Mold inside your home can be persistent and difficult to get rid of. Besides the horrid appearance and musty smell, mold can have serious health impacts on the occupants of a home that has mold in it (more on that in a separate article). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests that mold that covers an area of less than 10 square feet on the surfaces of walls, floors or ceilings may be cleaned by the occupants. The goal of this tutorial is to ensure that the cleaning process is done properly so that you 1. Remove the mold properly and 2. Don’t unnecessarily expose yourself to excessive levels of mold spores or mycotoxins. People refer to mold with different terms: toxic black mold, mildew, or fungus. It doesn’t matter what you call it, ultimately, if it’s growing inside your home, it needs to be removed ASAP.
Note: If you find mold growing inside your home or office, try to isolate that area and avoid unnecessary exposure to that area until the area can be decontaminated.
Eliminate the Moisture Source Causing the Mold!
Before you begin cleaning any mold, you should isolate, and remove the moisture source. Common sources of indoor moisture are the shower and bathroom, unvented kitchen (boiling water), dryer, or undetected water leak. Other causes are lack of ventilation or cold and hot differentials within a structure (closing off an unheated room in the house). The crawlspace can also contribute to elevated humidity inside the home.
Once the source of the moisture or elevated humidity has been discovered, take steps to eliminate that problem. You may need to remove and discard building materials like carpet, drywall, or particle board that have been badly affected by mold or are extremely saturated with moisture. Once the moisture, ventilation issues are dealt with, make sure that the affected area is allowed to completely dry. Heat, air movement and a dehumidifier are keys to drying properly (do not direct airflow on a mold affected surface as this will distribute mold spores). It could be helpful to obtain a moisture sensor that will tell you if the materials are fully dry. We will discuss testing in the next step.
Does my home need to be tested for mold?
Generally we do not recommend testing for minor mold issues. Usually a mold problem will be apparent either visually or by smell. Determining the type of mold could be helpful if you know you are allergic to a specific type, but ultimately we are going to deal with mold issues the same regardless of type or concentrations. When dealing with a small amount of mold (under 10 Square Feet), the extent to which your house has been contaminated is likely minimal. Air Sampling could be helpful in determining if other areas in your home have been affected if someone living in the home is immunocompromised.
The process for cleaning up the mold yourself
Mold often occurs on shower doors and curtains, bathroom ceiling or walls and window sills. Using a simple detergent cleaner with a damp cloth is typically all that is necessary to remove this light surface mold. We recommend using borax as it has natural antimicrobial properties but most common household cleaners should work.
For larger issues (about 10 SF) follow the steps below. (If you feel that the following guidelines are too vigorous, you should contact Mountain Air Indoors, Inc. to complete the cleanup.)
Step 1: Preparing to remove mold
Required Tools and supplies:
- Painters plastic and masking tape (used to contain and isolate the area to be treated and cover any furniture or other personal items)
- Personal Respirator: We recommend a 3m half face mask with P-100 filters
- Safety glasses, rubber gloves
- Spray bottles x 2
- Hard Bristle scrub brush with 6 terry cloth towels
- Construction garbage bags
- Household cleaner / detergent (antimicrobial is best)
- 1 gallon bucket
- Commercial grade HEPA Vacuum cleaner. A home vacuum could deploy mold spores into the air and throughout the home. Most local rental shops will rent out HEPA vacuums
- Dehumidifier and HEPA air purification filter
Step 2: Mix Products
- Mix your household cleaner (borax) and water in one bucket, mix, and the pour into one spray bottle. (Follow manufacturer’s instruction for ratio)
- Fill second bottle with warm rinse water
Step 3: Apply and Clean
- Contain the room by installing painters plastic in openings, close door and tape seams, etc.
- Keep others including kids or pets out of the work area
- It is not recommended to eat or drink, chew gum or tobacco while in the work area
- Use the dehumidifier in the area before, during and after the clean up to reduce humidity and prevent re-occurrence. Use the air purification filter during the cleaning process to reduce airborne mold spores.
- Use the cleanser to spray the mold in small sections. After spraying an area, use the scrub brush to scrub the mold directly. Wipe any excess mold and product with a terry cloth towel. Follow with spraying with the warm rinse water and wipe clean with another towel. Starting from the top, work your way down. Note: some staining may remain once the mold is cleaned. Be careful not to scrub too hard and damage the wall. Touch up painting may be required following the cleaning process.
- Finish by wiping the entire area with a clean, dry towel
Step 4: Post Cleaning
- When the area is clean and dry, use the HEPA vacuum to vacuum the entire surface area of the affected room including floors, walls, and ceiling (using brush attachments). Mold spores can be allergenic, therefore it is necessary to remove as much of the microscopic spores as possible. Place the vacuum bag into the trash bag along with the dirty rags and seal tightly with tape, dispose of in the garbage.
- Flush the waste water down a toilet or sink.
- Change out of your cleaning clothes and wash them normally but separately from your families’ laundry.
- Now you can make any necessary repairs or touch up paint as needed. You might consider re-painting with a paint that is resistant to mold growth. And again, ensure that the original source of the moisture was dealt with otherwise you will be doing this again in a few months’ time.
- OZONE: Ozone air cleaners generate ozone and introduce it to the air. It is a known respiratory irritant and the US EPA does not recommend using ozone air cleaners for eliminating indoor mold problems
- BLEACH: Bleach is a caustic substance that has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. It is not more effective against mold than a detergent cleaner and has more hazards. Bleach is recommended however if you have experienced a gray or black water (sewage) intrusion. In this case you will want to sanitize the affected area.