Mold in Your Home

Mold is a general term used to describe certain types of fungi. Mold can grow on food, building materials, upholstery, clothes and other surfaces. There are many different types of molds that vary in color and appearance. No species of mold is named “black mold.”

Mold needs moisture to grow. Finding areas with water or moisture intrusion — such as around leaks in roofs, windows, or pipes, or where there has been flooding — is the best way to identify where mold may be. Other clues to mold growth are musty or moldy smells. If your home has mold, fixing the water or moisture problem is the key to controlling it.

A pointer cursor and the words "Take action".

Is your home or building flooded? 

Find out what to do about mold after a flood

Health Effects of Mold

Exposure to mold can impact your health. How you react to mold depends on several factors including the type and amount of mold, the amount of time you are exposed and your overall health.

Exposure to mold may lead to asthma attacks, headaches, fatigue, eye and skin irritation and allergic reactions. Mold allergies can lead to more severe conditions. If you have a weakened immune system or breathing problems, you may be at greater risk of getting a serious lung infection when you are around mold. Although rare, respiratory fungal infections can occur when fungus grows inside the lungs.

Talk to your health care provider if you have health concerns or questions. You or your health care provider may want to consult with someone that has pursued additional education and training in the diagnosis and treatment of mold-related or environmentally acquired illnesses.

Preventing Mold Growth

Preventing water and moisture problems in your home or building is the key to preventing mold growth.

Follow these steps to prevent mold
  • Fix leaky roofs, gutters, windows and pipes.
  • Clean and dry wet materials thoroughly and quickly (within 48 hours) after flooding.
  • Keep relative humidity levels indoors between 40 and 60%.
  • Vent clothes dryers and kitchen and bathroom fans to the outdoors.
  • Use a dehumidifier in damp areas, like a basement, and empty it frequently.
  • Keep water away from your home or building’s foundation by using downspout extensions, drainage systems, sump pumps or by making sure your yard slopes away from it. Talk to a professional to discuss the best system for your home or building.
  • Use the right type and amount of insulation in areas above the ceiling and in exterior walls.
  • Consider using humidistats to monitor relative humidity levels and leak sensors and automatic shutoff valves to monitor and prevent water damage to your home or building.

Testing for Mold

Testing for mold is not necessary or recommended. Understanding the results can be difficult because there are no standards to compare the results to. Test results cannot be used to say a building is “safe” or “unsafe.” No matter how much or what kind of mold is in your home or building, the action steps are the same: remove the moldy items, dry the space out, and fix the water or moisture problem.

Fixing a Mold Problem

To fix a mold problem, you must fix the water or moisture problem. If the water or moisture problem is not fixed, mold will come back. You may need to hire a professional like a general contractor, plumber, roofer or landscaper, to fix the water or moisture problem in your home or building.

Cleaning Up Mold

Cleaning up Mold Yourself

If the moldy area is less than 10 square feet (roughly 3 feet by 3 feet), you may be able to clean it up yourself. Please note that children, people with breathing problems and people with weakened immune systems should not help clean up mold.

  • Wearing protective clothing, a disposable N95 respirator, gloves and goggles.
  •  Using portable air cleaners with HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters to reduce your exposure to mold in the air. Learn how to select the right air cleaner for your home or building. Learn how to select the right air cleaner for your home or building.
  • Minimizing the spread of dust, debris and mold to other areas of your home or building by using plastic sheeting to separate the moldy area from the rest of your home or building. Learn more about containment.

When you see mold growth:

  • Clean moldy items that do not absorb water (glass, plastic, marble, granite, ceramic, tile, metal) with soap and water. Cleaning with soap and water helps physically remove mold from surfaces.
  • Wash soft items that can be laundered (clothes or linens).
  • Throw away and replace materials that easily absorb water and cannot be laundered or washed (cushions, mattresses, drywall, carpet, insulation, pillows, upholstered furniture, ceiling tiles).
  • Vacuum all clean surfaces with a HEPA vacuum.
Hiring a Contractor to Clean up Mold

If mold is covering more than 10 square feet (roughly 3 feet by 3 feet) you may want to hire a contractor that specializes in mold cleanup.

Ask the contractor to follow clean up guidance from organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency or the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC). As with any contractor, get references to assess the contractor’s experience, past work success and if other clients liked their work.

There are no federal or Vermont certifications or licenses for mold clean up.

If You are a Renter

Talk with your landlord about mold problems. If the problem is serious and conditions persist, you may want to file a complaint with the Division of Fire Safety.

If You are an Employee

Talk with your employer about mold problems. If the problem is serious and conditions persist, call the Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Administration (VOSHA).

A question mark with the words "Did you know?" under it.

No “Black Mold” Species

No species of mold is named “black mold.” Many kinds of mold may be black, and the color of mold does not describe what type it is or how hazardous it is.

Stachybotrys chartarum (S. chartarum) is a mold species that often is called black mold. It has also been featured in news reports as being more toxic than other molds. Currently it is not known whether exposure to S. chartarum causes more illness than exposure to other mold species.

Last Updated: