How to Handle Black Mold

Mold looks gross, smells gross, ruins homes, and even makes people sick. But there’s one mold that people are more concerned about than others: black mold.

How dangerous is black mold?

For most healthy people, black mold isn’t an immediate danger to your health, according to the Centers for Disease Control.¹ Actually, it’s not really any more dangerous than other molds. Let’s walk through why.

What is black mold?

The mold people are buzzing about is Stachybotrys chartarum or Stachybotrys atra. It’s commonly called black mold, which isn’t entirely accurate since many molds are black.

Mold in Ceiling

Is Stachybotrys chartarum a toxic mold?

Some people refer to Stachybotrys chartarum as toxic black mold or toxic mold, which is inaccurate. Stachybotrys chartarum isn’t poisonous—it produces toxins through mold spores but has no harmful effects itself.² That makes it a toxigenic mold, not a toxic mold. It’s a small, but important, distinction.

What we’re calling black mold releases its mycotoxins into the air. Mycotoxins can irritate you, especially if you have certain health problems. But they’re unlikely to suddenly kill you or cause memory loss, as some resources suggest.³

What are the safety risks of having black mold in a home?

Molds that produce spores with mycotoxins are a safety risk to anyone with respiratory problems, like respiratory-based allergies, asthma, or lung diseases. They’re also a problem if you have a suppressed immune system, whether that’s because of an autoimmune disease or a treatment like chemo.⁴

Is black mold more dangerous to children and pets than to human adults?

In the 1990s, the CDC theorized that the mycotoxins in black mold led to acute pulmonary hemorrhage (bleeding from the lungs) in infants. But further research showed that this theory was unsubstantiated by original research.⁵ There’s no proven scientific link between mold poisoning and infant deaths.⁶

Overall, the risk to your children or pets depends on their health. “Some children and pets will be more sensitive or prone to allergies and asthma than human adults, so they may be more adversely affected,” says Cristina Miguelez, a remodeling specialist at “But some adults may be severely affected as well.”

What does black mold look like?

The CDC describes black mold as “a greenish-black mold.”⁷ Since many molds are black, it’s not possible to identify black mold by sight alone.

But if you have mold, it doesn’t matter what type it is. You should still get rid of it. (Read on to learn how.)

Black mold exposure symptoms

The most common symptoms from being exposed to black mold spores are respiratory. That includes sneezing, wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, stuffy or runny nose, or difficulty breathing. Someone who has a severe allergy to black mold specifically might run a fever or have eye irritation or itchy skin.⁸

People around black mold have also experienced chronic fatigue, headaches, or various other symptoms. But the Institute of Medicine stated in a 2004 study that it couldn’t prove that such symptoms are related to mold spores.⁹ (The study has since been updated with no change in findings.) So these reactions are possible but currently unfounded.

Black mold medical treatment
Take Note

If you have frequent symptoms associated with black mold, you should see your physician.10 Even if mold isn’t causing your symptoms, they should be treated. Your doctor may want to tackle treatment from another angle, such as through prescriptions or other remedies. Still, if you or your physician suspect a correlation between mold and your symptoms, make mold removal a priority.

Other black mold questions

Where does black mold grow?

One problem with mold: it can be hard to find. Carbon monoxide detectors detect carbon monoxide; radon detectors detect radon gas. But so far, no one’s developed a passive way to detect mold. You have to actively look for it.

So where should you look? Molds of all kinds like damp spaces. According to Miguelez, black mold “particularly likes air conditioning systems, damp basements, and leaky bathrooms.”

Molds like damp spaces.

Jennifer Rodriguez, Chief Hygiene Officer of Pro Housekeepers, mentions that you’re most likely to discover mold in out-of-sight areas. “The reason is that the black mold requires long periods of moisture in order to grow. Most people would address the issue at first sight, but it's usually hidden which makes it harder to take care of.”

What should I do if I suspect the mold in my home is black mold?

At the risk of sounding like a broken record: get rid of it! Rodriguez suggests that you put on a face mask and gloves and scrub the area with bleach.

Cleaning product separation

Don’t combine chemicals when removing mold. If you use a bleach solution, for instance, don’t add a mold-killer spray. Combining cleaning products is dangerous and could lead to unpredictable results.

But, says the CDC, if there’s too much mold or you don’t think you’d be a successful mold-buster, contact a professional.¹¹

What professionals remove black mold?

Some companies specialize in mold removal or mold remediation. The exact service available will depend on where you live and how extreme the mold is—so will the mold removal cost. But, as a general rule, professional mold remediation is charged by the square foot. You may pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars for mold removal.

What if I don’t remove the mold?

If a mold’s aggravating you, it’ll continue to bother you until you get rid of it. Leaving it in place can also damage your home. Even if the mold itself doesn’t cause damage, the moisture that breeds it almost certainly will.

