Can you paint over mold?

The most common method to hide mold is by simply painting over it, but the facts are that this does not remove or remediate the problem.

It simply just hides the issue for a short period of time.

According to the EPA:

“Do not paint or caulk moldy surfaces. Clean up the mold and dry the surfaces before painting. Paint applied over moldy surfaces is likely to peel. If you are unsure about how to clean an item, or if the item is expensive or of sentimental value, you may wish to consult a specialist.”

There are some paints on the market that contain mold & mildew growth control products (MCGPs). These products claim to kill off mold spores so that they can’t grow again once they’ve been painted over.

While these products do offer some protection, they don’t actually remove existing mold spores from your walls — which means there’s still a chance for more problems down the line if you don’t address the underlying cause of

Also, many paints contain organic materials that provide nutrients for mold to feed on. So even if you treat the area with bleach, you should never paint over it because this will make it worse.

Unfortunately, this is exactly what many property managers, landlords, and homeowners do when they have mold on walls, ceilings, wood, and or drywall because it is the cheapest and fastest way to hide mold.

Here is the reason why.

Mold spores are still alive and well under that coat of paint, and they’ll eventually turn into an even bigger colony—one that could be toxic and may cause serious illness.

Obvious signs of painted over mold are:

  • Bubbling, cracked and or chipped paint.
  • White paint turning yellow, which is a sign of water damage.
  • Walls or ceilings that are not entirely flat, but seem to bubble and or bow, which is a sign of water damage.

If you think that you have painted over mold in your property, it doesn’t mean that the whole wall is infested, but it could be.

Simply observing the area and thinking like a mold detective will most likely result in a satisfactory theory that can easily be proved. If you see mold, discolored drywall and or bubbling paint, you most likely have water damage in that area and there may also be mold if it was not properly remediated.

The first questions you need to ask yourself are what is behind that wall that may have caused mold to grow, such as plumbing, or could it be from a roof or window leak nearby. For example, if you have bubbling or discolored paint on the drywall that has plumbing and or a bathroom behind it, then a bathroom plumbing leak is most likely the cause.

If the drywall under a window is damaged, it may be from a window leak or possibly, the previous owners or tenants left the window open during a rain storm. Another example would be if you have peeling or yellow paint on the ceiling.

This was most likely the result of a roof leak.

In all these different scenarios, you will have to then investigate further to find the exact source of the leak and mold. As I said above, you need to act like a mold detective.

If you do not have the physical energy, wherewithal or skills to accurately pinpoint the cause and source of the mold, then it is best to hire a professional mold inspector who can do the detective and testing work for you. They can find the source of the water damage and mold and also tell you the type of mold that is causing the damage.

One last note for landlord or property managers.

There are even how-to articles on the internet instructing people how to paint over mold. If you decide to paint over mold rather than properly remove it and or remediate, this can result in a major legal problem if your tenants become ill from the mold exposure and decide to sue.

Whether you win or lose, it will cost you money to defend yourself. Don’t let that happen to you.

How to remove mold

The only way to actually eliminate mold is to fix the underlying problem, which is most likely a water (leak, moisture or humidity) right away.

Then you need to remove the affected materials if they are porous, such as drywall, carpet, etc., and then treat the underlying affected area (wood or concrete) with a biocide or antimicrobial.

The last step in the remediation process is to dry the structure for several days.

Then you can replace the damaged materials (drywall etc.) and then paint to restore your property back to its original condition.

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