What Can You Do If You Have Black Mold Creeping Up Your Walls?
Q. I have black mold growing up the walls in my basement. Can I remove mold myself? – Nancy K., White Plains, NY
A. First, it’s important to keep in mind that mold — in any form — can be harmful to your health.
So all of your mold must be removed. There lies the problem: The mold growing on your walls is easy to see, but most of the mold growing in homes is hidden. The only way to pinpoint where it is lurking is with mold testing. (In our next blog post, we will discuss do-it-yourself mold testing kits vs. professional mold testing.) So yes, may be able to remove visible mold, but without professional testing, you won’t know how serious the problem really is.
You failed to mention whether your basement walls are cement or Sheetrock. If the mold is on Sheetrock, it is impossible to remove it. The moldy areas must be cut out, removed, and the walls must be replaced. And, if the moldy area is more than about 10 square feet (less than roughly a 3 ft. by 3 ft. patch), the EPA recommends professional mold remediation.
What you will need to assess and clean mold:
- First, schedule a professional mold test to assess the situation. This will give you a blueprint of where the mold is, and whether you will be able to clean it yourself;
- A mask or respirator to filter out the mold spores you’ll be disturbing;
- Eye protection;
- Rubber gloves;
- Rags and a scrub brush;
- Non-ammonia soap or detergent;
- Large pail;
- Fan and/or dehumidifier;
- Work clothes, either old or white, since you will be using bleach;
- Plastic garbage bag;
- White vinegar.
Before removing black mold from a cement wall, dampen the moldy area well with a rag and plain water. This will keep the mold spores from disbursing through the air. Then scrub the area thoroughly with a scrub brush and non-ammonia soap or detergent to remove as much of the mold as possible.
Next comes the all-important bleach wash, which will remove any leftover mold, in addition to stopping future mold growth. In a pail, add 1½ cups bleach to 1 gallon of water. Wet the surface well with this mixture, letting it soak in for about 15 minutes. Scrub the area with the scrub brush. Then rinse well with clean, clear water. Repeat these two steps until all visible mold is gone. Next, use a fan and/or dehumidifier to dry the area well. If you leave any moisture behind, you are leaving your wall open to mold growth.
And finally, remove your work clothes in the basement, place them in a plastic bag, and head to your washing machine. The clothes will be coated with mold spores, and the last thing you want to do is track those spores throughout your house. Add ¾ cup white vinegar to your wash water to kill the mold on your clothes.
If you suspect you have mold in your home, call RTK Environmental Group at 800.392.6468 for information about mold testing or to schedule a test of your home.