Gross black stuff on the ceiling.
June 4, 2011 12:07 PM   Subscribe

I'm afraid there is mold on the ceiling of the dorm room I'm staying in for the next 3.5 weeks.

another photo

The climate is very humid here, and the room smells... well, moldy, especially just as you walk in. The window is painted shut and there is no screen, so I can't just keep the window open. My towels aren't drying quickly and are starting to smell musty.

Rooms fill up quickly here and I paid extra for a single room (none would be available at this point), so switching rooms isn't really doable.

Is this mold? Is there something I can do to keep it from spreading, or get rid of it? Would a dehumidifier be a worthwhile investment? And, last but not least, will my bed linens/clothing/etc. be gross and musty when I get home?
posted by cp311 to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I can't open the pictures, but yeah, it sounds like mold. Bleach and water would probably help. Your soft goods may all smell when you get home, but washing with bleach or vinegar (for non-bleachables) will help that.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:19 PM on June 4, 2011

Yeah, it probably is mold. No, there isn't much you can do about it.

But no, this isn't something that's probably going to affect you once you leave. A dehumidifier will probably help with the dampness, but unless you're going to use it when you get back, I'm not sure I'd bother. Your ability to do anything meaningful about this in the short time you're there pales in comparison to how much hassle and cost this represents.

Wash your towels with a capful of bleach in addition to your normal detergent and you can make that mustiness go away right quick.
posted by valkyryn at 12:21 PM on June 4, 2011

Uh, isn't this a dorm run by someone else? Shouldn't you be complaining to them? Because mold is SERIOUS SHIT and the housing department should be moving heaven and earth to FIX something like that before you get sick and sue them.
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:26 PM on June 4, 2011 [10 favorites]

Remove Mold for a Healthy Home [NDSU extension]
posted by mecran01 at 12:35 PM on June 4, 2011

Have you tried washing it with a damp towel. It could very well be mold, but the way it is blowing away from the air vent, it looks to me like it could be dust that's blown out of the vent and attached to the ceiling.
posted by Think_Long at 12:46 PM on June 4, 2011 [5 favorites]

It kinda looks like it could also be blown dust/debris from that vent in the first photo. Is it evenly spread through the ceiling, or it only by that vent?
posted by kellyblah at 12:55 PM on June 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

Look at the pattern and how it relates to the air vent. Unless they're deliberately going out of their way to moisten the air they pump into the room, I think what you're looking at is the accumulation of dust from the air vent, probably since the last time they painted. (Much like the crud that collects on fan blades.)
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:57 PM on June 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm also more inclined towards vent than mold - it's always on the vent-side of the textured ceiling, it's clearly being blown outward by the vent, and since mold doesn't like dry, drafty areas I'd say there'd be more mold everywhere else but in front of that vent. Get water and a rag and clean it off. If it's mold, you'll be able to tell that it's embedded in the paint and not just stuck to the surface.
posted by AzraelBrown at 1:05 PM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Dust from the air vent
posted by KokuRyu at 1:12 PM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yep, dust.
posted by goggie at 1:31 PM on June 4, 2011

Dust from the air vent - which is filthy, btw. Not to freak you out, but I'm sure that's a health hazard all on it's own.

For the musty smell, you should get a fan to circulate air and keep the door open as much as possible.

Is the room carpeted? That could be the source of the musty smell. Or there could be a small leak in a pipe(s) surrounding your room. Who knows.

You are paying for this, right?


At the very least they need to come and unstick your window.
posted by jbenben at 1:52 PM on June 4, 2011

Have you actually inquired about switching rooms? "Completely booked" usually does not actually mean that. And even if it was booked, who knows if everyone showed up?
posted by lesli212 at 1:53 PM on June 4, 2011

I also am more inclined to think the stuff on the ceiling is dust from the vent. I have seen this happen in the house I grew up in and in most offices after a while.

It may still be musty, which is pretty blah. Do you have any control over the a/c or heating in that room? Turning on the a/c even if you don't feel like you need it might help to dry out the room a little bit.

A dehumidifier should also help but it will make the room warmer.
posted by that girl at 2:04 PM on June 4, 2011

I agree, not mold but dust/soot.
posted by tomswift at 3:10 PM on June 4, 2011

I vote for dust. Leave it alone since you will will be in the room only for a short while. My office at work as dust like this. I need to get up there with a vacuum cleaner and clean it.
posted by fifilaru at 3:43 PM on June 4, 2011

Is it an old sash window? If you can cut through the paint and force it open, one of these expandable window screens will likely fit. They only cost a few bucks at a hardware store. Remember to jam a length of broom handle or something above the open pane to keep anyone from opening it wide enough to get inside.
posted by bonobothegreat at 4:35 PM on June 4, 2011

Agreeing with the others that say it's dust from the vent. Unless there are other areas in the room where you see black stuff growing, I wouldn't worry.

My towels aren't drying quickly and are starting to smell musty.

The way you hang them on the rack may have an impact on this. You might do this already, but be sure to not fold them in half (lengthwise) before hanging them on the rack. Keep as much surface area exposed to air in order to promote drying.
posted by puritycontrol at 10:01 PM on June 4, 2011

It could certainly just be dust, but the humidity in the room (and moldy smell) made me wonder if it was more. Even a sheet of paper that was on the bed feels damp! And when I sleep, the pillow feels damp against my face. Ew. The AC is decades old, and I can't adjust it. Also, the floors are tiled.

The only other time I've noticed this was a few years ago in a classroom; the school was very humid and the couch (yes, a couch) in that room felt damp all the time. It had that same moldy smell, and the maintenance crew threw out the couch because blackish mold was found on the back.
posted by cp311 at 11:06 PM on June 4, 2011

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