Toxic Black Mold: How to Remove and Keep it from Coming Back

Today we’re going to talk about a sort of serious subject, Black Mold or Toxic Black Mold (dun…dun…duuun!). 

These terms can be used interchangeably, but I find them to be misleading, as not all “Black” mold is black.  Sometimes, if not more often, it is a brownish color at the beginning and only turns black when it has fully matured.  So what happens when you have Black Mold in your home?  How do you get rid of it?  What are the health effects it can have on you and your family?  Don’t worry, we’ll talk about all of that here to give you piece of mind and a direction for getting it dealt with.

When someone says “Toxic Black Mold” your skin begins to crawl and you immediately want to go take a super hot shower and scrub it all off.  Trust me, I know because this was my reaction when I found it in our basement and realized it was in our shower as well. 

This is something that most people have heard about on the news at one point or another and know that it is bad it is for you…I mean, they put “Toxic” right there in the name.  So let’s talk about it for a minute and delve into what it really is and what you can do about it if you find it in your house like we did.   Hit play below to see what we were dealing with at the beginning of this journey.

Identifying Toxic Mold

There are many types of mold that can grow in your house, and it is important to note that not all of them are “toxic”.  However, they can and will all cause damage to your home and, if left unchecked, can cause health problems from prolonged exposure. 

So…What does this Black Mold actually look like and when do you clean it yourself and when should you call in the professionals?  Well, you all know us here at TreadlingHome and how we like to do things ourselves, so we didn’t exactly listen to this, but we were safe about it.  We’ll talk more about that in a little bit.  For now, check out the video below for a quick recap of how to identify “toxic” and “non-toxic” molds and when you should call in the reinforcements.  Yes, I know that this says “drywall”, but the patterns for identification are the same on any porous surface (i.e., stone, brick, wood…)

Common Symptoms of Mold Toxicity and Exposure

Now that we can identify the Black Mold visually, Let’s go over the symptoms of mold toxicity and exposure that you might not associate with the mold in your basement or bathroom like we did.  Just a note; Josh and I had several of these and I thought I was going crazy because of all of the symptoms I was experiencing.  The last straw for me was the metallic taste and thirst.  I thought I was becoming diabetic or something, but after finding a similar list to this and having test come back fine, I found out I wasn’t crazy and that it was environmental. 

Check out the list below and see if any of it sounds familiar to you.

  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Muscle aches, pains and cramps
  • Unusual pains: tingling skin, numbness
  • Sharp pains and headaches
  • Light sensitivity
  • Red eyes and/or blurred vision
  • Vertigo
  • Sinus problems
  • Chronic cough
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Joint stiffness and pain
  • Focus and concentration problems
  • Decreased ability to learn and retain new facts and info
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Mood swings
  • Appetite swings
  • Inability to regulate temperature and sweats, especially at night.
  • Excessive thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Metallic taste

Once you have identified that it is mold causing these health problems, what do you do about?  Well, after quite a bit of research, I came up with the solution that Josh and I would take Activated Charcoal tablets for 10 days, twice a day due to the severity of our symptoms.  On the first day of the Charcoal regimen we hit the mold remediation hard.  After the mold remediation (removal) was complete and the 10 days of Activated Charcoal had been taken, the results were astonishing. 

I still can’t believe how much better I feel and we did this back in November, 2018.  For more information on the symptoms and natural cures, check out this amazing video below by Dr. Josh Axe:

Mold Remediation (Removal) Solution and How to Use It

We all know that TreadlingHome is about doing things yourself, but I do have to put a disclaimer here, so don’t say we didn’t warn you:

***Do not attempt to remove toxic mold from your home or property without the help and/or supervision of a professional as it can be detrimental to your health and structures, causing lasting and/or permanent affects.***

Mold remediation (removal) solution: why we chose this one

Now that the legal stuff is out of the way, let’s go forward with what we did to get rid of that nasty Toxic Black Mold, because we didn’t have the funds to pay someone and it didn’t look that hard to us.  The hardest part of this process was getting the information together for a non-toxic chemical solution for our Toxic Mold problem, as we didn’t want to take a chance of our animals getting into it before it was dried and hurting them.  We also wanted it to be safe for us, since we were the ones who were doing the work, and I’m notorious for having sensitive skin when it comes to cleaning products.  So here is what I found.

