5 signs you have mold in your home
Our mold story is one of irony. Before our current home we lived in a house built in 1958 that had a visible mold problem in the front bathroom. As many times as I wanted to take a sledgehammer to that pale yellow, 1950’s tile I was much too concerned about what was behind the walls to tackle a renovation. So we left the house flipping to the investors who bought our house and move into our much newer, absolutely beautiful and well-kept home.
It was because of our doTERRA business we were able to move from that old, crowded urban neighborhood to the peacefulness and spaciousness of the country. And guess what our beautiful new home had – besides gorgeous crown moulding, floor-to-ceiling windows everywhere and more than double the space? You guessed it ….. mold. And now two years later we are going through a major mold remediation AGAIN. I don’t want anyone to go through what we have so I’m here to share 5 signs you have mold in your home.
How did we find out we had mold?
We moved in in April 2015. Texas has torrential rain that year. The week we moved in it had rained so much water was just sitting everywhere in the yard, the ground too full to absorb any more. And it continued to rain for the rest of the year. By the fall we were all starting to get sick. I coughed, literally, 60 days straight. My airways became so irritated I could hardly say a few sentences without coughing. I began to spend most of my days on the couch resting (and losing my mind). My kids and husband were coughing too. I kept telling my husband something was up with the house but he blamed it on moving to the country (why don’t they ever listen to us??).
Then one day during a particularly fierce rainstorm we came into the dining room and saw water dripping from the top corners of our floor-to-ceiling picture windows. I knew right that moment that I was right – and that we had mold in our home. We quickly checked all the other windows and found that the room our two youngest sons shared also had water pooling on the windowsill. Because the blinds were almost always closed it could have been happening repeatedly but we couldn’t see it.
Can you sue sellers for not disclosing mold?
It turns out the windows had been leaking well before we moved in. Because there was a dresser in front of the window the inspector did not look at that window. Only the sellers know if that dresser was there on purpose but it seems likely. They had caulked that window repeatedly and even cut out and replaced the dry wall at one point – and we had no idea. I was an extremely angry mama bear for awhile. Their negligence made my babies extremely sick!! But at the end of the day all that mattered was getting our home safe again and healing our bodies. We consulted a lawyer but mold cases in Texas are very hard to win. It was very costly but the clean up but it was worth it (more on that below).
5 signs you may have mold in your home
- You visibly see mold
- You smell mold or a musty smell
- Water is leaking inside through a window
- Signs of moisture in caulking, trim, walls, etc. (cracks, stains)
- Your family members are sick – respiratory issues, headaches, earaches, trouble concentrating, shortened attention span, memory loss, sneezing, runny noses, red eyes and skin rashes and dizziness
Remember we could not see anything or smell anything and it was months before we saw water actually coming into the house. But our bodies were telling us long before that something wasn’t right.
Symptoms we had from mold:
- All of us were coughing
- I coughed for 60 days straight and had inflammed airways. NO natural remedies worked nor did antibiotics or steroids (NAET treatments from my acupuncturist finally cured me)
- We were more susceptible to respiratory illness . We all got pneumonia and the youngest child in the room with mold has it the worst
- My husband coughed so hard he passed out (cough syncope)
- My 2 yr old daughter had ear infections repeatedly and her ear drums would burst each time (per our pediatrician, mold exposure was causing her body to make extra fluid which was causing pressure in her ears)
- Allergy symptoms – congestion, sneezing, headaches, etc.
- Sinus infections (the second time this was how I knew something was up)
Since making diet changes and using doTERRA oils we are rarely unwell and rarely need allergy medicine. When this began to change rather dramatically I began to suspect there was an issue.
Does mold make everyone sick?
“Mold doesn’t bother everyone. In fact, out of thousands of mold species, only a few dozen will trigger any health problems at all, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Still, some of us are sensitive to molds. People who are allergic to an indoor mold can experience year-round symptoms like a sore throat, cough, stuffy nose, and more; for those who also have asthma, mold can trigger an asthma attack. People with a weakened immune system or a chronic lung condition like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease can develop a serious infection in the lungs if they’re exposed to mold.
People without allergies and asthma aren’t immune to the effects: In 2004, the Institute of Medicine concluded that people without pre-existing lung conditions can also experience symptoms like nasal congestion and a sore throat if they live in a house with damp floors or moisture accumulation.” source
We’ve now dealt with many mold professionals who are around mold daily and do not react. In our home different people reacted different to the different molds we had each time. Only I reacted both times. If you have the MTHFR gene mutation you are more likely to be unable to tolerate mold.
The most dangerous molds health-wise are those that release mycotoxins but not all molds do. More on that soon.
Are all types of mold dangerous?
