4 Signs You Need Mold Remediation—and What to Do Next

Sharon Greenthal
Written by Sharon Greenthal
Updated July 29, 2022
A view of a basement living area with a bar
Photo: pics721/Adobe Stock

Mold remediation sounds scary, but we’re here to break it down for you with helpful hints and how-tos

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Mold can grow in a house because of flooding or leaks, or in damp, humid spaces hidden from view. Learn how to figure out if you need mold remediation, then learn what to do to banish it from your home for good.

What Does Mold Look Like?

It’s tempting to call any spore or icky buildup in your home “mold,” but identifying it can be tricky. Mold typically builds up in damp areas, like in your bathroom or basement, or at the sources of a water leak, but can show up anywhere that moisture lives.

Mold will usually start appearing in the form of fuzzy white spots and can eventually look green, blue, gray, orange, or black. You may even mistake the spots for stains at first, but if these stains grow and start to smell musty, you’re likely dealing with mold. (Side note, that’s why it’s so important to deal with mold ASAP).

You may have also heard the term “mildew,” which is a type of mold. It tends to look dry and shows up as white, yellow, or gray spots. The good news is that you can deal with both in similar ways: staving off moisture and cleaning up the area with a cleaner appropriate for the surface in question.

Signs You Have Mold

Beyond appearance, here are some indications that you could be dealing with mold in your home.

1. Something Smells Off

Not all mold will give off a musty or pungent odor, but many do. Your first sign that you may need mold remediation could be a smell that comes and goes. Mold thrives in dark, humid places: think attics, basements, bathrooms, and under sinks. Inspect these areas for mold if you catch a whiff of something unpleasant, musty, or—you guessed it—moldy.

If you suspect mold in your home, contact a local mold removal company, who can tell you if you need to have your home treated. The cost of mold remediation can range from $2,700 to $3,300. But before sticker shock sets in, note that some home insurance policies will cover mold remediation costs.

2. Flooding or a Water Leak

Anytime your home floods or you locate a water leak, it’s a good idea to check for mold in the affected areas. The presence of water doesn’t necessarily mean there is mold, but because mold spores are so tiny, it can be hard to tell if mold is growing with the naked eye.

Carpeting and area rugs, which hold on to dust and dirt, can be breeding grounds for mold if they get wet and are not dried quickly and adequately. You can avoid carpet mold after water damage, but it requires a lot of elbow grease and scrubbing.

3. Change in Color

As we mentioned above, just like when you find a funky loaf of green bread in the back of the pantry, mold in your home can show up in various colors, including black, white, or pastel colors. Anytime you see a change in color on any surface, such as cabinets or walls, do a mold check.

(PS: If you do find mold, you should check your air ducts to see if mold is growing there, too. Contact a local professional to help you take care of it correctly)

4. Household Members Don’t Feel Good

Not everyone will experience health effects when exposed to mold, but according to the CDC, those sensitive to it may have symptoms including wheezing, red eyes, a stuffy nose, and itchy eyes or skin.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to test for mold exposure. The best way to sleuth out mold reactions is to track whether symptoms go away when people leave the house. If so, it’s worth a hard look to see if mold is lurking.

What Should I Toss If My Home Has Mold?

First, the good news: Solid surfaces, including glass, metal, and plastic, can be saved without too much trouble. You can salvage clothing, bedding, and towels by washing them quickly and thoroughly. Large appliances, if they are not damaged internally, can be cleaned and used as usual.

OK, here comes the bad part. Sadly, these items will need to be disposed of if infected with mold:

  • Cardboard

  • Carpeting

  • Padding

  • Mattresses

  • Stuffed animals

  • Upholstered furniture

  • Paper products

  • Books

  • Food 

  • Food preparation items

How Can I Prevent Mold?

If you find mold in your house, you can try to keep it from spreading or growing by cleaning it yourself using a natural mold-killing mix of tea tree oil and water, followed by a vinegar rinse. You can also use hydrogen peroxide.

The EPA recommends following these steps to keep mold from growing in your home:

  • Use fans anywhere mold might grow during warm, humid months

  • Fix any leaks as soon as you can

  • Add mold inhibitors when you paint your walls

  • Use mold-killing products when cleaning bathrooms

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