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cleaning black mold

Is it Safe to Clean Black Mold Yourself?

It’s time to answer one of the most persistent questions seen on MoldBlogger and other sites: Is it safe to clean black mold yourself?

Whether you’re a headstrong homeowner or you simply can’t afford professional mold remediation, you’ve certainly been wondering the same thing lately. Is the risk worth it—and what is the risk anyway? That’s what we’re about to find out!

Can Black Mold Kill You?

Yes, black mold can kill you, but there are a great many factors that must take place before that’s a possibility.

For one, the type of exposure to black mold is important. A one-time exposure may produce unbearable and debilitating symptoms for a period of time, but if the person is treated correctly and never exposed again, the chances of the symptoms becoming a chronic and eventual death threat are extremely low. That said, some one-time exposures have the capacity to become chronic if the person suffers from a weakened immune system or an immunodeficiency. They are at a greater risk of developing long-term and life-threatening mycotoxicosis symptoms (toxic mold sickness). Even a poor lifestyle—poor eating and exercising habits—can lead to a weakened immune system that is vulnerable to a great variety of life-threatening disease—not just black mold toxicity.

One-Time Exposure Black Mold Poisoning Symptoms:

  • a long, painful headache
  • a tightening in the chest
  • burning sensations in airways
  • cough
  • difficulty breathing
  • fever
  • fits of sneezing
  • nose bleeds
  • skin irritation
  • stuffy nose
  • watery or itchy eyes
  • wheezing

Repeat exposure, such as working or living in a mold-infested environment presents the greatest possibility of chronic black mold poisoning symptoms and death to both immunocompromised individuals and those at peak health. When exposure is persistent, the immune system experiences a bombardment of intense attack that affects the whole body. From the throat and lungs to the digestive system, to the bowels and skin, toxic mold symptoms act very much like a poison on the entire system. There is only so much even the healthiest of bodies can take before it becomes completely incapacitated and meets a fatal outcome.

Repeat-Exposure Black Mold Poisoning Symptoms:

  • asthma
  • autoimmune disease
  • cold and flu
  • emphysema-like disease
  • fatigue
  • memory loss
  • migraine-like headaches
  • muscle aches
  • nosebleeds
  • pulmonary hemorrhage
  • rashes and dermatitis
  • sore throat
  • vomiting and diarrhea (especially in infants)

How Long Does It Take for Black Mold to Kill You?

There have been many cases of toxic black mold sicknesses and death in public record for the past thirty years, but often, the issue is denied outright or the blame is shifted to keep landlords and businesses from being held accountable for their poor property maintenance.

In the 1990s, Cleveland, OH saw an inexplicable rise in pulmonary hemorrhage (bleeding in the lungs) of children. On average, such a severe affliction occurs in only one out of a million children worldwide from time to time, but when every pediatrician in Cleveland suddenly began seeing five or more patients each week suffering from the same symptoms, it was determined that cases in that region alone had risen to one in every one-thousand children. A two-year investigation into the incident identified exposure to Stachybotrys chartarum—toxic black mold—as the cause. Sadly, it took the deaths of several children before the results could be concluded. Those years were warmer and wetter than usual, and Cleveland’s general mismanagement of moisture-damaged rental buildings was to blame, yet many rose up to deny mold sickness was even possible, claiming it to be an imagined disease and downplaying the dangers of black mold. (See: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Acute pulmonary hemorrhage/hemosiderosis among infants—Cleveland, January 1993-November 1994. MMWR 1994;43:881-3.)

In 2009, St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa, FL lost three young cancer patients in less than a month due to mold inhalation. The cause was the hospital’s construction project that exposed and released toxic black mold into the pediatric cancer wing of the hospital. The children were trapped in poorly-ventilated rooms while microscopic black mold spores attacked their chemo-weakened bodies. Only the three deaths were admittedly due to this mold exposure, but more families are claiming their children suffered from chronic negative effects and even death due to the same negligent exposure.

Periodically, reports will come in regarding farmers, construction workers, handymen, and DIY homeowners who have been exposed to black mold and died from it. As most are usually middle-aged and very fit, the problem was repeat exposure as they worked in silos or on building or renovation projects. For some, it took years before they passed; for others, it took only months.