Obviously any mold you can see is an issue. But just because there’s mold and just because it’s black it does NOT mean that it’s the most toxic”black mold” (stachybotrys) or that it’s making you sick. Stachybotrys is the most dangerous because of the mycotoxins it releases.
Mycotoxins are poisonous chemical compounds produced by certain fungi. Not all molds release mycotoxins, but of those that do Stachybotrys is the worst. Molds release mycotoxins as a defense mechanism when they start to dry out (starve) or fungicides are sprayed on them.
Remember there are many other types of molds and not all release mycotoxins. And Stachybotrys is not the only mold that is toxic either. Finding out what type of mold you are dealing with is very important, especially before trying to clean it.
(Not our home) Here is a picture of what stachybotrys looks like. It is greenish or black and grows in porous materials:
Where does water get in and cause mold?
Mold likes moisture and bathrooms have those constantly so it makes sense why it’s a common issue. Essential oils are great for this. You can DIY a bathroom spray with some On Guard and Melaleuca/tea tree easily and inexpensively (make it strong). Increasing ventilation with a window or a better fan can help as well. We are always on our kids to keep the fan on and the door open to prevent mold in the bathrooms. We also spray Benefect in the bathrooms.
If you see mold growing in the middle of a wall in a bedroom where moisture should not be that is more concerning. That means you most likely have a leak somewhere in the wall and that means a more costly solution.
Windows are another common place to see moisture entering the house. This is what happened to us. BUT typically the water is getting in somewhere else and making it’s way down to the window. Windows are rarely the actually source of the leak. Water came come in through a damaged roof, dormers, incorrectly installed antennas, brick, stone or concrete on the exterior, etc.
Water is TRICKY. I cant travel up, down and sideways. This second time it took a lot more work to figure out where the water was coming in. We had to pull down all of the stone on the front of our home – there was no typical moisture barrier, joints weren’t sealed, etc. It was BAD and we never had any idea. The custom builder they used to build our home is completely at fault but unfortunately they are out of business.
If you smell mold in your home:
If a certain room or area of your home has a musty smell, pay attention to that. Do some investigating, check visually and buy an inexpensive moisture reader to check any suspicious areas and around the windows. This is what we did first before calling in the pros.
My friend had water seep up through her pier and beam foundation, into the floor boards and even up the back of her furniture. They didn’t realize it was happening for months and by the time they figured it out the problem was so bad they had to move out. The only sign was musty smelling clothes (from being in the dresser with mold on the back of it) It took several months to get their home cleaned and safe enough to live in.
**Don’t ignore the musty smell. Take it very seriously. We smelled it in our boys room the second time but I thought I was being paranoid. I wish I would have investigated right away.
What do you do if you suspect your home has mold?
We purchased a moisture detector first to check the walls around the windows. With this we found where the water coming in from the poorly-sealed windows was leaking into the walls and staying there. This was how I finally convinced my husband to call the professionals.
The next step is to hire a professional. ***You should hire separate companies to test your home and write a protocol for remediation and to actually do the remediation. There is a lot of fraud in the mold industry so you have to be careful. Here in Texas its legally required that you use different companies but very few states require that.
Here in the Dallas/Fort Worth area we used:
- Mold Inspection Sciences of Dallas for inspection and protocol the first time
- Kristie from Adaptive Environmental counseling for inspection and protocol the second time
- John Crain from Restoration 1 for non-toxic remediation. They have taken great care of us.
Do not start tearing open walls until you find out what type of mold you have.
How much does it cost to get your home tested for mold and remediated?
For us, the first time the initial inspection and testing was around $940 – the base fee was based on our home size, $640 for 4100 sq ft, and air samples taken at $100 each. They spent about 4 hours here checking inside and out and in the attic. Air samples will only be taken if there are signs of a problem.
It was $3600 for remediation of a room and bathroom and $1400 to clean and fog the ducts. Plus the cost of all new windows. In general mold remediation is around $2500 per room.
Yes that is a LOT of money. But it’s less than you’ll spend if you get seriously ill or contaminate your entire house.
Do you have to throw all of your stuff away?
No. Some things can be cleaned but some cannot. Here is what should be thrown away in the case of a big mold issue and especially if it is toxic mold that release mycotoxins.
- Thick comforters
- Stuffed animals
- Particle board furniture
- Anything porous that cannot be cleaned
*You can have the professionals clean your things but you have to weigh the cost vs replacement
The first time we did not pay for our things to be cleaned beyond the remediation (they clean ceiling, walls and floors). We threw out what could not be cleaned from the boys room and cleaned the rest ourselves with Benefect. We got them out of the house then sprayed/wiped/scrubbed them outside before bringing anything back in.
