The EPA has guidelines on the removal of mold in your home. You should
first determine the size of the mold problem. In general, the EPA says
you can attempt to remove the mold yourself if the moldy area is less
than approximately 10 square feet (a 3 foot by 3 foot area). The EPA notes
the following cases as examples when you should seek the assistance of
an environmental professional with the cleanup.
- if there has been a lot
of water damage, and/or mold growth covers more than 10 square feet
- if the water and/or mold
damage was caused by sewage or other contaminated water
- if you have health concerns.
If you hire an environmental
professional or other contractor to do the cleanup, make sure they have
experience with mold cleanup. Check their references. The EPA recommends
you ask them to follow the procedures outlined in their guidance, Mold
Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings, the guidelines of
the American Conference of Governmental
Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), or other guidelines from professional
or government organizations.
If you are going to tackle
the job yourself, these are the recommended general steps.
- Identify and fix your moisture problem.
- Gather appropriate personal protective equipment.
- Dry all wet materials.
- Remove and dispose of mold-contaminated materials.
- Clean mold-contaminated surfaces.
- Disinfect mold-contaminated surfaces.
- Remain alert for any recurrence of mold.
Identify and fix
your moisture problem
You will accomplish nothing if you proceed with the cleanup without first
identifying the source of your moisture problem and fixing it. The mold
will return if the moisture source is not removed.
personal protective equipment
Before you even touch any material or surface that you think contains
mold, you should gather the appropriate equipment to protect yourself
from exposure. During the cleaning process, you may be exposed to mold,
strong detergents, and disinfectants. Mold counts may be 10 to 1000 times
higher than background levels when mold contaminated materials are disturbed
so it is important to protect yourself.
- Use rubber gloves and eye
- Wear clothing (long pants
and long-sleeved shirts are preferable) that can be easily removed in
the work area and easily cleaned or discarded.
- Use a N-95 or equivalent
respirator that can typically be purchased from a safety equipment supplier,
hardware store, or home repair store. The N-95 respirator usually has
a removable cartridge that captures mold spores. Make sure to follow
the instructions provided with the respirator as it will not function
effectively if it does not fit properly. While these respirators are
very effective at capturing dust and mold spores, these respirators
will not protect you from fumes emanating from bleach or other disinfectants
used in the cleanup.
It is important that you use
all of the protective equipment noted each and every time that you are
working with mold-contaminated materials or in the mold-contaminated area.
Dry all wet materials
You should dry any wet material as soon as possible. Use fans and dehumidifiers
if necessary. Move wet items off the floor and away from walls. Remember
that mold can begin to grow in a wet area within 24-48 hours.
Remove and dispose
of mold-contaminated materials
materials that are typically found in the home such as sheet rock, insulation,
plaster, carpet/carpet pads, ceiling tiles, wood products, and paper products
will absorb moisture and can become easily contaminated with mold. Any
items that have absorbed moisture and have mold growing on them need to
be removed, bagged, and discarded. Plan your work to minimize the amount
of dust generated as spores are more easily released when materials dry
out. Recommended guidelines are to:
- Enclose all moldy materials
in plastic bags or sheeting before carrying them through uncontaminated
areas of the home.
- Hang plastic sheeting to
separate the work area from the rest of your home to contain the spread
- Remove your outer layer
of work clothing in the work area. Put it in a plastic bag for disposal
or to take immediately to the laundry.
- Damp clean the entire work
area to pick up the settled dust.
Non-porous materials, such as hard plastic, concrete, glass, metal, and
solid wood, do not absorb water and can usually be cleaned and not discarded.
The cleaning process must thoroughly remove the mold contamination since
dead mold spores can still cause health problems. Recommended guidelines
- Scrub all contaminated
surfaces with hot water and a non-ammonia soap/detergent or commercial
- Use a stiff brush or cleaning
pad on rough, or uneven surfaces.
- Collect excess cleaning
solution with a wet/dry vacuum. Mops and sponges can be used, however,
they are porous materials and can trap mold spores. If you use a mop
or sponge, you should have one to use for "dirty" areas
and one to use for "clean" areas.
- Rinse cleaned items with
water, collecting the excess rinse water, and dry thoroughly using a
disinfecting agents are toxic to humans so you need to be careful when
using them. Disinfectants are applied to surfaces that have been thoroughly
cleaned to ensure that you have killed all remaining mold spores. Recommended
guidelines are to:
- Mix ¼ to 1½
cups of bleach per gallon of water (no greater than a 10% bleach solution)
and apply the solution to surfaces where mold growth was visible prior
to cleaning. You can apply the solution use a spray bottle, sponge,
or other method.
- Using bleach straight from
the bottle is LESS effective than using the diluted solution!
- Never mix bleach with ammonia,
hence the use of a non-ammonia soap or detergent for cleaning, as toxic
chlorine gas may be produced.
- Keep the disinfectant on
the surface for the recommended amount of time before rinsing or drying.
This is typically 10 minutes for a bleach solution.
- Collect any run-off solution
with a wet/dry vacuum.
Bleach can irritate your eyes,
nose, throat, and skin. Make sure that your work area is well-ventilated
via an open window, door or some other method. Protect your skin and eyes
from contact with bleach. Remember that bleach is very corrosive and can
permanently discolor and damage materials and fabrics so you may want
to test the solution on a small area before your treat the entire surface.
Remain alert for
any recurrence of mold
Once you've finished the cleanup, you need to remain alert and look
for signs of moisture problems or the return of any mold growth especially
in areas where you had previous growth. If mold does return, you should
repeat the cleanup steps bearing in mind that you may not have removed
all mold from your previous cleanup attempt or that you still have not
yet found your source of moisture.