How long does it take black mold to kill you? As you can see, it depends entirely on your age and current state of health. Those who are most-likely to experience black mold poisoning symptoms and lose their lives because of it are:

  • infants and children
  • older adults
  • people with allergies or asthma
  • people with weakened immune systems

What complicates matters is that black mold exposure has also been linked to certain seemingly-unrelated diseases and cancers. This means that the death rate from black mold exposure could be significantly higher, but there is no way to know for sure until medical providers, landlords, and lawmakers take mold toxicity more seriously.

Is it Safe to Clean Black Mold Yourself?

Now that you have a better understanding of the dangers revolving around black mold exposure, surely you’re wondering if cleaning it on your property is worth the risk. The answer is: “Yes, but it depends.”

In most cases of illness and death, the victims did not use the proper equipment when cleaning or removing black mold from their home. Even if the cleaner wears the right protection, the other inhabitants are often exposed because not enough care was taken to ensure the issue was resolved before allowing them back in the home. If you must tackle this problem yourself, you must do it right the first time. You and your loved ones depend on every precaution being executed correctly.

Preparing the Home for Black Mold Removal

Any attempt to resolve mold issues in a home will disturb the mold and release millions—if not billions—of mold spores into the environment. These spores are invisible to the naked eye and completely unavoidable. They spread through every room within minutes—even seconds—so do not think for even a moment that your family is safe in another part of the house. Even if the spores finally settle, you can expose your family by introducing them on your clothing or opening a door and causing them to rise up again on air currents.

This is why a complete strategy must be in place before you make any removal attempt at all.

If you must do this on your own:

  • purchase the proper personal protection equipment (PPE)—wear and use it at all times!
  • have your family and pets removed completely from the home for several days
  • invest in an air purifier that combines HEPA and Activated Carbon filters
  • be willing to throw away any items that are fibrous or porous, such as wood or fabrics
  • if replacing elements of the home, purchase only mold-resistant drywall, paint, sheet rock, and other materials
  • use black mold removal products or cleaners, or make them yourself from anti-fungal essential oils—NO BLEACH!
  • document the entire process with videos, photographs, and/or journaling (in case of litigation)
  • safeguard yourself and your family with anti-fungal meals and supplements
  • maintain mold-inhibiting temperatures and moisture levels in the home

Conclusion

Cleaning black mold yourself can be a daunting task—and one that you should never take lightly. If it is at all possible, I urge you to seek professional assistance. That said, if you choose to move forward regardless of what you have read here, you are doing so with the full knowledge of what the risks are. My only advice is to be unwavering in your precautions and planning. Never move forward without the proper equipment. Do not cut corners. Do not compromise safety for “cheap” or “easy” solutions. Your life and the lives of those you love are at stake.

If you’re in need of black mold removal solutions for specific materials or situations (such as: “how to remove black mold from wood,” “how to get rid of black mold on walls,” or many other topics), please feel free to use the search bar on MoldBlogger. Every week, more topics and solutions will be posted to help you with your mold problems, so check back frequently.

If you’ve ever found black mold in your home, please share your experience in the comments below—it could greatly benefit other readers. What led you to search out the mold—did you experience symptoms beforehand? Where did you find it? What steps did you take to remove it? What black mold removal products did you use? Ultimately, do you believe it is safe to clean black mold yourself or do you think it is wiser to invest in the help of professionals?

Article by Amanda Demsky.

mold concrete block wall

How to Get Rid of Mold on Concrete Block Walls

According to the 2021 Old Farmer’s Almanac, this winter is going to be warmer and wetter than usual. Perhaps that’s what brought you here today. Is your basement collecting more moisture this winter? Have you noticed a musty smell or discoloration on your basement walls? If so, then the most-likely culprit is mold. It’s time to figure out how to get rid of mold on concrete block walls—and fast!


Why Concrete Blocks are Susceptible to Mold

Concrete blocks are made up of water, aggregate (gravel, rock, or sand), and Portland cement. The aggregate acts as a filler while the Portland cement acts as a binding agent. Many of the ingredients in Portland cement (what is commonly used in poured concrete today) are anti-fungal, such as lime.

Portland cement is created by pulverizing and measuring out specific proportions of the following materials:

– Alumina: sourced from bauxite, clay, or recycled aluminum.
– Gypsum: sourced alongside calcium oxide from limestone (below).
– Iron: sourced from clay, fly ash, iron ore, or scrap iron.
– Lime (or calcium oxide): sourced from calcareous rock, chalk, limestone, shale, or shells.
– Silica: sourced from argillaceous rock, clay, sand, or old bottles.

