Popcorn ceilings started being used to enhance ceiling texture during the 1930s and continued to be popular throughout the 1990s. They get their name from the way the sprayed texture dries to look a little bit like the surface texture and color of popcorn.

Popcorn ceilings are made from a special mixture that contains elements such as paper and Styrofoam can be applied in different ways. Most of the time it is a mixture of water and stucco material that is applied to a prepared ceiling surface via a spray gun. Though some do-it-yourselfers have also been known to use a sponge or a roller to apply the texture mixture.

Popcorn Ceilings Can Be Vulnerable To Mold

One of the things that made popcorn ceilings so popular, was the way the texture material helped to hide imperfections in the ceiling. Particularly the seams where drywall, wood slats or other construction materials met. Unfortunately, the textured surface of a popcorn ceiling and its microscopic pores also makes it easy to attract mold spores.

Mold is technically classified as a type of fungus with living spores floating in the air around us. These spores can easily get into your home or place of business through open doors and windows. When the spores find a porous surface, the presence of moisture, and sufficient warmth, they can germinate into an active colony.

Some types of mold can germinate into an active colony in 24 to 48 hours. Though there are some strains of mold that need prolonged periods of moisture to germinate. The specific conditions for each “Strain” of mold can vary.

In places like bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms where water and steam are common, the ambient moisture can accumulate on the popcorn ceiling overhead. The porous nature of the popcorn ceiling’s texture material can allow this moisture to saturate deep into the material. Should a mold spore land there, chances are good it can germinate into a small but active colony.

This is even more likely to be a problem if your family has a bad habit of not using ceiling vent fans in the bathroom, or if you frequently cook without the range hood on to pull away steam.

An Indoor Mold Problem Can Make Your Sick

There are certain strains of mold that are more dangerous than others. Stachybotrys chartarum or so-called “Toxic Black Mold” is one of the most hazardous to human health. Though, in truth even a seemingly benign mold strain can turn into a serious health hazard. Especially if you have people in your home with pre-existing respiratory health conditions, inflammation conditions or a suppressed immune system.

As an active mold colony continues to grow, it releases more and more microscopic spores into the air. These spores typically have irritating mycotoxins attached to them. When you inhale them, it can cause increasing respiratory irritation. Some people will even experience skin reactions when they land on their exposed flesh.

Health Symptoms From Mold Exposure

People living in a home or working in an office with an active mold problem might experience some of the following symptoms.

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Headaches
  • Respiratory allergy flare ups
  • Increasing asthma attacks
  • Allergic skin reactions
  • Autoimmune disease flare ups

How Do I Prevent Mold On My Popcorn Ceiling?

Moisture is a critical component for mold to germinate and survive. This moves proper ventilation to the top of the list in any effective mold prevention strategy. This means doing things like using the bathroom fan when you take a shower, and then leaving it on for a solid 5 to 10 minutes afterward. It also means using the range top vent in the kitchen anytime you are boiling water.

By drawing moisture out of the air, it keeps the humidity from rising up with the heat. This in-turn prevents it from saturating into your popcorn ceiling.

Make Necessary Repairs

Of course, ambient humidity and steam rising up, isn’t the only way that moisture accumulates on a popcorn ceiling. Sometimes something as simple as a minor roof leak, or water seeping into the attic from a clogged gutter, can deposit water on the backside of a ceiling. As time goes on, it can saturate the texture of the ceiling, providing a hard-to-see medium for mold to germinate into a large, active colony.

If you suspect your home or office has even a minor roof leak or gutter issue, you need to be proactive about repairing it before the water damage promotes mold growth. This same logic can be applied to plumbing problems. Sometimes, even a minor pipe leak in an upstairs bathroom can provide enough moisture for mold to develop on a downstairs ceiling.

Strategic Use Of Dehumidifiers

Basements and downstairs bedrooms can also be prone to mold development caused by ambient moisture. Especially in the summertime when temperatures and ambient humidity are high. Placing a simple dehumidifier in these areas and letting it run during the summer can rob mold spores of the moisture they need to germinate.

Maintain Or Upgrade Your Air Conditioning System

An overtaxed, poorly maintained or out of date HVAC system can struggle to manage high humidity during the summer months. This can also lead to excess condensation throughout the system, which can deposit water above or behind the texture layer of a popcorn ceiling.

Performing routine maintenance in the spring or early summer helps ensure that your air conditioning system is up to the task of keeping you cool, and maintaining low indoor humidity levels. In some cases, you might need to upgrade a condenser, compressor, or have the freon levels refilled to optimize your HVAC’s performance.

Can I Remove Mold From My Popcorn Ceiling?

When signs of mold first appear on a popcorn ceiling, it can be easy to give in to the temptation to paint over it. Though this does nothing to kill the mold and will allow it to grow unchecked. Eventually it bubbles or blisters through the paint larger and worse than it was before.

If you catch it early, you might be able to clean away surface mold by combining a teaspoon of bicarbonate soda with water in a spray bottle. Then spray it directly onto the moldy section of popcorn ceiling. After a few minutes you can gently brush or sponge the area to remove the mold. Ventilate the area and allow it to thoroughly dry.

For a more significant mold problem on a popcorn ceiling, it really is best to call in the professionals. Attempting to remediate a major mold infestation with consumer level cleaning products and tools is likely to disturb the mold colony. It then releases a high volume of spores that can affect your health, and also cause new mold colonies to spring up in other parts of your home days or weeks later.