In this article, we’ll cover some of the most common signs you have black mold in your AC or air vents, as well as your testing options and what you can do if you do discover black mold in your vents.
Knowing the problem signs of black mold is one of the best ways to make sure you catch it early and address the problem quickly. The longer you let black mold exist in your home, the bigger problem it will become, and the more expensive it will be to fix. Here’s what you need to look for.
- Strong Musty Odors
- Your Allergies Seem Worse
- You're Getting More Frequent Headaches
- You Can See Black Dust Around HVAC Vents
- Brain Fog
- Unexplained Fatigue
- Unusual Coughing or Sneezing
One of the first signs of black mold in air vents is a persistent musty odor. One of the first signs of black mold in air vents is a persistent musty odor. Usually, this odor doesn’t go away with cleaning, changes in the weather, or airing out your home is one of the first signs of black mold.
In some cases, especially early in a black mold infection, you’ll only be able to smell it in certain areas of your home or even only near particular vents. Pay especially close attention to any musty scent that comes with any of the symptoms of mold exposure included in this list. Once it’s made its way into your vents you’ll likely be able to smell it throughout your home.
Another early stage sign of black mold in your air vents is a worsening of your allergies. That means that any spikes in your allergy symptoms, especially if you can’t explain the spike or you’re getting allergy symptoms outside of your typical allergy season, can be a sign that you’re dealing with black mold in AC or vents.
Common symptoms include itchy, watery eyes, itchy skin, coughing or sneezing, or feeling like it’s getting harder to breathe, similar to an asthma attack.
Headaches are another common sign of black mold, especially if you’re starting to get them every day or notice that they seem to get better when you leave the house.
At first, the headaches might not be very severe, making this possible warning sign a little harder to spot.
However, as the mold grows and spreads, you might notice your headaches getting worse or even turning into migraines.
This sign is incredibly common but also easy to miss. You should inspect your vents for signs of black dust (mold and mold spores) at least twice a year and after any flooding in your home.
You might notice the dust only when air is moving through the vents, in which case it’s likely spores, or you might start to notice persistent black specs around the vent, which is a sign that the mold is beginning to spread there.
If you’re getting brain fog and don’t already have a diagnosis that could explain it, black mold in your vents is one possible cause. This is a serious symptom and can make it harder to realize what’s happening, so you should remember that brain fog is always a serious issue and that you should seek help as soon as you notice it.
Unexplained fatigue is one of the most common complaints homeowners have before they realize there is black mold in their homes. As soon as you notice unexplained fatigue, it’s a good idea to inspect your vents and check for any visible mold. However, since this symptom can also have a wide variety of other medical causes, it’s also important to seek help from a medical care provider, just like all the health symptoms on this list.
Upper respiratory symptoms like unexplained coughing and sneezing are also incredibly common signs of black mold in your vents. This symptom can happen with or without other complications and is a common reaction even in people who don’t have allergies or other symptoms of an allergic reaction.
If you develop a persistent cough or can’t seem to stop sneezing, and your doctor isn’t sure why you might want to get your vents inspected.
There are a few different options to see if your vents have mold. The most reliable option is to contact a professional to come to inspect your vents and test to see if you have mold, but you can also inspect for mold yourself or use a DIY testing kit.
1. Professional Testing for Mold in Air Vents
A professional will be able to tell you right away if you have a problem and can usually even tell the difference between black mold and other potentially less harmful varieties of fungus.
2. DIY Testing Kits for Mold in Air Vents
Another option for testing your air vents for black mold is to use a DIY testing kit. The trick with DIY test kits is that they’re not as reliable as a professional, and it’s relatively easy to get a false negative if you don’t use them properly. If you decide to go with a DIY testing kit, make sure you read all the instructions and follow them closely. You want to catch mold problems as soon as possible, so you don’t want to let a false negative delay things.
3. Inspect Your Air Vents for Black Mold
The last alternative is to inspect your vents yourself. Ideally, this should be the last option you consider because it can be hazardous if you do have black mold. However, this is sometimes the fastest and most affordable way to identify the problem.
You’ll need a flashlight. Check several of the vents in your home for any visible signs of black mold, accumulated dust, or dark patches on the vent. Those signs, especially combined with a musty or foul smell, are good signs that you have mold and need to clean your ducts.
Try not to spend too long near your vents if you identify black mold. The mold is toxic and long exposure can have lasting consequences for your health. Contact a professional duct cleaning or mold mitigation service to get the problem taken care of as soon as possible.
There are a lot of options when it’s time to get black mold out of your vents. You can attempt to take care of the mold yourself, but we’d recommend hiring a professional.
There are a few reasons why hiring a professional is a good idea:
- They have PPE that keeps them safe from mold and mold spores.
- Professionals are more likely to remove all of the mold and prevent reinfections in your ducts.
- Sometimes mold can spread outside your ducts, and professionals are more likely to notice this.
- They have specialized tools that can clean more of your air system.
However, if professionals aren’t an option you can try to clean ducts out yourself.
You’ll need either a bleach solution (1:16 bleach to water), dawn dish soap, or laundry detergent to get rid of mold. Ideally, you should also have a vacuum with a HEPA filter and long-handled scrubbing tools that can reach into your ducts.
Turn off your heating and AC entirely. Remove your vent covers and soak them in your chosen cleaner for a few minutes. Scrub them after soaking until completely clean, then set aside.
Use your cleaning tools and chosen cleaning solution to clean the area around your vent, inside the vent, and any part of the duct that seems dirty or mold-infected. Vacuum out the ducts as the last step, then reattach the vent covers and let everything sit and dry for a couple of hours before turning your heating and AC back on.
If you’re still noticing signs of black mold in your vents, it’s time to call the professionals.
You should also consider getting your vents cleaned regularly, especially after getting mold. Cleaning your vents helps prevent mold from growing by eliminating the dust and particles mold feeds on. That way, even if you have mold spores and moisture, you still won’t have to worry about mold growth.
Spotting the early signs of black mold in your air vents is critical if you want to prevent health issues and expensive removal costs. Having black mold in your air vents is dangerous and can have a long-term impact on your health. The most common complication of black mold exposure is lung damage, but there can be other problems as well. That’s why it’s important to get mold issues taken care of as quickly as possible.