Cinder blocks (often confused with their concrete cousin) tend to be antiquated but can still be found in older buildings. They contained cement and cinder ash. Today, new composites of cinder blocks are being manufactured that have a special blend of concrete ingredients and volcanic pumice or coal. Volcanic pumice and coal are both anti-fungal, as well.

Fun Fact: Roman concrete was an ideal choice for building. Not only was its hydraulic-setting composition (meaning: it could pour and cure under water) unique in all the world, many of the Roman concrete structures remain to this day because the composite contains volcanic ash, which made an inhospitable environment for mold and other microbials that would have molecularly broken down the blocks over time. Sadly, the exact secret composition of Roman concrete was lost alongside the fall of the Roman Empire itself around 476 A.D.

Whether you have concrete blocks, poured cement, or old or new cinder blocks, the ingredients are relatively the same and provide the same amount of protection against mold growth within and throughout the structure itself. The problem lies in the fact that both concrete and cinder blocks allow for the re-absorption of water. Strangely enough, this actually restrengthens the molecular structures of the blocks themselves. At the same time, however, because they are so porous and have a high proclivity toward moisture, this allows for the risk of mold growth.

Thankfully, the concrete or cinder block itself does not supply mold with a food source. Unfortunately, it is the layer of dust and other contaminates that settle on the surface over time that can provide plenty of nutrients for a mold to grow.


How to Get Rid of Mold on Concrete Block Walls

Theoretically, if you kept your concrete or cinder block walls clean of dust and debris, and were able to control the temperature and moisture level of the room, your mold problem would dry up, so to speak. Unfortunately, even if these measures are taken regularly, it is still possible for mold to simply lie dormant as it waits for the ideal conditions to arise again.
Therefore, if a mold problem has already arisen, you will have to take extra mold-fighting steps in addition to maintaining the clean, dry conditions, as well.

Before we get into the specifics of how to remove mold from concrete basement walls, you will need to have the right gear. Going in unprepared could put you at risk for mold infection and toxicity. I suggest reading up about mold containment and personal protection equipment (PPE) against mold.

After you have decided on the appropriate PPE—and are wearing it!—your first task will be to remove the moisture issue in the afflicted room. Is it a spill, a leak, or just the result of the climate? Whatever it is, clean up any puddles and repair any broken pipes. Then, well-ventilate the room by opening windows or consider investing in a dehumidifier to control the humidity immediately and long-term. (Further reading: how a dehumidifier can help get rid of mold in your basement.)

Your second task will be to clean the room and concrete or cinder block walls thoroughly, clearing away dust, debris, and/or mold itself. Whether it’s mold on the surface of concrete blocks or mold inside cinder block walls, a liquid solution comprised of a mold-killing ingredient is best and you’ll need to seal it afterward with mold-preventive vinegar.

What you will need to clean mold off concrete:
• PPE (mask, goggles, gloves, etc.)
• hard bristle brush (here are some options on Amazon; don’t use a wire brush, as it will damage the walls)
• anti-fungal laundry detergent diluted with hot-water in a spray bottle (you can use a simple dilution of borax, but I highly suggest this recipe)
• white vinegar water-diluted in a spray bottle
• anti-fungal essential oils to add to the vinegar to veil the strong scent—optional
• hot water in a spray bottle
• rags and towels you are willing to throw away
• a trash bag

Please note: All spray bottles should have a misting option—not a jet spray.

IMPORTANT: While laundry detergent is suggested, please do not use anything but a detergent that specifically highlights its anti-fungal properties. This usually entails an all-natural detergent made with essential oils. If you are unable to find such a detergent, create your own from the recipe link provided, or stick strictly with borax. Any other detergent will only provide nutrients to the mold and allow it to grow back exponentially worse.


How to Remove Mold From Concrete Basement Walls, Steps 1 – 6:


Step 1: Once you have donned your PPE and brought everything on the list into the affected room, remember to keep the room well-ventilated or leave your dehumidifier running. Then, spray the walls generously with your detergent mixture, soaking them thoroughly. (There is no need to wait for a specific period of time before you go on to the next step.)

Step 2: Start at the first area you sprayed and scrub vigorously every inch of the wall until you have finished scrubbing the entire room. The bristle brush is meant to break up and pull out from the concrete pores any visible and non-visible particles of mold-food or mold growth. (While poured concrete in the floors is less likely to have mold growth, it is wise to hit that area, too. I suggest a floor-scrubbing bristle brush instead of getting on your hands and knees with a handheld brush, though. You can find those in the Amazon link provided above, as well.)

