Out, damned spot!
July 29, 2010 4:04 PM   Subscribe

What the heck are these little red spots on my walls?

I apologize for my horrible camera, that's the best picture I can get. These spots are extremely tiny, you don't even notice there are any spots on the wall unless you get within a foot or so of the wall. They look much more like paint than blood to me. If I scratch them with my nail, nothing happens, but if I apply water and rub, they smear.

I first noticed them in my home office about three or four weeks ago. Since then, more have appeared, in every room of my house except perhaps the kitchen. They are as low as the height of a plug socket on the wall and as high as the ceiling. (The ones in the picture I attached happen to be by a light switch.) I haven't seen any on the ceiling itself but I haven't gotten close enough to tell for sure. They definitely HAVE NOT always been there.

What in the world could they be? Also, my walls are painted a matte beige and it's very hard to clean them without causing dull spots in the paint, so how the heck can I get rid of them? Thanks so much!
posted by srrh to Home & Garden (8 answers total)
Mold, mildew or algae of some kind? Has it been damper than usual in your area?
posted by jquinby at 4:08 PM on July 29, 2010

Yeah, looks like mildew or some sort of fungal thing. Is the room damp? Have you checked the attic/pipes to make sure there isn't a water leak somewhere?
posted by Elmore at 4:12 PM on July 29, 2010

According to this page, it could be Serratia marcescens, a bacteria.
posted by heavenstobetsy at 4:12 PM on July 29, 2010

Response by poster: Heavenstobetsy, I think you're on to something -- that's exactly what they look like, a spray of blood or rusty water or some such thing.

So, I'll try the borax solution. That still leaves me with the question of how to actually clean the walls without leaving dark spots on the paint. Can I just spray without rubbing and let it sit? I'm worried about that too. (It's very finicky paint.)
posted by srrh at 4:18 PM on July 29, 2010

Apply a small amount down in a corner near the floor and observe the effects overnight before you clean the whole wall.
posted by rkent at 4:20 PM on July 29, 2010

I've had these before, but didn't know what it was. Those Mr. Clean Magic Erasers seemed to take the discoloration off fairly well. Although if your paint is finicky it may not work for you...
posted by weathergal at 9:07 PM on July 29, 2010

Another suggestion--if the wall was previously painted with red paint, or especially in a faux finish where red paint is mixed with a glaze, it may be bleeding through. Red paint doesn't want to dry in the first place, and red mixed with glaze doesn't ever dry, not really, and it will bleed through even Kilz.
posted by HotToddy at 9:53 PM on July 29, 2010

I and my neat-freak mother before me, have always used a bit of ammonia dissolved in hot water to clean the walls. There have never been any problems, and I've used it with both gloss-finish and eggshell-finish paints. It certainly removes dust and kitchen debris, but if it is in fact mold that you have, it may be more stubborn. I can't get rid of the mildew above my shower; it's been there since before my time.
posted by Fui Non Sum at 2:57 PM on July 30, 2010

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