Most people have heard that black mold is dangerous to our health. No only do we want to keep our home environment healthy, we don’t want the unsightly dark spots on our walls, ceiling, showers, or air vents. But what does “toxic” black mold look like and how does it differ from mildew?

Mold is a fungus which can grow in areas that are damp or have been wet with moisture. Black mold is the Stachbotrys genus. It usually various shades of green, blue, and black. It resembles dark shades of paint stippled onto an area with a cotton ball. Mold can grow anywhere in your home. A leaky roof or sudden flooding can be the catalyst for a mold outbreak. Subsequently, wet flooring or hidden drywall can begin to grow black mold. Basements and bathrooms are especially susceptible. A homeowner may simply see the dark spots growing before they realize there was a problem with a leak.

When an area is exposed to moisture, it could take a full week for mold to begin to grow. Mold usually appears in splotchy, circular patches of varying colors which clump together and follow the moist area patterns. If there is an an active outbreak, mold can also have a slimy film over the spores.

Mold and mildew are both types of fungi, but mildew can be white, gray, or yellow. Mildew grows on warm, damp surfaces like plant leaves and even on paper or leather left in damp storage areas. Mildew can be a precursor to dangerous black mold type, so no matter what color it takes, it should be removed from a home as quickly as possible to prevent health hazards.

What if you can’t see mold behind moist drywall or in your insulation? A first indication that mold is growing could be the smell in the room. Mold has a musty, unappealing odor. A person might feel they want to “air out” the room because of this pungent smell. Stachybotrys, or black mold, has a particularly strong smell, similar to rotting leaves or wet earth. Within a week, the appearance of dark blotchy spots could follow. However, a musty smell does not always indicate how much mold is growing in that area, just that it may be present.

Now What?
Even if the exposed area dries, black mold can still continue to cause health problems. The spores can spread through the air and contaminate your entire home. If you see black mold growing, you need to act fast to prevent it from spreading and to protect your loved ones from potentially experiencing health problems. Call an expert to have the mold identified and professionally removed. All areas that have been affected by mold growth should be disposed of in their entirety in sealable bags so the spores are not spread to other areas of the home.

Mold can never be completely eradicated from humid environments like heating and air conditioning units, but it can be treated and constantly controlled. Various methods used by professionals can eliminate mold for up to two years in HVAC systems. These methods were created by the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure your safety and health.