Step 3: Spray the walls (and floor) with hot water from a spray bottle in segments one by one and then use rags or towels (you are willing to throw away) to wipe the walls and floors down. Remember to replace the towels frequently between segments so that you are not merely spreading the moldy mess. (The reason for spraying hot water is that, by the time you have finished scrubbing, the detergent and debris will have dried up and you’ll need to remoisten the walls in order to wipe them away.)

Step 4: After the walls (and floor) have been wiped clean, they will most-likely still be a little moist. That is perfectly fine. Now it is time to apply the vinegar spray. This, too, should be applied generously, which is why you might want to add an anti-fungal essential oil to it, like lavender—to help stave off that awful vinegar smell.

Step 5: Remember to safely remove and throw away the bristle brush, the rags and towels, and the PPE in the trash bag you brought with you once you are finished. It might seem like a waste of money instead of washing these things, but these items have so many nooks and crannies where mold can live, that it is best to toss them out to ensure they do not contaminate the rest of your house. This is especially important if you are dealing with toxic black mold.

Step 6: Shower and scrub your body and hair thoroughly, then opt to eat a dinner infused with plenty of garlic. You can find many anti-fungal food suggestions on MoldBlogger.

If you want to be extra thorough, add anti-fungal essential oils to your hot water bottle and repeat Step 3 twice before moving on to Step 4. This will ensure that there is absolutely no residue of detergent or mold remaining.

That’s it!


Conclusion

The answer to “How to get rid of mold on concrete block walls?” is a simple one, but if you live in a hot and humid climate, you may have to repeat this process once or twice a year. There are commercial mold sprays, but I cannot in good conscience suggest them due to their highly corrosive ingredients. Some PPE will not be able to keep your mucous membranes (mouth, nose, throat, eyes) safe from such chemicals, and it would be a shame if, in the process of saving you and your loved ones from mold, you inadvertently exposed them to chemical burns via inhalation. That is a very likely outcome if you are working on an entire room that had poor ventilation to begin with.

If you are still curious as to why ingredients such as borax and vinegar are worthy mold fighters, please feel free to read these articles that can answer the following questions:

How to clean mold off basement walls with borax? (This article is all about Borax and why it is a useful and safe mold cleaner.)

Will vinegar clean mold on concrete? (This article describes how vinegar can kill about 82% of known molds and help prevent future outbreaks.)



Article by Amanda Demsky

mold in crawl space basement

How to Get Rid of Mold in Crawl Spaces

Dealing with a mold problem in your home can be a daunting and scary experience. It is hard to know what to do first in situations that seem overwhelming. However, it is important to tackle a mold issue right away, so that it does not become worse and even more daunting of a problem. So what do you do if you have mold in your crawl space? This article will aim to help you break down the process and guide you in making decisions about your home and mold issues in your crawl space.

Keep on reading!

mold remediation process

The Mold Remediation Process

Discovering mold in your home can be scary. You’ve probably heard of all of the horror stories related to mold illnesses and the costs associated with removing it from your home. Now that you have found it in your own home, a bunch of questions are probably floating through your head.
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How to Deal with Attic Mold

How often do you spend time in your attic? Perhaps once a year to retrieve Christmas decorations? If you are like most homeowners, you probably don’t visit this non-living space very often. Because of that, attics are often left out of regular home inspections and maintenance. The bad news is that attic mold (along with a multitude of other issues) can easily be overlooked. It is important that you take the time to periodically visit your attic space and give it a thorough once over. Mold attic can quickly become dangerous because it often goes unnoticed until it begins to penetrate the rest of your house. By the time that happens, there is likely quite a bit of mold and may already be affecting the health of your family.
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Should you Paint over Mold?

If you have a mold issue on the walls of your home, it can be an unsightly view. The black and green spots don’t typically make for a beautiful home. Mold grows quickly so if your walls are wet, they may quickly become covered in it. Looking for a quick fix and wondering if you can paint over mold?

