Mold Cleanup & Removal
Who Should Cleanup
Who should do the cleanup depends on a number of factors. One consideration is the size of the mold problem. If the moldy area is less than about 10 square feet (less than roughly a 3 feet by 3 feet patch), in most cases, you can handle the job yourself, following the guidelines below. However:
- If there has been a lot of water damage, and/or mold growth covers more than 10 square feet, consult the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guide: Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings. Although focused on schools and commercial buildings, this document is applicable to other building types.
- If you choose to hire a contractor (or other professional service provider) to do the cleanup, make sure the contractor has experience cleaning up mold. Check references and ask the contractor to follow the recommendations in EPA's 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 suspect that the heating/ventilation/air conditioning (HVAC) system may be contaminated with mold (it is part of an identified moisture problem, for instance, or there is mold near the intake to the system), consult EPA's guide, Should You Have the Air Ducts in Your Home Cleaned?, before taking further action. Do not run the HVAC system if you know or suspect that it is contaminated with mold - it could spread mold throughout the building.
- If the water and/or mold damage was caused by sewage or other contaminated water, call in a professional who has experience cleaning and fixing buildings damaged by contaminated water.
- If you have health concerns, consult a health professional before starting cleanup.
If you have decided to go ahead and do the clean-up work yourself, be sure to follow these guidelines:
Take Steps to Protect Yourself
The amount of mold spores in the air can greatly increase when mold is disturbed. Consider using protective equipment when handling or working around materials contaminated with mold. The following equipment and precautionary measures can help minimize exposure to mold during clean-up:
- Rubber gloves
- Eye goggles
- Protective clothing that can be easily cleaned or discarded
- Consider wearing a mask or respirator to protect against breathing airborne spores. They can be purchased from hardware stores; select one for particle removal (sometimes referred to as an N-95).
- Enclose all moldy materials in plastic before carrying through the home
- Damp clean the entire work area to pick up any mold spores in settled dust
- Ask others to leave the areas being cleaned
- Ventilate your home both during and after the clean up
Identify & Fix the Moisture Problem
The most important step in solving a mold problem is to identify and correct the moisture sources that allowed mold to grow in the first place. Try to maintain the home's relative humidity between 20% to 40% in the winter and less than 60% the rest of the year. Ventilation, dehumidifiers, and efforts to minimize excess moisture in the home are all important in controlling high humidity that frequently causes mold growth. Potential sources of excess indoor moisture include:
- Condensation - caused by high indoor humidity
- Damp basement or crawl space
- Firewood stored indoors
- House plants - over-watering them can generate large amounts of moisture
- Humidifier use
- Inadequate venting of clothes dryer exhaust to outdoors
- Inadequate venting of kitchen and bathroom humidity
- Line-drying laundry indoors
- Overflow or leaks from tubs, sinks, or toilets
- Plumbing leaks
- Roof leaks
Begin Drying All Wet Materials
As soon as possible, begin drying any damp materials. If necessary, use fans and dehumidifiers. Move wet items away from walls and off floors. Ventilate the area thoroughly. Ideally, expose the affected area to plenty of sunlight.
Remove & Dispose of Mold Contaminated Materials
Wet or damp porous materials that have mold growing on them, or that smell moldy, need to removed. Such materials may include:
- Carpet and Pad
- Ceiling Tiles
- Paper Products
- Wood Products (Other Than Solid Wood)
These materials should be bagged and thrown away. Non-porous materials with surface mold growth can be saved if they are cleaned well and kept dry.
Surface mold growing on non-porous materials such as plastic, glass, metal, and solid wood can usually be cleaned.
- Thoroughly scrub the contaminated surfaces using a stiff brush or cleaning pad, hot water, and a non-ammonia soap/detergent or commercial cleaner.
- Collect excess cleaning liquid with a sponge, mop, or wet/dry vacuum.
- Rinse entire area with clean water.
After cleaning has removed all visible mold, disinfect the area to kill any mold missed by the cleaning.
- Mix one-half to 1 cup of bleach per gallon of water and apply to surfaces where mold had been growing.
- Collect excess bleach solution with a sponge, mop, or wet/dry vacuum. Do not rinse or wipe dry - allow the areas to air dry.
Caution: Never mix bleach with ammonia or other cleaning products - the fumes are toxic!