Asked September 2, 2015, 2:56 PM EDT

I found some black spots behind the back of my couch and love seat when I went to vacuum last evening. I think it's mold. I took pictures to show my landlord who says the problem is probably caused by cats' fur rubbing up against the wall. I don't buy that because (1) I've owned cats for more than 20 years and have never had this problem--or even heard of it; (2) my cats don't sit on top of the the couch where they would be touching the walls; (3) the black spots appear below the top of the couch (they're not visible when the couch is shoved against the wall). I had flooding in my apartment earlier this summer and it took three days for the carpet to dry out. My landlord replaced the padding underneath, but not the carpet itself. Is there an inexpensive way for me to test whether it is mold? Should I be worried? Who can I contact if my landlord refuses to do anything about it?

Iowa County Iowa mold

1 Response

Molds can usually be detected by a musty odor, and discoloration of surfaces is common with mold growth.

If you see or smell mold, you have a problem. Reliable sampling for mold can be expensive since it requires special equipment and training. Testing is not generally recommended as a first step. Usually it is not necessary to determine what type of mold you have. All molds should be treated the same and regarded as potential health risks.

When the flooding occurred did the water affect the dry wall? If the dry wall absorbed water then it would have needed to be replaced. If the water was limited to the carpet, the back of the carpet can be treated to prevent mold from growing. If water was absorbed in the pad it did need to be replaced since there is no way to clean the pad of carpet.

If the mold is on a painted wall it may be just surface mold. If it is on the surface and the dry wall has not absorbed moisture then wash it off with a good household cleaner. You should also allow for air circulation behind your couch by keeping it a little farther away from the wall. Many times if air is allowed to circulate it will keep mold from growing.

I am attaching some information on mold and mold cleanup. If you have any additional questions you can also call us at AnswerLine.

Iowa 1-800-262-3804, Minnesota 1-800-854-1678, or South Dakota 1-888-393-6336 or all other states 515-296-5883