I collect spores, molds, and fungus...but I don't want to. Help!
January 25, 2021 1:59 PM   Subscribe

I have a partially finished basement and, while moving out, I've discovered some horrifying blackness. The blackness is on the carpet and on the boxes of some collectible items. When I go into the basement my eyes burn and start to swell in a matter of minutes. I have very bad allergies to mold, mildew and pollen. I don't know my mildews from my molds, or how bad to treat the damaged items. Repair is preferable to replace... Photos and more info inside... Thanks in advance for any help.

I am moving out of my house and am getting things out of the basement that haven't been touched or moved in probably 7 or 8 years.

Starting in 2012 I knew in the area there were black spots which had formed on the carpet (more on that below), and we had a mold inspector come out. He told us we did not have mold, even when I pointed out the black spots. But it's been nearly a decade and I can't remember what he said it was.

Well, in the past 8 years the number of black spots has exploded...under things. (Details on basement moisture below)

On the bottoms of some of the items we are moving, and the carpet underneath, I'm finding black spots, both small and large. And there is a very "musty" smell.

Photos of the carpet and one of the boxes are here:



My questions are:

*Can anyone identify what this substance is?

*Is it possible to get out of the carpet by cleaning, or do I need to have new carpet installed? (We are moving out and don't want to spend more than absolutely necessary to make the house sellable).

*Is it possible to get out of the boxes without damaging them further? If at all possible it is preferable to keep the cardboard boxes as they are specific to the items stored inside.

(Some of the boxes started to tear from moisture...we know those are lost causes)

In case it helps--here's a history of that basement and moisture.

I bought my home about a decade ago. It had a partially finished basement that we didn't use very much, but we used it for storage of collectibles etc. some of which were in their original cardboard boxes for protection.

In 2012 we had an add-on put onto the house. The contractor sucked and, long story short, during a bad rain storm rain went from our roof, through our first floor, and pooled in the basement...both in the finished and unfinished areas.

We removed all wet and damp items from the basement, threw out everything water damaged and repacked what was still dry. In the carpeted areas everything was moved out and fans blew on that area for several days until it felt dry to the touch.

The contractor was liable for all the damage to our house and he paid for much of it.

After the basement was dry I noticed the musty smell and found black spots on the carpet. Suspecting mold, I called out a mold expert so I could have the contractor remediate, but the contractor told us we did NOT have mold on the carpets or in the walls.

About 2 years later we have a sump pump break. It only impacted the unfinished area, but all wet items were removed and disposed of.

Then a year or two after THAT we had the sump pump break AGAIN, but the backup pump worked... During that time I discovered a box was wet on the bottom. Under the box was this black stuff, and the box itself was destroyed (but the items inside were fine, besides the musty smell).

A new, better contractor told us what happened was when the sump pump didn't run as much as needed some water seeped up through the cement into our basement. He said that is normal.

Well, now that we're moving out it seems the water seeped through nearly ALL of the basement, as a lot of the boxes we're moving are showing blackness like in the above images.
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (4 answers total)
Looks like black mold. If you're selling the house, you are probably going to need to get a mold assessment and possible remediation by a licensed professional (and you want one that guarantees the work, so that you can turn that guarantee over to the buyer), or it's going to be flagged on an inspection report and cause issues during the sale, it's usually something the buyer can break the contract over. Depends on your location. Source: selling two houses and buying one.

You might be able to get away with shampooing the carpets, and the boxes should stay structurally sound, assuming they aren't water damaged, but you'll just be bringing mold contamination to your new place. And there's still no guarantee that there isn't mold in places you haven't seen. I suppose you could try to clean it and get the boxes out, and hope the inspection goes well, but be prepared 'cause if there's any evidence of mold, any decent inspector's going to flag that in a heartbeat.
posted by mrgoat at 3:15 PM on January 25, 2021

Oh, and I'll add - black mold can be killed with a spray treatment of bleach and water. It works for surface mold, but I wouldn't count on it for drywall or similar.
posted by mrgoat at 3:19 PM on January 25, 2021

You have a few problems.

1. mold-like stain on carpet. I'd soak with vinegar and wet vac a lot of times. You need that spot gone. Keep trying cleaning products until it works. I agree it's not mold (doesn't fit the pattern of mold), but regardless, you have a stain you gotta clean.

2. Moist basement. I'd dehumidifer the heck out of it, and put around baking soda stuff. You want that basement to be as dry as possible for house showings.

3. You want to save the cardboard boxes? Once cardboard is wet, it doesn't keep it's strength well. I would personally not want to re-use them again. Any attempts to dry will likely make the tape go bye bye. You can try to reuse them, but I'd highly recommend, for the time and effort, buying some new boxes at a hardware store or looking for (dry) boxes posted for free on facebook marketplace.
posted by bbqturtle at 5:25 PM on January 25, 2021

Seconding that you do not want to keep those boxes. Even if you could clean them, they are much weaker now and prone to bottoming out. The collectibles should be protected with new boxes. You can probably find new ones in a similar size or you could upgrade to plastic tubs if you plan to store this stuff again. Compare the cost of new boxes to the cost of replacing the items inside if they fell from several feet onto concrete.
posted by soelo at 7:54 PM on January 25, 2021

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