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How to Clean Up a Mold Problem

Steps to Mold Clean-Up

Protecting Your Health During Toxic Black Mold Clean-Up

Cleaning Mold in the HVAC System


Steps to Mold Clean-Up

Note: See "Finding Mold" for tips on where to look for mold.

1.  Resolve Moisture Problem

Most importantly, the source of the water accumulation must be identified and fixed or fungal growth will continue to occur. If you have a high relative humidity in a room or area (55% or higher), then you should strongly consider a dehumidifier. To determine the relative humidity, you will need a relative humidity sensor, also known as a moisture meter or hygrometer (Relative Humidity Sensor Buying Guide).

If you experienced severe flooding or a water leak, then you want to remove or pump out the standing water, followed by drying the area. If the area is really wet, you will want to use fans and dehumidifiers (What to look for in a dehumidifier). You may also want to move wet items away from walls and off floors.

The quicker you address the problem, the less extensive the damage will be since it may only take 24-48 hours for toxic mold to germinate and grow. Prompt remediation of contaminated areas and materials should be the primary response to water intrusion and indoor fungal growth.

Finding Mold Growth
Preventing Mold Problems

2. Minimize Dust and Seal Off Area (Negative Pressure)

Before you begin cleaning and removing the mold, it is critical to make sure that you take measures to prevent the mold spores from spreading to other areas of the house or building. Since mold spores will likely be stirred, becoming airborne during the cleaning process, you need to properly contain each area being cleaned, while also minimizing dust (a primary means of transportation for mold spores).

Containment:

Each room or area should be cleaned separately, one at a time. Before cleaning each room or area, you should seal it off as best as you can. This will prevent the mold from disseminating to other areas of the home or building while it is being cleaned, since cleaning can disturb and stir up the mold, causing mold spores to become airborne. 

Once they become airborne, they can spread to other areas to germinate and colonize, unless the area being cleaned is properly sealed. See Cleaning the Mold to find out how to avoid stirring the mold as it is being cleaned.

Properly sealing (or containment) of a room or area consists of using plastic sheeting sealed with duct tape to cover doorways, vents, and other openings to occupied areas of the home or building.

If possible, you should place an exhaust fan next to an open (or partially open) door or window that is open to the outdoors. This will create negative air pressure, which will direct air flow outside, and therefore mold spores that have been stirred during cleaning will also be channeled outside. Just make sure the door or window is not near an air exchange that brings outdoor air into the home.

You should also turn off the HVAC system before cleaning mold.

Minimizing Dust:

Maintain dust levels as low as possible during cleaning to prevent spores from becoming airborne and spread to other areas. This will reduce the risk of exposure for those who are cleaning while reducing the potential for the mold spores landing and germinating in other parts of the home or building.

You may want to use an air purifier to minimize the airborne particulate, which allows mold spores to disperse to other areas of the home or building.

It is best to have multiple technologies to address the multiple pollutant types created by mold. The Multi-Tech Air Purifier is a great example of this.

3. Cleaning the Mold

If the surface(s) you are cleaning are dry, or mostly dry, you should lightly mist them with water before cleaning the mold. If the mold is too dry, then the mold spores will have a much better chance of becoming airborne while being disturbed during the cleaning process.

Once the surface is lightly misted (if necessary), then clean the affected area(s) with soap to remove as much of the mold as possible, and then apply a disinfectant to kill mold spores that are left behind (Review of Mold Disinfectants). Thoroughly clean all surfaces in the area that contain visible mold, and even surfaces that do not have visible mold, since mold spores are microscopic very durable, and can remain dormant for months or even years.

Once a surface has been cleaned and disinfected, it should be completely dried.

In which case, if mold spores are left behind, and are introduced to moisture again in the future, then you will have another significant mold growth problem on your hands.

Non-porous material such as metals, glass, hard plastics, and semi-porous materials include wood, concrete, etc, that are structurally sound with some visible mold growth may be cleaned and reused.

If the contamination is not too severe, porous material may be cleaned and reused.  If the damage is extensive and the mold growth has visibly destroyed porous items beyond repair, they may need to be removed and replaced.  Examples of porous materials are ceiling tiles, insulation, wallboards, carpet, soft furnishings, clothes, papers/books, etc.

All material that has been cleaned should be completely dry and visibly free of mold before it is reused and before sensitive individuals are exposed to it.  

The Multi-Tech Air Purifier will help to clean the mold with the UV light and the added ionization can help to neutralize the mold. The hepa filter will also catch mold spores.