Painting over mold is one of the most common methods to hide mold. But that is the problem – you are only hiding the mold temporarily. Many people choose this solution because it is the quickest solution to hide the ugly signs of mold on their walls. Often, when people choose to paint over mold it is because of ignorance. They simply are not educated about the seriousness of mold in the home. However, it is all too common for landlords, propery managers and even some homeowners to paint over mold because it is the cheapest and fastest way to cover mold.
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DIY Mold Removal vs Professional Mold Remediation

DIY vs Professional

Are you a “DIY-er” at heart? A lot of people love the thrill of taking on home projects from building their own furniture to remodeling a kitchen. DIY can be a great hobby, involve the entire family and save a lot of money. But what about when it comes to major issues like mold remediation?

Mold inside your house is a serious condition. If you’ve seen some or suspect it in your home, you may be wondering what the best method is to remove it. No matter what, mold is definitely different than your typical home maintenance project. When it comes to mold remediation in your home, should you try to DIY or should you call in the professionals?
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MoldBlogger Interview: Lisa and Ron Beres

Q. Being advocates for healthy homes, how often do you get contacted concerning black mold and how to remove it?

Lisa: We get contacted quite often for mold inquiries from people all across the country, but most people are unaware if they actually have mold, the scope of the problem or how to properly remove it. Many people will experience hay fever like symptoms, but if they can’t see visible mold, they tend to think it doesn’t exist or isn’t a real threat.

Ron: We always start by advising the person test, not guess. Too many people unknowingly put themselves and/or their loved ones in danger by ignoring the visible signs of moisture or water damage and/or a musty smell. They assume it will go away on its own. Many people wait too long before addressing the root cause of the issue – typically a leaky water source.
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5 Ways to Save on Mold Remediation Costs

Mold Remediation Tactics Used to Rack Up High Bills

(Secrets mold remediation companies don’t want you to know.)

A few bad apples can ruin the bunch. As a result, mold remediation companies have a bad reputation. We are known to bill for remedies to problems that don’t exist. With high insurance deductibles and outrageous estimates, it’s no wonder most home owners feel used and abused after an initial mold inspection. There’s hope. We’ve put together a list of billing tactics other restoration companies don’t want you to know to help consumers protect themselves and rebuild trust for honest restoration companies who believe integrity and transparency should be the rule, not the exception.
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Top 5 Safe and Effective Ways to Remediate Mold in Your Home

A Silent Threat

It creeps uninvited into damp, dark places, silently infiltrating your basement, your crawlspace, and your bathroom. It’s mold — and it’s one of the most dreaded household infestations a homeowner can face. The slightest indication of mold can leave homeowners filled with dread because the unpleasant fungi are notoriously difficult to eliminate. What is worse is that mold thrives on moisture as a means to multiply in size and scope. Once a small patch of mold has been remediated, it can often remain hanging in the air or clinging to a crack in a surface, only to return with a vengeance.

There are myriad cleaning products that promise to eliminate mold completely. Aside from calling a cleanup crew, the following steps are one of the most effective ways to safely and effectively oust unwelcome mold from your home. To stop a mold infestation, you must understand where mold comes from, how it spreads, and why it’s so difficult to eliminate.
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Hire a Professional Remediation Team for Safe Mold Removal

The Dangers of Mold Spores

Having mold circulating in the air of a home can lead to multiple health problems, including allergic symptoms such as itchy skin, watery eyes and chronic coughing. There are many species of mold spores living outside that enter homes through venting systems such as air conditioning, in addition to doorways and windows. There are types of mold with mycotoxins that can weaken an individual’s immune system. Mold spores settle on everything in a building, including carpeting, walls and bedding. While homeowners may find it easy to clean these surfaces thoroughly, it is more difficult to clean mold from ductwork and vents.
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Protecting Your Family from Mold in the Home

The thought of mold, wherever you might find it, is icky – it’s slimy, fuzzy and smelly. Yes, it might be a necessary organism, given how it helps to decompose organic waste in our eco-system. Mold is a great friend of nature, but it isn’t that great of a thing to have growing at home. When left undetected, it can cause serious allergic reactions and infections in your family. The effects are far worse if you have infants, young children, elderly family members and individuals with compromised immune systems in your family. Here’s a simple guide that allows you to assess your home and look out for specific kinds of molds in specific areas:
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How To Remove Mold From Non Porous Surfaces

It is frustrating and sometimes downright scary to notice mold growth on your walls, favorite furniture, and personal belongings. In such cases moldy drywall and other porous items typically have to be discarded by professional mold remediators. Fortunately, you can often salvage some specific types of moldy semi porous and non porous or hard items yourself. In this post we share some tips on removing mold from hard or semi porous and non porous surfaces.
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