Mold Cleaning Techniques
by Building Inspector and Indoor Air Specialist, Dan Schilling
Don't Ignore Mold
Mold can rapidly and exponentially become worse with time. Therefore all areas of mold contamination should be addressed as quickly as possible. This also means addressing water incursions promptly because mold can germinate in as little as 24 hours after building materials or personal items have been wetted. Wetted items or materials should be cleaned of any mold and dried immediately afterward to prevent further growth and related health concerns.
Don't Touch Mold
Some species of mold are infectious. They can cause skin rashes and irritation, as well as fungal infections if inhaled or in contact with an open wound. Never touch mold with bare hands or get it on your skin. Whenever you clean mold, disposable protective gloves and clothing should be worn. This will protect your hands and skin from touching mold, as well as from coming into contact with cleaning or anti-microbial products being used during remediation.
Don't Get Mold In Your Eyes
When cleaning mold, protective eyewear, such as non-vented safety glasses or goggles, should be worn. This measure will help to keep mold spores out of your eyes which could cause eye irritation or infection. Protective eyewear can also protect your eyes from cleaning or anti-microbial products that may be used during the remediation process.
Don't Inhale Mold
All mold species are considered allergenic and capable of causing allergic and asthmatic reactions. Some species are also infectious and/or toxic. Inhalation should be avoided by using a nose/mouth respirator mask when working with mold. The mask should have a minimum NIOSH rating of N95 and should incorporate an exhalation port to keep the interior of the mask from becoming wet and restricting air flow through it.
Don't Disturb Mold
Mold spores are very much like the seeds of a dandelion, only microscopic in size. If you disturb any items or building materials that have mold on them, particularly if they are dry, the microscopic spores can easily become liberated into the air and rapidly spread throughout a building. Considerable care should be taken when handling all items or materials contaminated with mold. When destructing building materials or handling mold infected items, it is recommended to cordon the work area in an air-tight manner and use filtration equipment to collect airborne spores.
Don't Exceed Your Limitations
Even small areas of mold growth can be dangerous to human health if not handled properly. This is particularly true with infectious and toxic molds. If you are in doubt, you should hire a professional mold inspector for a determination, and perhaps a mold remediation company that will use the proper equipment and methods for safe removal.
Don't Mess With Toxic Mold
Some molds produce toxins that are particularly dangerous to human health. In addition to potential respiratory problems and infections from exposure to mold, some of the symptoms from toxic molds can include internal organ damage, memory loss, cancer and death. It is also possible to suffer permanent health issues from a single acute exposure to toxic mold. If you are in doubt, you should have the mold tested to determine the type(s) or have the mold professionally remediated after a proper mold and moisture inspection has been performed.
Don't Risk Your Health
If you suspect you have a mold condition in your home and are pregnant, lactating, have allergies, asthma, chemical sensitivities, or a compromised immune system, you should have a professional do the mold remediation work for you.
Mold is easy to identify when it is a contrasting color to the material it is growing on. Often it is almost invisible. If you are trying to locate areas of mold growth, it is helpful to use a flashlight while shining the light beam across the suspicious surface rather than at it. Because all molds are three-dimensional, it will become visible, regardless of color.
Mold growing on smooth, hard, non-porous surfaces can be cleaned and sanitized with detergent and water, undiluted vinegar, or chlorine bleach and water solutions. These cleaning solutions can be applied by either wiping or spraying the surfaces. When wiping, the surfaces should be slowly wiped clean with disposable towels wetted with the cleaning solution. When spraying surfaces, it is important to adjust the sprayer on the nozzle to the mist setting and not the stream setting, otherwise water droplets from a stream of water can dislodge spores and send them into the surrounding air. Wiping the surfaces clean with dry disposable towels can then follow after spraying.
Chlorine Bleach Solution
Common household bleach (chlorine) is an effective product for killing mold. Full strength chlorine bleach should never be used. The solution should be approximately 5% bleach to 95% water. Because bleach evaporates faster than the water it is mixed with, it can leave a significant amount of absorbed water behind to encourage re-growth of sub-surface mold and therefore should never be used on porous surfaces. Bleach can discolor personal property and building materials so caution should be used for items being cleaned, as well as the areas around the cleaning project. Gasses from chlorine bleach are an irritant and should be avoided with proper ventilation.
White vinegar is considered a safe and effective product for killing mold. It should be used undiluted. Odors from vinegar are considered harmless and will subside soon after use.
Professional anti-microbial products are available that can kill mold and sanitize surfaces, as well as help prevent recurrence of mold growth. While these products can often also be used for cleaning non-porous surfaces, they are the only option for effectively treating porous surfaces. There are a variety of these products available which require following their specific application methods. Aerosol disinfectants or products that contain alcohol should be avoided, and ensure that the anti-microbial product being utilized is registered with the EPA for use in occupied spaces.
Dry mold can be vacuumed off of all surfaces and drawn out of most fabrics. High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) or similarly rated filter media must be used inside of a powerful vacuum cleaner in order to both collect and trap mold spores. Household vacuum cleaners should not be used for cleaning mold contamination. Mold-contaminated carpet, if salvageable, requires steam cleaning with a sanitizing solution, preceded and followed by HEPA vacuuming.
Ozone can kill surface and airborne mold, but it does not remove mold. Therefore, ozone should be used only after traditional cleaning methods have been performed. In some instances it is impossible to clean every crevice where mold spores can hide. Examples would be in an air conditioner A-coil inside of air ducts, or in difficult locations in crawl spaces, attics, or walls. In order to sanitize these or other difficult areas, an ozone generating air purifier should be used on its highest setting and the area being treated should be
unoccupied while the sanitizing is being performed.
Discarding Materials and Items
Depending on condition, value, or the severity of contamination on the materials or items being cleaned, it may be in best interest to discard items. Sometimes personal items or water damaged building materials are less expensive to replace than to remediate. In these situations, contaminated items should be carefully enclosed in plastic trash bags and disposed of with common trash. Dampening contaminated materials with a sprayer set to the mist setting can help prevent spores on those items from becoming airborne and spreading while those items are being handled for disposal.
with those you care about.
© Copyright 2014 Indoor Air LLC, All Rights Reserved