Review of Mold Disinfectants

4. Remove the Mold

Carefully remove and discard mold and mold-infested materials into heavy-duty plastic bags. Do not transport the bags throughout the house, especially other clean areas. Doing so will risk further spreading and regerminating of the mold. 

Instead, it is a good idea to get the bags outside through a window or other opening accessible to the room/area being cleaned, if possible. These bags with the mold contaminated materials can be taken to any landfill

5. Verifying the Mold Clean-Up Job was Successful

1. First and most importantly, you must have completely fixed the moisture problem to rid the home of excess water.

2. Mold removal should be complete. If this step is completed properly, there should not be any visible mold and musty/mildewy odors present (mold may cause staining and cosmetic damage).

3. There should not be any more signs of additional moisture/water damage or any recurring mold growth in the home/area.  If either of these problems resurface, there may be an underlying or hidden problem and a more extensive investigation of the home is necessary.

4. Physical symptoms of the occupants should be greatly reduced and even ceased.


Protecting Your Health During Mold Clean-Up

Exposure to molds can occur during clean-up procedures since mold counts can be extremely high in the contaminated area. However, there are ways you can minimize your exposure to mold during clean-up procedures.  It is not recommended for those who may be at increased risk for experiencing adverse health effects to perform the clean-up procedures or be in or around the area during clean-up, such as those with any kind of lung or allergy-related health conditions (like asthma or allergies).  

Also, if the mold growth is extremely severe, you may need a professional to remediate the problem. If you do require a professional mold remediation contractor, make sure they are certified, and have multiple references you can check to validate the quality of their work.

1. Wear Respirator

Wear a medium-efficiency or high-efficiency filter dust mask or respirator to protect against the inhalation of mold spores. For the best protection, choose a respirator designed for particle removal such as the model N95 or TC-21C particle respirator.

2. Clothing

Wear protective clothing that is easily removed, cleaned, and that covers all areas of the body to prevent against any dermal (skin) exposure.  You may even want to choose a protective outer layer that can be discarded such as a Tyvek suit. Other personal protective equipment that should worn are rubber gloves and eye goggles.

3. Evacuate

Ask any family members or houseguests to leave the area during clean-up, if they are not part of the clean-up process. Especially if they are in a high risk group for experiencing adverse health effects from the exposure to mold.

4. Work in Short Intervals

If the damage is extensive and requires many hours of cleanup, work over short time periods and rest in a fresh air location.

5. Moldy Materials

Enclose all moldy materials in sealed, plastic bags before carrying them away.

6. Seal Off Area

Hang plastic sheeting to separate the work area from the rest of the home. Also, use plastic to seal off ducts in the area where you are working, to prevent spores from traveling through the ductwork into other parts of the home or building.

7. Containment

Remove the outer layer of work clothing inside the work area, and wash it separately or bag it for disposal.

8. Air Out / Dry

Air the area out well after cleaning is finished.  It may be helpful to use air purifiers and dehumidifiers.

9. Air Purification

Using an air purifier will reduce the spores in the air that can be inhaled, or carried to other parts of the home or building to regerminate.

It is best to have multiple technologies to address the multiple pollutant types created by mold. The Multi-Tech Air Purifier is a great example of this. The Multi-Tech can efficiently remove smaller particles from the air with its HEPA air filter, while killing mycotoxins produced by mold with its germicidal UV lamp.


Cleaning Mold in the HVAC System

For the most part, the same cleaning procedures listed above apply to cleaning the HVAC system. Here are some additional things to remember though:

1. Clean the cooling coil (using same procedures listed above). If there is any rusting, then it should be replaced.

2. Clean the drain pan (using the same procedures listed above). If there is any rusting, then it should be replaced.

3. Remove and properly dispose of any interior insulation (insulation inside the ductwork).

4. Replace the filter, preferably with a HEPA filter.

5. Have the ducts professional cleaned only if they are very dirty. Make sure your duct cleaning professional does not allow the dirt and dust from the ducts to enter into the rest of the home or building.

Preventing Mold Growth in the HVAC System


What's Next?

You should also start employing methods to Prevent further Mold Growth (prevent it as much as humanly possible anyway).


Relative Humidity Sensor Buying Guide - The most important way to prevent indoor mold from becoming a problem again is to control the moisture in your home or building. In order to control moisture, you need to be able to monitor it. Monitoring the relative humidity is one of the most important means of knowing whether you have excessive moisture levels. 

Signs of Mold  |  Finding Mold  |  Prevention Tips  |  Mold Clean Up

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