This time we still aren’t sure if we will need professional cleaning, it depends on the mycotoxin test results. If they’ve spread to other rooms we will have a lot of things to throw away and a lot to clean including the whole rooms top-to-bottom.
Can I clean the mold myself?
I do NOT recommend that you ever attempt a mold remediation yourself unless you 1) know exactly what molds you are dealing with (you need the air tested by a mold company) and 2) you know what you are doing and have all precautions and professional equipment. Please do not risk contaminating your entire home. It will cost you so much more in the long run. Without proper precautions you could do more harm to yourself and spread the mold.
Do NOT try to clean the mold with bleach. Bleach does NOT work on mold. It actually aggravates mold and can cause it to release more mycotoxins. Bleach is 90% water – not what you want to put on mold!
If it’s a small issue like in bathroom grout then you may choose to handle it yourself. Moldy caulk should be replaced and wet/damaged wood as well. If it turns into a bigger problem stop and get some help.
Is our mold gone now?
Our second remediation is still in progress. Because this second time we DO have stachybotrys, the toxic black mold, it is more involved. We had to add tests for mycotoxins because stachybotrys release the worst ones and that is what makes you sick. These tests are very costly, $450 a room. We have done two so far and are awaiting results. This will determine the extent of the cleaning/purging needed.
In Texas any mold over 25 sq ft it is required have the state brought in to oversee the remediation. Laws will vary by state.
We’ve had to remove all of the stone from the 3 gables on the front of the home to discover it was all installed incorrectly by the builder. Water has been able to get in easily and with no weep holes (make sure your brick and stone have weep holes at the bottom!!) it had no way to get out. Its become a large construction project but we know it will be clean, safe and done right in the end.
What natural products work on mold?
The product MOST remediation companies around here use is Benefect – a natural, safe product based on thymol, the made constituent of Thyme oil. The consultant we are working with says On Guard works just as well but Benefect is just more cost effective.
Can’t you just use essential oils?
Pure, potent, high-quality essential oils can be very effective against fungal growth. We were diffusing On Guard heavily when we were still in the house to help clean the air. If you are tackling a big mold issue you want a product that’s exact dilution is tested and proven. I’m using On Guard spray, the cleaning concentrate or foaming hand soap to wash things I’m taking out of the home to the hotel room but we will use Benefect Decon 30 or Disinfectant for all the major cleaning. I will always have Benefect in our home to use at the first sign or mold or mildew in showers, any wood that gets wet, etc.
What I have done/am doing to heal from mold exposure:
The cumulative effects of poor food choices, the toll of having 5 children, sleep deprivation for 13+ years, toxic exposures in childhood etc and then the mold exposure results in me hitting a very low place mentally, emotionally and physically after the first remediation in 2015. I sought the help of natural practitioners and my life was forever changed. The main way I healed my body was with food and a focus on detox.
The most important aspect of recovering from mold toxicity is starving the fungi out of your body with an antifungal diet, and avoiding foods likely to be mold-contaminated. source
Here are some other things I did and am still doing …
- Eating a clean diet and avoiding foods typically high in mold such a mushrooms, peanut butter, etc.
- Avoid foods that contribute to candida overgrowth such a sugar, dairy and grains
- Eating a dairy-free keto diet and losing almost 80 pounds
- Quarterly blood tests and yearly thermography scans with my naturopath to monitor overall health
- Hot epsom salt baths weekly – 2 cups epsom salts and Frankincense, Marjoram and Serenity essential oils to destress and detox
- We bought an infrared sauna for detoxing at home
- As always cleaning only with natural products an avoiding toxins whenever possible
- Frequent colon cleanse with colonic hydrotherapy
- Weekly enemas with apple cider vinegar, oils and/organic coffee
- Supplements such as Omega 3s, Probiotics, liposomal glutathione, liposomal Vitamin C, D3 with K, etc.
- Striving for restorative sleep – my goal is in bed by 11. I use Serenity softgels to help me fall asleep.
- Dry brushing
I was very sick and highly motivated, and still am, to be a strong healthy mother for my children. So while this may seem extreme I believe it is worth it.
Things to remember to keep your family safe …
- Take care of any leaks or water issues ASAP
- Use a preventative essential oil-based product in showers and keep caulk in good condition
- Pay attention to any musty smells in your home and investigate
- At the first sign you have a big issue call in some professionals
- Never, ever use bleach on mold!
- Find out what type of mold you have before you tear open walls
I still have healing to do but I am in such a better place this time around because of the weight I’ve lost and way my body has healed. I don’t know why we have had to go through this again (besides our builder used a terrible stone mason). But I can only hope sharing my story helps someone out here.
Have questions? Need help deciding whats best for you?
Email me [email protected] and I’ll be in touch very soon. Happy oiling! I look forward to working with you!