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For better or for worse, over the last two months, I’ve learned a lot about mold. We found mold in our walls and floor because of the leak caused by the Comcast tech drilling through our waste line.
Then I found mold in our pantry from an old leak in the roof (we put a new roof on when we moved in, so it hasn’t leaked since then).
And while it’s not exactly a sexy, glamorous topic, there are some things you need to know if you find mold in your home. So, for this week’s Friday Five, here are five things to know if you suspect you have or you find mold in your home.
(1) If you find mold, do not remove it on your own.
I know, I love DIY. I do DIY. I live DIY. This is NOT a DIY project. At least not at first.
First, call a mold remediation expert and have them look at the problem. Even mold that’s been there a while can still be toxic. And if you remove it – in fact, if you move it at all – the spores are released into the air and they can be dangerous. Especially if you or your family members have allergies (raises hand) or other health issues (raises hand).
There are different kinds of mold you might find. There is white mold, which is kind of powdery and spreads quickly, and there is black mold, which is the kind that, when people mention it, you hear the ominous “dum da dum” scary music afterwards.
Once the remediation expert checks it out, she or he can tell you whether it’s safe for you to remove or whether it has to be professionally remediated.
(2) If you find mold, contain it as best you can until it can be remediated or removed.
So, if you can’t remove the mold once you find it, what the heck are you supposed to do with it, now that you know it’s there?
If you are sensitive to mold (or even if you aren’t), the first thing to do is put on a mask. I keep respirator masks like these around for when I spray paint or sand down wood. Safety glasses wouldn’t hurt, either, although, if you are doing demo, you probably are already wearing them (you are, aren’t you?!?).
Do the best you can to contain the affected area. For the affected area on the ceiling and walls in the pantry, I covered it with a contractor-grade garbage bag and sealed it to the walls and ceiling with tape.
Is it completely sealed? No, of course not. But it’s sealed off enough that it will prevent most of the spores from circulating in the house until it can be professionally remediated.
If the area is larger, then try to seal up the whole area. For example, tape a plastic drop cloth over the doorway and close or cover all the vents in the room. Do the best you can not to disturb the mold and keep it covered.
(3) The Remediation Process.
Here’s how the remediation process usually works. Your remediation expert comes in and seals off the area with heavy-duty plastic sheeting and tape.
Then, a negative-pressure exhaust fan is set up. What this does is suck the air out of the room so that the mold spores don’t circulate in your home’s air when the mold is removed.
Once the fan is running and pulling the air out, then the remediation expert can remove the moldy area and get it out of your house! Our expert removes the moldy area plus two feet surrounding the area, to prevent growth of any spores that might have spread.
Once the moldy stuff is removed, an anti-microbial cleaner is applied to make sure everything’s dead and not coming back.
(4) Cleaning Up.
Once the mold was all out of our family room, I noticed that a musty smell lingered. As it turned out, the musty smell stayed in the furniture and fabric of the room. Yuck.
To get it out, I went on a massive cleaning spree:
- I wiped down the wood furniture with Murphy’s Oil Soap, diluted with water.
- I cleaned the carpet with vinegar and baking soda, which, ultimately, did not take the smell out fully. The rug will either be professionally cleaned or replaced, whichever is cheaper.
- I washed the curtains that hung in the room, per the manufacturer’s instructions (they are IKEA curtains), with a little bleach added.
- Our couch has slipcovers, so I washed those, too. You could also spray Febreeze on the couch upholstery, especially if your couch cover isn’t removable or washable.
- I wiped down all the remaining surfaces with Lysol liquid.
I was amazed at how the smell really permeated everything. After a good cleaning, though, the musty smell goes away.
(5) Air Quality Testing.
If you are still worried about whether there is mold in your home, or you want to make sure that no mold has lingered after remediation, have your home’s air quality tested. We ended up doing this to ensure that all the harmful mold was out of our home.
The tester used several methods to determine if there was mold in our home and, if so, what mold was there. First, he used a thermal imaging sensor (it looks like a scanner “gun” at a store’s checkout line) to determine if there were any active water leaks or any other change of energy, such as heat or cold. The thermal imaging showed changes in air flow (under each door), but no active leaks or odd energy under the floor or behind the walls.
Then, he set up the air quality testing machine. He put a plastic cylinder on this machine that pulls the air from inside the house through the cylinder for five minutes. Then the canister is sealed. He does the same thing for the air outside. Then he has a lab compare the two samples. The air outside and the air inside should essentially match in terms of mold, or the outside could be higher.
For our test, he found slightly elevated levels of two non-toxic kinds of mold that are generally found in older homes. Nothing to be alarmed about, but something to check out. So, we’re having it checked to make sure there’s nothing to worry about.
So, there is my very long list of five things to know if you find mold in your home. It is not an exhaustive list and, of course, every situation is different.
If you suspect you have mold or actually find mold, call a professional remediation expert ASAP.
I hope that helps. Of course, if you have questions about mold or remediation or testing, please let me know.