The most surprising information I found was that bleach will NOT work on the Black Mold.  Why you ask?  Well let me drop a knowledge bomb for you here.  Bleach, on a microscopic level creates a barrier, or film, that sits on top of porous materials and won’t penetrate the nooks and crannies you need it to to get in there and kill the mold at its roots.  So, now that we know that, what do we use to get rid of it?  Well, there are several chemical compounds on the market that you can purchase at just about any home repair store, like Lowe’s and Home Depot, but we didn’t want to use chemicals, and didn’t want to take a chance of suffocating ourselves while trying to DIY this mold remediation thing.  So I kept looking and found that just about everyone in the business suggested the use of White Distilled Vinegar.  The natural acidic compound we know as White Distilled Vinegar has been known for generations to kill molds and mildew and is used in cleaning solutions for everything form streak free windows to cleaning those pet stains from carpets.  Turns out that the white vinegar gets into those nooks and crannies that the bleach can’t and kills up to 83% of mold species.  Who knew?  The other ingredients we found, and totally made sense because I know they works to prevent mold and fungus on the human body which is a porous surface when you really look at it, was Tea Tree and Oregano oils.  Now, we are talking legit, therapeutic grade natural essential oils.  These oils will always have the genus name on the bottle as the ingredients list, a tip I learned from my Aunt Jeannie who works in holistic health care.  So we had the solution that we were going to use, now we needed to find the tools.

Remediation Solution Recipe:

  • 3 gallons of hot water
  • 1 gallon Distilled White Vinegar
  • 25 drops each of Tea Tree and Oregano essential oils
    • Mix all ingredients well in a 5 gallon bucket and use accordingly.

***NOTE: This may have been a little strong, but we wanted to be more safe than sorry***

Tools, clothing and gear we used to preform the remediation (removal)

As with the bleach myth, most people would think that they would grab a softer bristled brush to help get into the crevices of the walls and surface you are removing the mold from.  Wrong.  You want the stiffest bristled brush you can get your hands on because the stiffer bristles are able to not only get into the pours of the material, but it is also able to sweep away anything that is there.  If the mold has been aloud to grow for an extended period of time, like ours was since it was in the corner of the basement, it can eat away at the integrity of the surface.  So when we scrubbed down the walls with our vinegar, oregano oil and tea tree oil solution with stiff brushes, the blocks began to actually flake away where the mold was and created pitting.  Now let me be very clear, the pitting was not caused by the brushes, but the mold eating away at the minerals in the blocks.  We were simply sweeping away the rubble left by the mold.  This was on our foundation blocks, so it freaked me out at first, but after I realized what was going on, I became more comfortable and was able to really get in there with the brush to make sure every spore and inch of the mold was removed.  I get a bit O.C.D. when cleaning on a normal day, haha.  Now, let’s talk tools and safety gear.  Below is a list of the cleaning tools and ingredients for the remediation solution we used, followed by the safety gear we used as well.  My mom is a nurse and was a bit freaked out by us doing this ourselves, but was able to give us some sound advice on which masks to get and how to protect ourselves from getting contaminated by any spores we might come in contact with.  Thanks for enabling us Mom!

The Cleaning tools we used:

  • 2 5 gallon buckets
  • 2 extra stiff bristled scrub brushes, with handles
  • hot tap water
  • distilled white vinegar
  • tea tree oil
  • oregano oil

The safety gear we used:

  • N95 respirator masks
  • long rubber gloves
  • rubber bands (for securing clothing.  I know, I know.)
  • long sleeve shirts with high neck lines
  • full length pants with elastic around the bottom
  • High socks
  • Safety goggles
  • Plastic drop cloths
  • Duct tape

