While not all mold is a serious threat, mold in your home is never a good thing. If you’ve noticed a pinkish fungus growing anywhere in your house, your health could be at risk. It’s important to get rid of the mold as soon as possible, but you’ll need more than soap and water to do the job.
How Pink Mold Forms
The term “pink mold” covers several types of slimy stuff you might find growing in the damp, dark corners of your home. One of the most common is Serratia marcescens (S. marcescens), which looks like mold, but is actually bacteria.
Ranging from pink to pinkish-orange or orange, it most often forms on damp bathroom, kitchen, and laundry room surfaces where it can feed on the fat and phosphorus in soap scum. Shower tile grout and the water lines going to the sink and toilet are among its favorite spots, but it also likes toilet bowls and sinks. In particularly damp bathrooms, it can even show up on the wall and floors, and in the cabinets.
Aureobasidium pullulans (A. pullulans) is another common pink mold. This fungus starts off light pink, white or yellow and ages to brown to black with a gray edge. Like S. marcescens, it favors bathrooms, but it grows more often on organic material such as houseplants, damp wood window frames, and linseed-oil paint.
The third pink mold, Fusarium, is the least likely to grow in homes. When it does, it usually appears first on houseplants, then moves to the wallpaper or carpet.
Risks to Your Health
While no type of pink mold poses an immediate, serious threat to your health the way black mold does, pink molds can still harm you. Mold in your house can lead to respiratory and urinary tract infections, gastrointestinal trouble, and even heart problems. People with respiratory conditions such as asthma, as well as elderly people, children, and pets are at an even higher risk of mold-related health problems.
For healthy people, S. marcescens is largely harmless. While it can cause infections of the eye, respiratory tract, and urinary tract, these infections usually happen in hospital settings to those already in poor health.
That said, there’s still some risk the S. marcescens growing in your shower at home will find its way into broken skin and leave you with an infected wound. S. marcescens has also been known to grow on contact lenses and cause eye infections that way. If you wear contacts, don’t store them in a room with pink mold and take steps to get rid of all pink mold in your house immediately.
A. pullulans is more likely to cause a problem when you’re exposed to it over the long term. It often develops in humidifiers and then circulates around the house, so it can float around for weeks before anyone notices. Exposure to this mold can lead to hypersensitivity pneumonitis, also known as “humidifier lung,” which causes a cough, difficulty breathing, and fever.
If you have a healthy immune system, fusarium is unlikely to harm you unless it gets into your food. There is some risk of nail and eye infection, though, and in people with severely compromised immune systems, in can cause a life-threatening infection.
Getting Rid of Pink Mold
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If you’re healthy and have only a small patch of pink mold to deal with in an easily accessible area, you can do the removal job yourself. Other times, it’s better to call a professional, such as when:
- You have a respiratory condition such as asthma,
- The mold covers an area larger than 3 sq. ft.,
- The mold is in your heating and ventilation (HVAC) ducts,
- The mold appeared after a sewage leak.
In any of these cases, contact a licensed mold remediation specialist. Getting rid of mold in your HVAC ducts requires determining the cause of the mold, so you’ll also need to consult an HVAC professional.
If you decide to remove the mold yourself, wear gloves, goggles, and an N-95 particulate respirator mask to prevent the skin, eye, and lung irritation mold can cause. Soap and water alone won’t kill mold, but many common household cleaners do. You can get rid of pink mold in three basic steps.
Vacuum first – Vacuum up as much of the mold as you can with a vacuum cleaner fit with a HEPA filter. This cuts down on the amount of spores that will end up in the air while you’re cleaning.
Choose your cleaner – Bleach solution is effective for killing nearly all types of mold. Use 1.5 cups of bleach in 1 gallon of water (around 1 part bleach to 10 parts water). Other options for killing mold are 1 cup of borax (sodium borate) in 1 gallon of water, undiluted vinegar, or 3 percent hydrogen peroxide. Use these cleaners separately to avoid dangerous chemical reactions.
Remove the mold – Pour your chosen cleaner into a spray bottle and spray it liberally onto the mold growth. If you don’t have a bottle, pour the solution into a bucket and apply it with a sponge, cleaning cloth or scrub brush. Let it sit for at least an hour. Then use a sponge or brush to gently scrub the surface clean. Finally, wipe the surface down with pure water.
While biocides for mold are available, they’re not recommended for indoor home use. Biocides powerful enough to kill mold spores can also harm your health if you use them in an enclosed area.
For a healthier way to prevent mold from coming back, spray a light coating of vinegar on the surface you want to protect and let it dry. Repeat this every month or two. Washing down your shower and tile floors with vinegar can also help. Do a patch test first, though, to ensure the vinegar won’t cause discoloration.
Finding pink mold in your house isn’t an emergency, but it’s also not something you want to ignore. Exposure to mold can leave you with lung and skin irritation, and it’s even more dangerous for anyone with a respiratory condition or weakened immune system.
If the mold hasn’t spread far, you can get rid of it quickly with bleach, borax or hydrogen peroxide. For major mold problems, though, leave the cleaning to a mold remediation specialist.