Bathroom mold causes, cures, prevention: this article gives advice on how to find, test for, remove & prevent mold in bathrooms, including mold found on bath tiles, moldy tile grout, moldy caulk, and hidden bathroom mold. Brown mold, and sometimes darker black mold commonly found on bath tile grout may be harmless, a cosmetic clean-up job handled with bathroom cleaners.
On occasion mold in bathrooms may indicate a more serious hidden leak behind a cabinet, vanity, wall, or floor. In such cases there may be hidden rot, insect damage, or a larger mold reservoir that needs attention. Here we explain how to decide what to do about bathroom mold, how to remove it, how to prevent new bath mold growth, and when to dig deeper into building cavities.
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This bathroom mold diagnostic procedure helps identify the presence of or locate the probable sources of mold reservoirs in bathrooms, and helps decide if there is a need more invasive, exhaustive inspection and testing such as cutting openings to inspect wall, ceiling or floor cavities.
Obviously such destructive steps should be avoided if at all possible, so first let's look at which kinds of bathroom mold indicate cosmetic versus more serious trouble.
Allergenic bathroom mold: Our photo at left shows the most common place to find mold in a bathroom, on the tile grout or caulk.
Do you need to test this brown stuff to identify it as mold or to identify the mold genera/species? Normally not. The cleanup procedures are the same regardless of the mold identification. However on occasion, there is a reason to test and identify mold growth in buildings.
See MOLD TEST REASONS for details.
The total area of mold in this case is trivial and unlikely to be harmful to anyone. It is primarily a cosmetic issue. A close up of this bathroom mold on tile grout is shown at below (left).
There is no need to perform a mold test to identify small areas of mold such as those shown here. Just remove the mold and correct the conditions that contribute to mold growth.
Whenever cleaning mold, especially when opening a wall or ceiling cavity where you have found leak damage, remain alert for the discovery of a large moldy area (more than 30 sq.ft.). If a large area of mold is discovered, stop work, seal off the work area, and consult a professional.
Our photos above show close ups of moldy bath tile grout. Mold may also be found in bathrooms on bath caulks (page to photo) and on the surface of ceramic tiles and even toilets and sinks where those surfaces have become coated with soap scum or organic dust and debris. These molds may appear to be "black mold" but on closer look they are usually brown members of the Cladosporium family.
A bit of looking around may disclose larger and more problematic mold contamination in bathrooms. Here are some places to look:
If there has been protracted leakage or spillage under built-in cabinets such as bath vanities, there may be a mold cleanup job under or behind these components.
We removed this bath vanity after receiving complaints of recurrent moldy odor in this bathroom. No amount of cleaning of other bath surfaces had reduced the mold smell. A slight slope in the bathroom floor had been sending tub spillage behind this bath vanity for a decade or more. Water spillage was inconsistent - it depended on who used the shower and how much water they splashed onto the floor.
What makes a lot of sense sense is to study the building carefully to decide on the building points at most risk of having been wet from leaks due to construction details or other site observations. That's where one would make a test cut. Like behind the vanity cabinet near the most moldy corner in our photo, above right.
More mold-contaminated cabinets can be seen
Also see BROWN HAIRY BATHROOM MOLD for a Q&A on the harmfulness of "hairy brown mold" found in a bathroom.
Identifying & Removing Dense Brown Hairy Mold Found On Bathroom Floor & Under Carpeting
Question: what is this hairy brown mold found in my bathroom? Is brown hairy mold dangerous? How do I get rid of it?
I live in Melbourne Australia and I have a major issue with my bathroom floor. Please see my brown hairy mold photographs (below). The images are of brown mold growths on the bathroom floor, & afterwards when I had scraped them off the floor.
I do understand that no competent expert would pretend to ID mold [or any other microscopic particle] from just a field photo.
But I have no idea what I'm dealing with and of course am concerned for my health and my family's. Can you tell me please - is brown hairy mold dangerous? When I scraped the protrusions off the bathroom floor, it turned into a powder & hair like structures stood on end. I would be most grateful if you could please tell me what this could be and if it is dangerous.
