself. However, a professional should be called if:

  • You believe mold is growing in your heating and air conditioning system.
  • Mold is growing due to damage by sewage or contaminated water.

8 tips for DIY mold removal

If you decide to clean the mold yourself, wear a respirator or mask specifically rated for exposure to mold. Cover your arms and legs to avoid an allergic reaction, and make sure you wear heavy-duty gloves. Then, use these 8 cleaning tips for smaller projects:

  1. Mold that appears in your shower or in bathroom grout may be scrubbed with one-half cup bleach in one quart of water — or you can purchase a ready-to-use product, just check to make sure it contains bleach.
  2. Treat areas that tend to get moldy, such as showers, one to two times a week with vinegar, which provides acid that repels mold growth. Cleaning with a mixture of borax and water also can prevent future mold growth.
  3. Mold that is growing on basement walls or other surfaces may be scrubbed with one part bleach to eight parts water.
  4. If your project is more extensive and you remove moldy drywall, vacuum up any debris with a wet/dry vacuum. If possible, use a long hose so that the vacuum can stay outside to avoid mold spores being spread indoors. Clean the vacuum by throwing away the filter and washing the tank and hoses with the water/bleach mixture.
  5. Use dehumidifiers and fans to dry the area you cleaned.
  6. Clean moldy areas before you paint or caulk them. If you don’t eliminate the mold first the paint and caulk will just peel.
  7. If a valuable or sentimental item, such as furniture or art, has mold growth, you may want to consult a specialist. Check for one with good references and is a member of a related professional organization.

Once you notice mold growing, it’s important to clean it immediately. Mold causes damage when left untreated. The longer you go without cleaning it, the more damage it may cause.

The best mold removal starts with mold prevention

Mold needs just three things to survive and grow: moisture, humidity and darkness. The most common areas in your home for mold growth are basements, showers, around heating and cooling appliances, carpets, ducts and crawlspaces. The best way to prevent mold growth is to eliminate water leaks or moisture in your home. See our article, “How Do I Prevent Mold Growth?” for mold prevention tips.