Updated: Feb 14, 2019
Yep. That's mold. But don't worry, you can handle this. If your goal is to take care of that mold growing on a painted surface (also called Mold Remediation), we have broken the process down into 5 simple steps.
*disclaimer* we didn't create mold, nor did we create these steps. Nope, we stole them. From the United States EPA and leading experts on mold remediation throughout the country.
Step 1 - Asses the Situation
If there was a step 1A, it would be Don't Freak Out. Yes, mold can cause serious harm to humans and it should be eradicated as soon as possible. However, mold is incredibly prevalent in homes within the US, in fact 47% of homes have either mold, mildew, or significant dampness (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory). So your fungus fiasco is not uncommon, but it definitely needs to be taken care of to maintain a healthy home for you and your family.
If there was a step 1B, it would be Figure out Where the Water Came From and Fix It. Mold spores, which can remain dormant for a very long time (some estimate thousands of years) require moisture to regenerate. So, the reason that you now have mold as an unwanted house guest is because moisture (water, water vapor, condensation) has found a way into the molded area. Likely culprits are roof leaks, dripping pipes, and poorly insulated windows. One of the most common reasons for mold growth in bathrooms is poor ventilation. If your bathroom's ventilation fan is broken, non-existent, or rarely used, then steam from your shower can create a moist environment for mold to take hold. Determine your moisture problem and amend it as quickly as possible.
The true Step 1 is to Analyze the Size and Location of the Mold. Is the molded area larger than 10 square feet (approximately 3 feet x 3 feet)? If so, the EPA recommends calling a mold remediation specialist to handle the problem, a suggestion we fully support. Google "Mold Remediation Specialist in Your Area" and see what you get. If possible, opt for a local service professional rather than a large service chain.
If your mold issue is smaller than 10 square feet, congratulations! You are eligible for a DIY mold remediation! This article covers mold growth on painted surfaces, if your issue fits that mold (see what we did there) then grab an N-95 mask (available at almost all hardware stores), some nitrile gloves (like your mom uses to clean the toilet), and your favorite biocide. We like chlorine bleach or Concrobium (available at most hardware stores).
While fans are great for drying out interior spaces after a leak, once mold is present a fan can quickly spread molds spores to other areas of the home. If the room has a window: crack it open, seal the room off, and fan away. However, if the room does not have a window, your best bet is to fix the moisture problem and allow the area to dry without the use of a fan. If there is a large amount of water, you can rent a dehumidifier from Home-Depot to suck the moisture out of the air without spreading the spores around your home.
Step 2 - Clean the Mold
Once the moisture problem is fixed, it's time to dawn your PPE (gloves, goggles, and N-95 Mask), and grab a rag or scrubbing brush. The EPA advises homeowners to remove the mold by scrubbing with water and a surfactant (such as dish soap) until the area is free of visible mold matter. If, during the course of your scrubbing, it become obvious that the mold has penetrated through the paint and into the drywall or wood, you should remove the section of material and replace. This is not as hard as it may seem, especially if the area is relatively small. Google "how to patch drywall" if you are feeling handy. If not, call a really handyman to complete the job.
Step 3 - Kill the Survivors
Technically, the EPA does not consider the use of a biocide necessary in most run of the mill mold situations. However, we are fans of neutralizing harmful microorganisms in our life as completely as possible. So grab that bleach and get after it. Continue to wear your gloves and goggles when dealing with the bleach and make sure that you have adequate ventilation to deal with the bleach fumes.
Here’s how to do it:
Using your gloved hands, mix 3/4 cup of bleach into a gallon of warm water.
Apply the solution to the affected area with a sponge or rag
Allow the solution to sit in contact with the mold for 5 minutes, then rinse with warm water. Allow to air dry. If the problem is severe, repeat this process.
Step 4 - Repaint with Mold Protection
Regardless of how well you scrub, in most cases there is still going to be a slight color difference between your freshly cleaned, formerly moldy area and the rest of your painted surface. But be cool, painting is easy and is a great way to freshen up any space! And, most importantly, mold has a record of reoccurrence. This is where Paint-GUARD comes in.
The reason mold and mildew have such a habit of coming back, even after the use of biocides, is because of spore regeneration. While mold is growing, it releases spores into the air. These spores, which are like seeds, only begin to growth when the conditions for mold are correct. Many times, mold spores hang out in the air during repainting and then land on freshly painted surfaces. The spores hunker down on your freshly painted surfaces until the humidity rises enough for them to sprout. That is why we created Paint-GUARD Mold Defense Additive, the environmentally friendly mold defense additive for paint. Simply mix it in to your paint to keep mold out of your life. So, grab a latex paint (also called water based or acrylic), a bottle of Paint-GUARD, your brush or roller of choice, and those awesome overalls you have been saving for an occasion such as this. Pop a fresh coat on those moldy walls (or ceiling, or cabinets) and take heart in knowing you are protecting your family from stanky odors, harmful microorganisms, and those puke green walls that came with your "cute little fixer-upper."
Step 5 - Monitor for Moisture
The fun part is over but the important part remains. Over the coming weeks, pay attention to the moisture level in the formerly molded area. Is your leak fix holding? Is your teenager daughter using the bathroom as a steam spa rather than turning on the ventilation fan? If so, rest assured that the area will remain mold free for the foreseeable future!