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mold growth or efflorescence?

Mold Growth or Efflorescence?

Efflorescence is often confused with mold growth.  Both of them occur in damp environments and exhibit similar growth characteristics. A common place for both to occur is in the basement on the concrete block. Since we have already discussed mold growth, lets learn about efflorescence, it’s causes, prevention, and removal. 

What is Efflorescence?

Efflorescence is a white chalky powder like substance, that you might find on the surface of a concrete or brick wall.

Efflorescence occurs when water migrates through cement structures, carrying salts to the surface.  

These salts are then deposited on the surface when the moisture evaporates, leaving behind a crystalline-like structure.

mold growth or efflorescence

Where is Efflorescence Found?

Efflorescence is primarily found on concrete or brick surfaces.

The most common area of occurrence is on basements walls. 

It can be a cosmetic issue, or it can be an indication of moisture intrusion that could lead to major structural and indoor air quality issues.

Where Does Efflorescence Moisture Come From?

  • Groundwater/Rainwater Saturation- Water from wet soil gets pulled into the concrete. 
  • Sprinklers-  Sprinklers can saturate an exterior wall, which than causes  water to enter bringing salts to the surface.
  • Water Vapor-  Airborne moisture forced through concrete walls can provide enough water to cause efflorescence.
mold growth or efflorescence

Differences Between Efflorescence & Mold

mold growth or efflorescence

A few major differences between efflorescence and mold growth:

  • Mold grows, efflorescence doesn’t.
  • Mold can grow on just about any surface, whereas efflorescence doesn’t spread and forms on cement or brick. 
  • Mold is a fungus, efflorescence is moisture that evaporates into salt deposits.
  • Efflorescence will turn into a powder when touched, while mold will not.
  • Efflorescence is white, yellow or brown, while mold can be any color.

Prevention of Efflorescence

  • A waterproof sealant can be applied to a surface to prevent water intrusion. 
  • During home construction, make sure the masonry materials are covered. Moisture from soil and rain can absorb into the materials.
  • Polyethelene sheeting should be installed between the soil and the cement blocks during construction. 
  • Constantly run a dehumidifier in the basement. 
mold growth or efflorescence

Removal of Efflorescence

mold growth or efflorescence

Efflorescence is not necessary to remove. However, if you want to remove it for aesthetic purposes there us the following:

  • Pressure washing the surface can sometimes be used to remove or dissolve efflorescence.
  • A diluted muriatic acid, can be used to dissolve efflorescence. However, it is extremely toxic and needs to be handled by a professional. 
  • A strong brush can be used to simply scrub the efflorescence off.

Efflorescense will come back if the issues that cause the occurrence are not addressed.


Get an Inspection

If you come across a substance in you basement and are concerned, call a professional to perform an inspection. An inspector will help ease your concerns. They will provide you with information on how to solve the moisture issues and how to fix the damage. In summary:

Efflorescence is a cosmetic issue, but it indicates a potential moisture problem. 

Mold indicates moisture problems and possible health issues. Therefore, needs to be addressed and remediated as soon as possible. 

Service Area:

Broome County, Tioga County, Tompkins County, Cortland County, Susquehanna County, Lakawanna County, Chenango County and more!

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