I'm wanting to send a specimen away for analysis & hope that I can locate a government organisation in Australia, such as the Agricultural Department, hopefully they can do this at no cost. - G. P., Melbourne, Australia
Reply: Examination of fungal material in an aerobiology lab is needed for sure identification of mold
Your photos are blurry and no competent expert would pretend to identify a mold genera or species just from email photos.
But with that caveat stated, the pattern and character of the mold in your photos resembles like a fungus Stemonitis sp.
- see BROWN MOLD PHOTOS where we include photographs of Stemonitis sp. found on a bathroom floor and growing on oriented strand board (OSB) or "waferboard" in a basement.
Enlarging your photos [click any image to see an enlarged version] we see the mold was thick under carpeting (above left) meaning that in at least this area of the building, mold growth, including in hidden cavities such as walls, floors, ceilings, is likely to be extensive.
Watch out: And one would certainly expect other leak damage; that "wrinkled" looking floor baseboard trim board - if that's what it is in photo #1 at above left - means there have been leaks and probably rot.
If the mold test lab or aerobiology lab technician who examines a mold test sample you provide is familiar with myxomycetes, s/he should easily recognize the fungus from an actual sample. - you can use the clear adhesive tape sampling procedure
at TEST KITS for DUST, MOLD, PARTICLE TESTS and send the sample to a qualified local lab of your choice [not to us].
Some Brown Hairy Molds are Probably Harmless
Stemonitis sp. is a Myxomycete ( a class of fungus) that is not listed in our
nor in the authoritative Atlas of Clinical Fungi, deHoog et als. as a known toxic mold but as we warned you earlier, having so much fungal growth and leakage as we saw in that lifted-carpeting photo, you should expect that other genera/species are likely to be present even if you don't see them yourself from a superficial inspection.
Watch out for Other Leaks & Hidden Mold
Watch out: At a minimum you'd be smart to assume there are allergenic molds present and if there is more than about one square meter of moldy material, to use appropriate protection measures during cleanup as well as, of course, finding and correcting the leaks that led to these conditions. In most circumstances it is not necessary to test mold to identify the genera species.
That information will not change how mold should be removed or prevented in buildings. But on occasion, such as for medical reasons or for control of a larger, costly mold remediation project, there are reasons (MOLD TEST REASONS) to identify mold on surfaces or in building air or dust.
This article is part of our series: MOLD in BUILDINGS which describes how to find mold and test for mold in buildings, including how and where to collect mold samples using adhesive tape - an easy, inexpensive, low-tech but very effective mold testing method.
Reader Question: is this stuff in our bathroom black mold?
The trim by the shower, behind the toilet, is gross too. And on the other side of the wall is another bathroom.
The last picture is of the tile in that bathroom and it has cracked and caved in.
If you could take a look, your opinion would be greatly appreciated. - K.L.
Reply: visible black stuff or mold-suspect materials + evidence of leaks and water spillage can be a clue that says look more carefully for leak damage and hidden mold in buildings
Watch out: don't assume that all "black mold" is harmful nor that it is the most important mold in your home. While some dark colored molds are indeed potentially harmful, others can be insignificant or even simply of cosmetic concern. However the conditions that produced the mold growth that you see can indeed have produced other, less easy to spot, molds, including hidden mold in building cavities or light colored but harmful molds that move throughout building air (such as Aspergillus sp. or Penicillium sp.) and that could be of more concern.
If you have a small area of mold or even mold-suspect material (less than 30 sq ft or less than 10 ft by some EPA sources with which I disagree) then spending on testing or professional clean-up are not normally appropriate, with the warning that if in the course of ordinary cleaning and renovations you discover a larger reservoir, a professional should be consulted.
Continue reading at MOLD CLEANUP GUIDE- HOW TO GET RID OF MOLD or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.
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