What to Do When You Find Black Mold from a Water Leak

by Jessica Sawyer | Plumbing and Drainage

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If you’ve discovered black mold from a water leak in your home, then addressing it has probably jumped to the top of your to-do list. It may be your first time dealing with this type of problem, but black mold isn’t exactly a welcome sight, regardless of the cause.

And not just because it’s ugly, either –  black mold can be a sign of bigger issues lying beneath the surface, both structurally and health-wise. This makes dealing with it as soon as possible crucial, not only to maintain the integrity of your home but also to ensure the safety and well-being of your family.

So, in this article, we’ll guide you through what to do when you find black mold from a water leak. We’ll go over the common causes of water leaks, how quickly black mold can appear, how to identify it, what to do when you find it, and how to prevent that mold from coming back in the future. 

Common Causes of Water Leaks Leading to Black Mold

Now, if you have yet to identify the source of the water leak, then you may be wondering: how did you end up in this mess in the first place? Well, water leaks that lead to black mold can come from various sources, so it may take a little digging.

Often, they’re the result of:

  • Damaged roofing or shingles allowing water to seep in
  • Cracked or weakened foundation
  • Leaky or burst pipes within walls
  • Poorly sealed windows or doors
  • Malfunctioning appliances that use water

These leaks create the perfect damp environment that black mold spores thrive in, though some of them can be hard to find yourself. If you’re having issues finding the source of the water leak, then calling in a professional plumber is your best bet.

How Long Does It Take for Black Mold to Appear After a Water Leak?

It doesn’t take too long for black mold to appear after a water leak, which can be good news and bad news. Typically, black mold can start to appear within 24 to 48 hours after the leak begins, at least under the right conditions.

This can be good news in that it can allow you to quickly identify that you have a leak before it can cause any major structural damage. But it also means that you only have so much time to deal with it before it spreads and becomes worse.

And if you’re not worried about the structural damage, you may be concerned about the potential health risks.

Health Problems Associated with Black Mold

It’s hard to believe that those little spores can cause so many issues, but there are various health problems associated with black mold, including:

  • Respiratory problems
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Persistent headaches
  • Allergic reactions and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and skin

So, if you’ve found black mold in your home, keep an eye out for symptoms like coughing, sneezing, skin irritation, headaches, and in severe cases, chronic lung illnesses. If someone in your household is experiencing symptoms, then you need to address the problem that much sooner.

How to Identify Black Mold

Recognizing black mold is the first step to tackling it. Here’s what to look for:

  • Color and Texture: Often black or dark green, black mold has a slimy texture when wet but can appear powdery when dry.
  • Smell: A musty, earthy odor similar to wet socks or rotting wood is often present.
  • Location: Commonly found in corners where walls meet, around windows, in poorly ventilated bathrooms, or anywhere moisture accumulates.

It’s important to make sure that you are, in fact, dealing with black mold. While other molds might present less of a health risk, black mold (Stachybotrys chartarum) is notably more dangerous due to its potential to produce toxins. And that can affect how you address it.

What to Do When You Find Black Mold From a Water Leak: A Step-by-Step Guide

Now that you have a better idea of what you’re dealing with, here’s what you should do when you find black mold from a water leak:

Step 1: Identify the Source of Moisture

The first and most important step is to locate the source of the water leak, as you need to address the root cause to prevent further mold growth. Again, if you can’t pinpoint the source yourself, contact a plumber to help you out as soon as possible.

Step 2: Wear Protective Gear

Since you’re dealing with something as dangerous as black mold, it’s essential to use clothing and equipment to protect yourself. 

You’ll need:

  • Rubber gloves
  • Mask (a respirator is best)
  • Safety goggles
  • Long sleeved shirt and pants

Once you’re geared up, you can start to prepare the area for cleaning.

Step 3: Contain the Spread

Before cleaning, isolate the affected area to avoid disturbing and dispersing mold spores throughout your home. This includes sealing off doorways to the area (a tarp and painter’s tape work well here), and turning off the air conditioning or heater to help prevent the spores from going airborne.

Step 4: Moisture Test

This may seem counterintuitive, but you want a little moisture in the black mold area. It can help keep the spores from traveling through the air.

So, grab yourself a moisture meter (you don’t want to touch it yourself), and test the area for moisture. If there’s none, then spray it with a little water.

For small mold patches, a water and detergent solution may suffice for the cleanup. However, never mix bleach with other household cleaners due to the risk of creating toxic gases.

Step 5: Treat the Area for Black Mold

There are a few different things you can use to treat the area for black mold, such as:

  • A paste of 1 part hydrogen peroxide to 2 parts baking soda
  • Vinegar (cleaning vinegar is better, but white vinegar also works)
  • Soap and water
  • Bleach solution (about 1 cup to 1 gallon of water)
  • Commercial mold and mildew removers or all-purpose cleaners

In most cases, you should apply the solution to the mold area, let it sit for about 30 – 60 minutes, and then scrub it away. For the commercial cleaners, though, you should follow the manufacturer’s instructions for best results.

Step 6:  Dry the Area Thoroughly

After the cleanup, ensure the area is dried out thoroughly to prevent the mold from returning. You can try to dry it with a towel, but dehumidifiers and fans can help the process go that much faster.

If the area affected by black mold is large (over 10 square feet), or if it’s contaminated your HVAC system, it’s best to seek professional mold remediation services. They have the type of equipment that can deal with the situation safely and effective

And to address the underlying cause of the water leak, you should get in touch with a certified plumber. Fixing the leak is key to preventing this problem from happening again, though there are some other things you can do too.

Preventing Future Mold Growth

Prevention is always better than the cure, especially when it comes to something as serious as mold. Here are tips to help make your black mold problem a thing of the past:

  • Regularly inspect and maintain your home’s plumbing system.
  • Ensure good ventilation in high-moisture areas like bathrooms and kitchens.
  • Utilize dehumidifiers in damp spaces.
  • Repair leaks promptly to avoid water accumulation

Final Thoughts

Finding black mold in your home can be stressful, but with prompt and appropriate actions, it can be managed effectively. By identifying the source of the water leak, containing the spread of mold, and engaging professional services when necessary, you can help safeguard your health and your home.

And if you suspect that the problem is beyond DIY solutions, do not hesitate to call in professional plumbers and mold remediation experts. They may cost a little extra, sure, but it’s hard to put a price on a safe and comfortable home environment.

Is a water leak causing black mold growth in your home? If so, we’d be happy to help! Click here to schedule a Water Pros Plumber online, or call (480) 459-4424 today.

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