Those who know the layout of their homes and have conducted a few home projects may already be familiar with the term “ghosting”. But for those who don’t, this is not when someone ignores your texts or tries to sneak up behind you without noticing.
What is Ghosting on Walls and Ceilings?
Ghosting is the buildup of dust, dirt, soot and other debris on your walls and ceilings that can have a ghostly appearance like in the horror movies. Except it’s not an evil spirit! This issue is also known as “ghost stains,” “bridging” and “thermal tracking”, which create weird patterns along exterior ceilings and walls, particularly around wall studs and ceiling rafters.
What Causes Ghosting on the Walls and Ceilings?
The most common causes of ghosting include:
- Static electricity
- Excess humidity
- Air passing through the home’s envelope
Ghosting on the walls and ceilings occurs when there is not enough insulation, or gaps in the insulation allow cold air to push through the walls. When the cold air passes through, it creates condensation and attracts floating dust and mold spores to the wall and ceiling framing and fasteners.
In greater detail, it all has to do with the construction of a home. To evenly heat and cool a home, there must be 3 barriers that surround the home to protect it: a thermal, air and moisture barrier. Together, the 3 are called the building envelope. While there should never be gaps, penetrations or voids, they are present in homes with ghosting issues, allowing air and moisture to be carried by the air current through the gaps that cause the ghosting.
What Causes the Attraction in Ghosting?
The flow of indoor air through ventilation systems will create an electrostatic charge. This positive and negative charges will cause the floating air particles to clump together.
As water is also conducive to electricity, it attracts these charged particles to the cold spots on your ceiling rafters, wood framing and wall studs. Common materials that attract these particles are steel studs and steel drywall fasteners because they contain metal.
Over time, the dust and dirt particles in the air create the visible wall and ceiling stains, and you have ghosting!
What Is The Difference Between Ghosting and Mold?
When you first notice a house that has ghosting lines on the ceiling the uniformity can make you think that the problem might be a mold issue. The difference is in the composition of the material that is making a shadow. If the problem is mold, you will see a fungal growth on your ceiling or wall. If the problem is ghosting, the shadow will be comprised of dirt, dust, soot, and other organic material.
Common Sources of Dust
Each of the following sources are common sources of dust and debris in your home:
- Pet dander
- Soot from fireplaces, firewood and woodstoves
- Appliances with minimal air flow like clothes dryers and space heaters
- Propane logs
- Unvented cook stoves
- Poorly maintained HVAC systems
- Dirty welcome mats on the front porch
- Cooking oils that smoke over high heat
- Burning candles and incense
Is Ghosting on Ceilings Dangerous?
The easy answer is no. Ghosting on ceilings is not dangerous but is sometimes hard to get rid of. It is important to note how to best to clean the stains before you start.
How to Clean Ghost Stains
Of course, your first reaction may be to clean the stains yourself, but it’s highly recommended that you first find the cause of the issue and then clean it, or it will only come back again.
Determine the location of the cold air channels and if there is any condensation behind the walls. If there is, it can be a big problem.
But here are some easier ways you can keep your home cleaner and prevent the buildup of stains:
- Ensure the venting from the clothes dryer leads outdoors
- Use kitchen exhaust fans when cooking
- Frequently replace your furnace filter
- Keep the indoor humidity below 55% in the winter time
- Get a professional air duct cleaning
- Don’t smoke inside
- Seal up any cracks or air leaks
- Work with an HVAC technician to repair any leaks in the supply and return registers
- Keep the wicks on candles trimmed to no longer than ¼ inch.
- Vacuum, dust and sweep often
- Ensure your gas and wood stoves are vented properly
- Always turn on the exhaust fan in the bathroom to air out the moisture after showering
If you’ve tried all of the above and still no luck, you’ll have to open up the walls and add some extra insulation behind the areas with ghosting stains. If there is light-gauge steel framing, consider adding thermal break insulation.
When you’ve resolved the issue, then you can clean the drywall. Cover all areas with a stain-killing paint and then repaint the wall. You shouldn’t have to worry about it returning in the future.
Work with a Professional
If you’d rather work with a professional to remove the dust and dirt from your wall, you can always call a local contractor. When searching, the appropriate contractor will provide deep cleaning services, which includes wall and ceiling cleaning, using advanced products and processes to remove deeply embedded dust particles from porous sheetrock and wood.
For those living in the southeast and south central Nebraska and southwest Iowa, ServiceMaster by JLK is available to provide the detailed cleaning you need. Our technicians provide professional cleaning and even disinfection services to prevent the spread of airborne, dust, dirt, debris and bacteria to keep your home clean and “ghost-free”.
If the culprit turns out to be mold, our technicians also provide mold remediation services to fully restore your home. We will first remove the moisture source, either by adding more insulation to your walls, restoring water damage or just lowering the moisture levels in your home. We will then set up a containment chamber to prevent the mold spores from spreading to other areas.
The affected surfaces is then treated with advanced products specifically designed to remove the mold at the source. Identifying all areas using infrared moisture detection meters, we can locate and restore all problem areas so you don’t have to worry about this issue in the future.
For more information about our mold remediation services in the southwest and south central Nebraska and southwest Iowa area, don’t hesitate to give us a call using any of the numbers listed above.