Updated May 2nd 2015 1:03PM
Greg801/Getty The disgusting stuff on your wall could be mold, black mold or mildew. Figuring that out is the first step in getting rid of it.
Removing black mold from your home can sound like a daunting task. Just the term "black mold" sounds scary enough. If you're willing to buy the proper safety equipment and can stomach scrubbing and removing mold damage for up to a few weeks, you can save hundreds and possibly thousands of dollars.
Deciding when to call in a professional is a personal decision, but there are two signs that black mold has progressed too far to easily remove it yourself, says David Olson of PuroClean. a property damage restoration company.
"When the odor is becoming so bad that it's giving them a headache," or a finger can be pushed through drywall damaged by black mold, Olson says.
Removal is charged by the square foot and varies by where you live, he says. Removing mold from and repairing a standard shower can cost from $1,600 to $4,500, Olson says.
To avoid such costs, here are some ways to remove black mold in your home on your own:
1. Determine What it Is
The musty smell under a sink may not be black mold -- which is a mold that has been left for quite awhile -- and may just be simple mold, Olson says. The difference is that mold is a live spore, while black mold could be toxic. Mildew, for example, is often confused with being mold, but it can be easily cleaned with bleach or other surface cleaners.
Not all visible molds that are black are dangerous, and mold testing may be needed to confirm if toxic spores are in your house, according to the website BlackMoldRemoval.com .
Homeowners should test their homes every three to five years for potential mold problems, says Caroline Blazovsky. a healthy home expert.
"Not all mold problems are visible ," Blazovsky says. "Sometimes, you get lucky and see mold growing on areas like basement walls or bathroom walls to know there is a problem. But, many times mold is in between walls behind showers, underneath flooring and under kitchen appliances -- places we cannot get to."
She recommends doing a mold air test with a professional air pump sampler, either with a certified inspector or a DIY kit .
2. Find the Source and Stop the Damage
If you see or smell black mold in your house, it's probably in an area of high moisture, such as a bathroom that isn't vented well enough, or from a water leak such as a leaking pipe. Repair the leak before deciding if you're going to repair the damage yourself.
Once moisture from water damage or condensation has been provided, mold will use a food source such as insulation, fabric, drywall or carpet to grow and cause damage.
3. Get an Inspection
Hiring a professional to determine the amount of damage can be the safest way to figure out
how much black mold is in your home and help you understand how to fix it. An industrial hygienist can test rooms other than where the mold was found to determine if it has grown to other areas.
If you decide to go with a professional mold removal company, their experts will tell you what steps to take next, such as possibly leaving the house while they do their work. To protect your family's health, a professional mold removal company is the best way to go. If you decide to do the work yourself, continue the following steps.
4. Wear Protective Gear
According to BlackMoldRemoval.com, you'll need to start by buying mold removal gear to protect yourself from airborne mold spores. Use an N-95 respirator, available online or at a local hardware store for from $20 to $50. You'll also need gloves, goggles, long-sleeved shirts and pants. Everyone else should leave the house during cleanup.
5. Seal Affected Areas
Water damaged rooms and rooms with potential mold growth should be sealed with heavy-duty plastic sheets to contain airborne spores. Force mold spores out windows with negative pressure from an exhaust fan.
6. Discard Water-Damaged Material
After the water damage has been contained, allow the area to dry for up to 48 hours. Porous materials such as carpet, drywall and fabric may retain moisture. Toss water-damaged materials that show signs of mold growth.
7. Scrub Away
Visible mold can be scrubbed off hard surface with water and detergent. Then allow the surfaces to dry thoroughly. If mold has dried, lightly spray the area with water before cleaning to prevent the release of airborne spores.
Commercial mold removal products can be used, but the EPA discourages using chlorine bleach to remove mold. Natural mold removal agents include hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, tea tree oil, and baking soda.
There are a lot of misconceptions about how to get rid of and prevent mold, with one of the most popular being that bleach is best, says Pete Duncanson, a mold remediation expert at ServiceMaster Restore. Bleach has a reputation of killing mold and everything else, but it doesn't because the mold doesn't die. It only goes dormant, Duncanson says.
"Consumer products reduce discoloration and the appearance of mold," he says, "but the only way to truly get rid of mold is to cut it out of an area," or call in a professional to manage larger issues such as mold in an HVAC system.
8. Clean All Surfaces
To prevent mold from returning, clean all surfaces thoroughly to remove residual spores. Allow all surfaces to dry. Dry vacuum the room with a HEPA filter vacuum to remove embedded spores.
9. Toss Mold-Cleaning Equipment
Put anything that was used in the black mold cleanup in a heavy duty, sealed garbage bag. This should include clothing, sponges and other cleaning material.
When to call a professional? Olson's recommendation is when mold returns after you've made numerous attempts to clean it yourself. That's a clear sign that something you're doing isn't working.