Seems like you can paint over mold, right?
That freshly color-coated area screams “clean” and “problem solved!”
Or it does until it that pretty new coat of paint begins to bubble, peel, and let out the durable monster that is mold. Except now, it’s better fed and had plenty of time to grow and multiply.
What a nightmare right?
Unfortunately, while painting over mold seems like a cheap, easy option, it won’t actually deal with the problem. It’s really not even like putting a bandaid on a broken bone… More like putting a pretty piece of clothing over it and looking away.
To effectively deal with a mold problem the first time, we have to understand how it grows, the scope of damage it can cause, and what proper treatment should look like. Hint, it is not a coat of paint!
These microorganisms are classified as fungi and grow in filaments (think of roots on a tree).¹ By the time you see visible mold, the root system of these microorganisms has already had time to settle in for the long haul.
That’s why you can’t paint over mold to kill it, even with mold-resistant paint. To effectively get rid of mold you have to focus on eliminating the roots.
What do they need to grow roots in the first place? Being as hardy as they are, they only need oxygen, moisture, temperature, and food to survive. Most of these are easy to come by inside a home.²
Oxygen is a given. Any temperature between 40-100 degrees will do.³ And unfortunately, molds eat pretty much anything, including the paint you’re trying to use.
Throw in moisture, whether from condensation in the bathroom or a small leak from a window, and they’ll settle right in like it’s their own personal Airbnb.
Painting over mold might seem like it would smother the fungi, but that’s not the case. Molds are able to continue growing in the wall, even underneath that coat of paint, because they require such low oxygen levels to survive. ⁴’⁵
Another aspect to consider when thinking of painting over mold is that the visible portion of the mold isn’t your only problem. Usually, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Molds reproduce by creating large numbers of microscopic spores.⁶ Kind of like the seeds that weeds produce. The air current picks them up, invisible to the naked eye, and then deposits them on any surface they can find. Again, molds don’t need too much to survive and thrive. If there’s another moist environment in a home, they’ll find it and start a new colony of growth.
Many mold species also have the ability to produce mycotoxins when they feel threatened.⁷ These microscopic toxins can float in the air undetected, like mold spores, and land on any surface they come into contact with from fabrics to countertops.
Unfortunately, they are even more difficult to remediate than molds.
Going back to the tip of the iceberg, once you see mold, chances are it’s not the only issue in your home. You can paint over mold in that one spot, but it won’t treat that area of mold growth or the other areas that are probably colonizing. It’s just a waste of time and money.
The biggest cause for concern here is the adverse health effects that mold exposure can have. Like a domino effect, when molds begin to grow, they create more spores, more toxins, and might be working in conjunction with bacteria present from the source of the water leak.
That’s a lot of particulates to expose your body to every day and can cause a list of health effects, ranging from slightly irritating to severe.⁸’⁹
SO, DON’T PAINT OVER MOLD
When you have a visible mold problem, it’s best to create a solid roadmap of the issue to make sure you’re treating your home properly. That way, you make sure the air quality in your home is clean, and your body has the ability to heal.
FIND A MOLD INSPECTOR
Call in a mold inspector first to determine how big the issue is. Are there high concentrations in other rooms, are there toxins present, are there bacteria present, etc? The assessment itself should take a few hours and cover a range of information that gives you a proper idea of what’s in your home.
If the problem is big enough, a home might need a mold remediation team to tackle the issue.
HIRING A REMEDIATION COMPANY
That can present its own set of challenges because of the current state of the industry. When searching for a remediation company, make sure that they prioritize your health and the health of your family.
Any good remediation team should follow these three pillars.
a) Identify the source of water/moisture that allowed for mold to grow in the first place
b) Remove and correct the source of the problem
c) Clean up all of the contamination created by the source
If they can’t handle the entire scope of the problem, they’re not the company for you. The last thing you want to do is spend money on a remediation treatment that doesn’t work, and then have to hire another company to come in and actually fix the problem.
AVOID PAINTING OVER MOLD AND FOCUS ON MOLD AWARENESS
Misconceptions about mold treatment, unfortunately, run rampant at the moment. Add that to the general lack of mold awareness, and figuring out how to treat mold in a home can seem daunting.
But it doesn’t have to be! With the right tools and proper understanding, mold growth inside a home can be taken care of. It can often even be prevented using the right tools- one of which is mold-resistant paint!
This can only be used preventatively though! Painting over mold that already exists is still a no-go!
Proper treatment and prevention are more expensive and takes more time than a coat of paint. No doubt about it. But at the end of the day, it’s worth it for your continued health and happiness.
- Moore D, Robson GD, Trinci AP, eds. (2011). 21st Century Guidebook to Fungi (1st ed.). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521186957.
- Environmental Protection Agency. (n.d.). A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture and Your Home . EPA. https://www.epa.gov/mold/brief-guide-mold-moisture-and-your-home.
- Lstiburek, J., Brennan, T., & Yost , N. (2002, January 15). Rr-0208: What you need to know about mold. Building Science Corporation.https://www.buildingscience.com/documents/reports/rr-0208-what-you-need-to-know-about-mold/view.
- Miller, D. D., & Golding, N. S. (1949). The gas requirements of molds. v. the minimum oxygen requirements for normal growth and for germination of six mold cultures. Journal of Dairy Science, 32(2), 101–110. https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.s0022-0302(49)92017-2
- Richter, E. (2000, January 18). Can molds grow in the absence of air? MadSci Network: Microbiology. http://www.madsci.org/posts/archives/jan2000/948506647.Mi.r.html.
- Ryan KJ, Ray CG, eds. (2004). Sherris Medical Microbiology (4th ed.). McGraw Hill. pp. 633–8. ISBN 978-0-8385-8529-0.
- WHO. (2018, May 9). Mycotoxins. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mycotoxins.
- Environmental and Occupational Health Assessment Program , & Environmental and Occupational Health Assessment Program , & Health Science Section, Mold Basics for Primary Care Clinicians (2009). Hartford, CT; Connecticut Department of Public Health. , H. S. S., Mold Basics for Primary Care Clinicians 1–10 (2009). Hartford, CT; Connecticut Department of Public Health.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, August 11). Basic facts about mold and dampness. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/mold/faqs.htm.
Still Have Questions?
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Two minutes of your time could lead to better health for you and your family.