Dampened Spirits – Dealing with the Scourge of Black Mould

Picture the scene. You have moved into a new property and all seems rosy. You have unpacked your essential boxes and made the house cosy, popped the kettle on, and decide to take a well-earned shower. You’re enjoying the feeling of the hot water – and then you spot it. Black mould, infesting the corner of your new bathroom.

Black mould can be a real scourge in a home. Once it sets in, it can become increasingly difficult to shift. What’s more, black mould typically smells bad, looks unsightly and causes breathing difficulties. There is nothing to gain and everything to lose by ignoring this problem.

What is Black Mould?

The scientific term for black mould is stachybotrys chartarum. Like all mould, it’s a fungus that attaches to surfaces and grows steadily if left uncleaned. Black mould thrives in excessively damp conditions, making bathrooms and basements the likeliest place that you’ll encounter it – especially during the winter. Black mould can grow and spread in any part of a home though.

What Causes Black Mould in a Home?

Black mould is usually a result of excessive levels of moisture. This is why it’s so common in bathrooms. If a bathroom is not adequately ventilated, steam has nowhere to go. As a result, it will seep into walls and create a film of damp.

Damp is the real problem associated with black mould. Not all properties with black mould have damp, and not all damp properties have black mould on the walls. All the same, if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s likely a duck. Don’t take any chances unless you absolutely need to.

Preventing Black Mould

You can minimise the risk of black mould by investing in a dehumidifier. These appliances will suck excess moisture out of the air. This prevents it from clinging to walls and turning to mould. You’ll need a sizable unit that consumes a whole lot of power to really seek the benefit, though. That can lead to some very expensive electricity bills.

A better plan is to tank your walls to prevent damp from rising. This involves placing a slurry over the surface of walls, which acts as an impenetrable barrier that moisture and water cannot pass. It’s a messy job, and potentially expensive, but it’s preferable to living with mould in the home.

I Have Black Mould in My House – What Do I Do?

The short answer is, “move out.” The longer, less facetious answer is, “remove it as quickly as possible.” Black mould is not something to shrug your shoulders at and write off as just one of those things. It needs to be treated and managed.

If you are living in rented accommodation, take photos of the mould and inform your landlord of the problem. As we have discussed, black mould is usually a result of damp in a property. This means the issue isn’t going to resolve itself. It needs to get on your landlord’s radar.

Rising damp from the ground floor is also a common explanation for black mould, though. In the case of the latter, the mould will start to impact every room in the home. Before you know it, every nook and cranny in your property will start showing unsightly growths of mould.

If you have rising damp in your home, you have some important decisions to make. If you’re a homeowner, you should take immediate action to find a permanent solution. Better yet, ensure you are not moving into a property that is plagued with damp. This should be flagged on any survey, and it’s worth asking the question of the seller before agreeing to any potential sales prices.

If you are renting a property and spot black mould, it’s best to back out before going any further. This suggests structural issues that the landlord has not addressed. Add potential damp issues to your list of questions for a potential landlord, and do what you can to check for signs of this problem.

Is Black Mould Really a Big Deal?

If you value the ability to breathe freely, then yes. Black mould spores can cause serious respiratory problems. Chest infections are common for people that live in properties infested with black mould. In addition, black mould can trigger asthma attacks. This is all ignoring the fact that black mould looks, to avoid mincing our words, utterly hideous.

The impact of black mould can be mistaken for seasonal allergies. You may find that you have a runny nose, sore throat, feel a little nauseous and develop a rash. The tell-tale sign that mould is to blame is the dank, musty smell that accompanies the unpleasant sight. This suggests that the walls of the property are damp, and action is needed.

This doesn’t mean that the landlord will come racing over with a bucket of cleaning supplies. You will likely be asked to clean up the issue yourself, at least initially. Make sure the problem is acknowledged and taken seriously, though.

If allowed to persist, mould can become hazardous to your long-term health. A landlord has a duty of care to prevent that from happening. They should look into tanking walls and getting the problem under control as a matter of urgency. Just be aware that you may need to vacate the property while this work is conducted.

Cleaning Black Mould

The most impactful way to clean black mould is with bleach. This is obviously caustic, so be careful. Don’t wear your favourite clothing while tackling the mould, as bleach will permanently stain them.

Traditional toilet bleach will do the job, but a specialist product is better. For particularly nasty black mould issues, look for Cillit Bang Black Mould Remover or a similar rival product. Liberally apply this to the impacted area, leave the bleach to soak in, and wash it off with a warm cloth.

Inhaling bleach isn’t much more pleasant that breathing in mould, so try to complete the job as quickly as you can. Once you’re done, leave the room to air out for a while. Bathrooms, in particular, will smell pretty strongly for at least an hour or two.

Be aware that cleaning mould is just that – cleaning. You will not kill the spores within the walls, and the mould will return sooner or later. This is why it’s so important to report the issue and address the root cause. Nobody wants to find themselves trapped in an endless cycle of cleaning and breathing black mould.