How to test black mold

While you can have mold tested, the CDC doesn’t recommend this—because it’s unnecessary. The agency states that all species of mold have associated health risks.¹² If testing your mold infestation would bring you peace of mind, though, black mold test kits are available for home use. It’s pretty easy. Usually, you capture a sample of the mold in question and then send it out for testing.¹³ In some cases, you can even test it yourself.

In some cases, you can test the mold yourself.

Mold testing product recommendations

DIY mold-testing kits tend to be at least $40. Some sell for less but still charge a substantial fee to test the sample at the manufacturer’s lab, making the low initial cost moot. We recommend the DIY Mold Test since it includes the lab tests in the up-front price. That’s much more convenient than paying a separate charge.

You could also try the Healthful Home 3-Minute Mold Test, which costs about the same but includes self-testing. That way, you don’t have to wait for lab results.

Also, your local hardware store should have a mold test kit selection. Just make sure to read the fine print about lab fees.

How to clean black mold

As Rodriguez said, removing mold can be as simple as scrubbing the affected area with bleach. You could also use a cleaning product targeted for mold removal.

Be careful though—disturbing the mold may stir up toxins. You should wear a face mask to protect your respiratory system. And always use gloves when handling bleach or other potentially harsh chemicals. You don’t want that on your skin.

Mold remediation
Here’s a hot tip from the CDC: if you have more than 10 square feet of moldiness, check out the resource Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings. The US Environmental Protection Agency wrote this doc for guidance in cleaning large public buildings. The information about mold applies to homes too.

Again, if you feel intimidated, professional mold removal is always an option.

How to get rid of black mold in the shower

For tiled surfaces like a shower, create a mixture that’s about one part bleach and eight parts water. Add a little detergent to get some soapy action, and scrub away.14 Bleach and detergent are a rare cleaning product combination that’s safe to use, as you probably know from doing your laundry.

If you use a mold removal product instead of bleach, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

How to get rid of black mold on wood

You can use bleach on wood as long as you water it down first. And we mean water it down a lot, like by putting a half cup of bleach in a gallon of water.15 Gradually apply the bleach water to the wood using a spray bottle, then scrub the mold off.

Mold and rot
Take Note

Mold can lead to rotting wood. If you notice that the moldy wood seems soft, you may need to contact a home safety inspector.16

Baking soda also kills mold,17 so you can make a solution of baking soda and water and spray it on the wood—as long as the wood is finished. Baking soda stains unfinished wood.18

Mold removal product recommendations

We suggest using a scented bleach when removing mold yourself. Molds often have a musty smell that should be banished from your home.

If you want to go with something specifically for cleaning mold, we recommend Lemocide. You can use this commercial-grade product on nearly any hard surface without damaging it.

And if you don’t already have them, here are some links to well-priced gloves and face masks. Amazon Prime can quickly ship either of these products to you.

How to kill black mold

When you thoroughly clean black mold and take steps to prevent its return, that effectively kills the infestation.

How to prevent black mold

Once you’ve removed mold, do what you can to prevent regrowth.19 That means eliminating moisture. Dry out the newly cleaned area, then get a plumber to fix any leaks or other pipe issues.

To prevent new mold growth in other areas of your home, address any flooding or water damage as soon as possible. That includes drying out carpets after they become too wet. When black mold grows in or beneath a carpet, you might have to throw the carpet away.20

Also, keep showers and other bathing areas well-ventilated with a ceiling fan or window. Damp rooms without much moving air are a perfect breeding ground for mold.


While black mold isn’t the major health issue we sometimes assume, you definitely shouldn’t be living with it or any other mold. Get rid of mold in your home ASAP for better health and home safety. To get other home safety tips, read our home safety checklist.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Facts About Stachybotrys Chartarum and Other Molds
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Facts About Stachybotrys Chartarum and Other Molds
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Facts About Stachybotrys Chartarum and Other Molds
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Facts About Stachybotrys Chartarum and Other Molds
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Update: Pulmonary Hemorrhage/Hemosiderosis Among Infants --- Cleveland, Ohio, 1993-1996
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Case Definition
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Facts About Stachybotrys Chartarum and Other Molds
  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Facts About Stachybotrys Chartarum and Other Molds
  9. National Center for Biotechnology Information, “Toxic Effects of Fungi and Bacteria
  10. The National Academies Press, “Damp Indoor Spaces and Health
  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Facts About Stachybotrys Chartarum and Other Molds
  12. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Facts About Stachybotrys Chartarum and Other Molds
  13. Moldpedia, “Mold Testing
  14. Family Handyman, “Mold Remediation: How to Remove Mold
  15. Family Handyman, “Mold Remediation: How to Remove Mold
  16. Family Handyman, “Mold Remediation: How to Remove Mold
  17. Moldpedia, “Mold Removal
  18. Doing Wood Work, “Does Baking Soda Damage Wood?
  19. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Facts About Stachybotrys Chartarum and Other Molds
  20. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Facts About Stachybotrys Chartarum and Other Molds