Now that we had all of our MacGyver gear together for this potentially harmful project, we were ready to go.  So we suited up and got to work.  We took the drop cloths and cut them into double layered pieces to cover both doorways, vent shafts and openings and anything we didn’t want to mold transferring to, like our wood pellets and such.  Once the drop cloth was cut, we used the duct tape to secure them on all sides with a tight seal; think making an indoor greenhouse kind of tight here.  Next, we got suited up with everything except the gloves, since I still needed to mix up the remediation solution.  I started with the 1 gallon of vinegar and essential oils in the bottom of the first 5 gallon bucket, then added the hot tap water to fill the bucket with approximately 3 gallons of water, mixing it well as it filled.  Then I repeated with the second bucket.  We unwrapped the gloves and brushes and got ready to rumble with the moldy intruder of our home.  Josh and I dipped the brushes in the solution and began to scrub.  We had cleaned the area well before we started, so we didn’t really worry about the solution spilling a bit as long as the walls got a bit soppy.  As we scrubbed, the bricks began to flake and we both started to worry, but then realized that it was only pitting and continued on our task.  It took about an hour to get all of the molded spots totally cleaned.  We decided to go ahead and wash down as much of the wall as we could reach to prevent to mold from regrowing after we painted.  After the initial scrub down, we let it dry completely and then did a second scrub down with a new batch of the solution.  Again, because we didn’t want to take any risks and have to do this a second time.  After the second scrubbing was complete, we took the buckets outside via our basement door and scrubbed them down with more vinegar solution and let them dry.  We stripped down and left our cloths in the basement and left it to dry completely overnight.  Josh took one of the buckets upstairs and cleaned the mold we had in the bathroom and bedroom with a rag since it wasn’t as bad as the stuff in the basement.

I, being the ever neglectful blogger, regretfully don’t have any pictures from this part of the process.  But never fear!  I do have pictures from the sealing process that comes next 🙂

Finishing and Sealing the Cleaned Area

Here’s what we were left with after scrubbing down with walls twice.  What a mess.  Believe it or not, this was an improvement.

Once we were done scrubbing the mold away we wanted to seal the blocks with an antimicrobial and antibacterial block sealant.  We went with DryLok brand because of their reputation and a recommendation from the guy at our local Ace Hardware.  You can get these in just about any color your want, but there is just something about the clean crispness of a white wash in the basement that makes me smile, so we went with the traditional white.  We used about 3/4 of a gallon to cover the back wall and the side wall from the door frame to the corner with 2 coats.  We used so much because this sealant gets into those nooks and crannies in the block and helps keep out moisture and therefor preventing new mold growth.  The blocks kind of sucked it up in the bare spots, which we were fine with.  We originally purchased 2 gallons to be safe, since this is a moisture barrier that we can use to finish other parts of the basement as we work on them as well.

We left the drop cloths sealed with the duct tape while we sealed the blocks to keep the smell from going to the rest of the house.  Josh  suggested that we clean the floor with the same solution that we had used on the walls, since the floors are concrete as well.  I agreed, that’s what some of the wet spots are on the floor.  I may have gone a little overboard, but hey, better safe than sorry, right?

Josh decided for work on another project since there was only room for one of us to paint at a time in the area.  I grabbed the rollers, paint tray and corner brush and got to work meticulously getting in every crevices I could find.  I told Josh I thought I was going cross-eyed at one point, lol!  After about 30-45 minutes, I had gotten all of the bare spots filled in and the rest of the walls covered with the first coat of sealant.

We weren’t sure if we were going to 1 or 2 coats, but after seeing the results from the first, we quickly decided to do the second.  It was just a little too splotchy for my liking.

After adding the second coast, we were pretty happy with the results and very proud of ourselves.  The brown staining did end up showing through on the finished product, but unless you know it’s there or stair at it for an extended period of time, you wouldn’t notice it.  We aren’t really going to worry about it until we get the bowing wall on the other side of the basement fixed, hopefully this summer.  Then we will seal, prime and paint the entire basement so it looks perfect, but for now we are very happy with the results.  It has been about 6 months since we did the mold remediation and it hasn’t come back.  Josh and I have decided to mark this one down as a win!

What do you think?  Let us know in the comments below.

*For more information on other methods to get rid of mold on other surfaces and just an all around amazingly informative article, check out Kim Lam’s article on Dengarden *Here*.

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