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How to Check for Mold After Water Damage: 7 Effective Steps

It only takes 24 hours for mold caused by water damage to permeate deep into porous materials.

The rapidly spreading fungus ruins drywall, rots wood and compromises indoor air quality.

Since 1996, ServiceMaster of Lake Shore has helped Chicago residents clean up mold damage after storm flooding and plumbing disasters. Our insider knowledge can make it easier for you to check for mold after water damage.

Read on for information that keeps you safe in a potentially dangerous environment. 

How to Check for Mold After Water Damage

how to check for mold

1. Trust Your Sense of Smell

As you check for mold in water-damaged areas of the house, follow your nose. Not all fungal growth is visible, but the unpleasant musty odors help you zero in on its location.

Power Tip: If you smell moldy odors in every room, Diana Rodriguez-Zaba recommends having your home’s ductwork inspected by a restoration professional.

2. Identify Mold on Walls

The porous material in damp drywall quickly becomes a fungal breeding ground. Mold shows up as darkly colored, fuzzy splotches on wall surfaces, including walls in closets, cabinets and pantries.

Power Tip: Slimy, greenish-black mold may be stachybotris chartarum. Be very careful around this toxic black mold because exposure to its spores can aggravate existing health issues.

3. Walk Barefoot on Carpets

Water-damaged carpets look better after DIY steam-cleaning, but they still hold residual moisture. Mold spreads through fibers and padding, forming dark areas that feel damp or spongy under bare feet.

Power Tip: If you suspect mold growing in the carpet, don’t try to pull it up and haul it off by yourself. Let water damage technicians do the heavy lifting.

4. Look for Mold on Ceilings

Leaks in the attic can seep downward and result in water-damaged ceilings. Mold growth overhead creates visible patches in the ceiling materials, similar to moldy areas on moist walls.

Power Tip: Keep an eye on ceilings in water-damaged bathrooms and kitchens. High humidity in both these rooms causes mold that can go unnoticed until you look up.

5. Double-Check Plumbing Repairs

If the source of the water damage was a plumbing breakdown, check for signs of mold around the repaired pipes over the next several days. Double-check the affected area weekly for another month, just to be sure.

Power Tip: Use this double-check strategy around, under and behind any recently repaired appliances.

6. Inspect the Basement

Severe weather or a burst pipe floods the basement, mold quickly takes hold on the porous concrete. Inspect the basement floor, ceiling and walls for signs of fungus after any type of water damage. 

Power Tip: Test powdery white growth on basement walls by dropping a small amount in a glass of water. If it dissolves, it’s efflorescence, a type of salt deposit not considered harmful.

7. Shine a Light in Dark Corners

Look closely inside closets and pantries adjacent to water-damaged areas. They may appear dry, but moisture can migrate through wall voids, creating a mold-breeding environment.

Power Tip: A head lamp makes it easier to check dark corners in storage spaces. The personal lighting system also makes mold inspections safer in the attic and basement.

What to Do When You Discover Mold

what to do when you discover mold

Your detective work confirms the worst. You’ve found mold growing in water-damaged areas, and you want to take care of the problem immediately. Make the situation easier to deal with by following these guidelines.

  • Understand that DIY mold removal after water damage is a potentially hazardous project. 
  • Be aware of how easily your cleanup efforts can spread mold spores through the house.
  • Be ready to suit up in personal protective equipment, including a NIOSH-approved respirator

There are advantages to bringing in a professional restoration company. For example, when you call us here at ServiceMaster by Lake Shore, you can count on our teams to:

  • Address all damages resulting from the water emergency, including mold removal.
  • Detect and eliminate mold growth from enclosed areas, such as wall voids and ductwork.
  • Control the removal and cleanup process so that airborne spores don’t migrate. 
  • Prevent mold from growing back with our industry-certified remediation process.
  • Restore indoor air quality with specialized property-wide deodorization techniques. 

How to Prevent Future Mold

A few routines and a little pre-planning can help prevent future mold problems, even after water damage. Head off unhealthy fungal growth with these simple strategies.

  • Keep interiors dry by keeping gutters from clogging and overflowing into wall voids.
  • Reduce the chances of mold growing in the basement by regularly checking for cracks in the walls.
  • Put a quick, house-wide plumbing inspection on your list of monthly maintenance routines.
  • Well-ventilated kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms are less likely to turn into mold breeding grounds.
  • Minimize the risk of mold growth in storage areas by elevating cardboard boxes off the floor.

Not Sure If You’ve Got a Mold Problem in the Chicago Area? We’re Here to Help!

mold removal services chicago

When mold stains the wallpaper or grows on basement walls, it’s hard to miss. When it spreads inside the walls, you can’t see the extent of the problem.

Our expert restoration teams know how to detect, clean up and remediate mold wherever it grows. We take care of water damages too, and we’re here to help 24/7.

Trust ServiceMaster of Lake Shore to solve your mold problem with industry-certified expertise.

Give us a call today: 312-707-8597

Helpful Resources for Homeowners

Mold in Flood-Damaged Homes – FEMA

Effect of Mold on Health – CDC

Mold Cleanup Information – EPA 


Is mold dangerous?

Mold can have a negative health impact on people with compromised immune systems. It can also aggravate existing allergy and respiratory problems. Exposure to mold spores can cause skin rashes and eye irritation.

What causes mold in homes?

The most common causes of mold in homes include: water damage from plumbing breakdowns; dampness in wall voids due to slow leaks; insufficient ventilation in humid areas; and the aftermath of storm flooding.

Does mold go away on its own?

As long as mold has a source of moisture and a dark environment, it continues to grow. The fungus feeds on organic materials, such as drywall, wood and paper, but it also spreads through insulation, carpet and upholstery.