Mold is the last thing any homeowner wants to find. It damages your home and may impact your health. It can be difficult to get rid of. Preventing mold from forming in the first place is always the best option. But if you do have a mold problem in your house, it is possible to clean it up safely and make sure it does not come back. It is important to follow the correct steps and use the right tools for the job to get rid of mold in your house.
Why is it important to get rid of mold? In addition to the musty smell and damage it causes to surfaces it grows on, mold may aggravate or exacerbate your family’s health problems. A review of multiple studies on indoor mold exposure found that, “excessive moisture promotes mold growth and is associated with an increased prevalence of symptoms due to irritation, allergy, and infection.” (Fung & Hughson., 2003). It’s best to avoid all of these and eliminate the mold problem from your home completely.
Where mold comes from and how to prevent it
Mold is a fungus that releases spores into the air. Mold spores are everywhere, floating in the air and landing on surfaces. Every house and building in the world has mold spores in it, and there is no way to get rid of every mold spore in your home. So why doesn’t mold grow everywhere? Mold spores need specific conditions to grow into mold: moisture and darkness. That means you can avoid mold by preventing those conditions from happening in your house.
Mold is most common in basements, where groundwater seepage and humidity can make things damp (and where it is often dark). It is also common in bathrooms and kitchens where moisture is not properly vented. Anywhere you have a leak that is not promptly cleaned up and fixed is a good home for mold as well, whether it is a roof leak leading to mold in the attic or a plumbing leak that causes your kitchen cabinets to get moldy.
Preventing mold requires a little work now, but you will avoid a lot of work getting rid of mold later. Here are some things to start with:
- Fix all leaks promptly.
- Clean up spills and dry out wet carpet.
- Run a dehumidifier in damp areas.
- Improve ventilation in bathrooms and in the kitchen.
- Direct drainage away from your house to reduce basement seepage.
Getting rid of mold
The first step when you have a mold problem is determining if it is a problem you can deal with yourself, or if it will require professional mold remediation. The EPA suggests that mold that affects an area 3 feet by 3 feet or less (about 10 square feet) can be safely remediated by the homeowner.
Larger mold problems, or mold that has spread to the ducts in the home’s HVAC system probably require professional mold remediation. The cost of professional mold remediation varies from region and based on the size and scope of the mold problem, but will typically cost $2,000 or more. If you do choose to hire a contractor to perform mold remediation, make sure they have experience dealing with mold. Unfortunately, there are no government certifications that indicate a company is qualified for mold removal, so you may have to depend on reviews and word-of-mouth.
It is not necessary to test mold before removing it, but a mold inspection may be required. You need to get rid of the mold no matter what kind it is. According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, if you can see or smell mold, you know you have mold. That is the only test you need. Sometimes, you may spot black mold and worry if it is the toxic kind. While some molds do produce toxins (mycotoxins), health agencies say more evidence is needed about the dangers of breathing mycotoxins. There is evidence, however, that most molds can present some health risks. The NC Dept. of Health says, “we do know that most molds can present some health risks, such as allergic reactions. Therefore, any mold growth in a building should be cleaned up, regardless of the type of mold.”
Mold Remediation Safety Precautions
The process of removing mold can stir up significant amounts of mold spores. The goal of mold remediation safety precautions is two-fold:
- Minimize the spread of mold spores through the structure.
- Minimize worker and occupant exposure to mold spores, especially via inhalation.
The area affected by mold should be isolated from the rest of the structure as much as possible, using plastic sheeting or simply closing doors. However, the area should be vented to the outside if possible, using window fans or opening whatever path to the outside is available.
Workers should wear filter masks designed to stop mold spores. Inexpensive paper masks that fit over the mouth with a rubber strap will not offer much protection. Eye protection is also important, to keep both mold spores and other debris out of the workers’ eyes. If possible, occupants should temporarily relocate during mold remediation to minimize their exposure, especially if they have allergies, asthma or other respiratory issues that could be aggravated by mold spore exposure.
How to get rid of mold in walls
If the wall is made from a non-porous surface, such as finished wood or stone, it must be thoroughly dried. A dehumidifier, proper ventilation or a wet vacuum can be used. Then, a damp wipe down of the area should remove most of the mold. Cleaning products designed for mold removal are helpful, however it is not necessary to bleach moldy areas or use other biocides. If the wall is made from a porous material such as gypsum drywall, wallpaper or unfinished wood, it is not possible to remove all of the mold from the tiny nooks and holes in the wall. The affected section of the wall must be cut out and replaced. This can be very expensive. However, the mold will almost certainly come back otherwise.
Finish the mold removal by using a vacuum with a HEPA filter. A non-HEPA vacuum may not contain the mold spores and can actually spread them into the air. Vacuum the entire area and surrounding areas, even if no mold is visible.
Do not just paint or caulk over mold without removing it. According to the EPA, this will cause the paint to flake and peel, and when the paint comes off, you will still have mold on the wall.
How to get rid of mold on the ceiling
Removing mold from a ceiling is identical to removing it from a wall. However, mold on the ceiling almost certainly comes from above, so you will need to gain access to whatever area is above the ceiling to make sure that there is no mold up above.
How to get rid of mold in the basement/crawlspace
Removing mold in these areas follows the same procedure as for walls and ceilings. However, in these areas, the cause of the mold might be especially hard to deal with. An overly humid basement or a poorly ventilated attic could become damp and moldy. Resolving the moisture problem that caused the mold is vital.
Remember that soft, porous surfaces contaminated with mold almost certainly need to be thrown away and replaced. Carpets and rugs are nearly impossible to get completely mold-free.
While mold remediation can be a dirty, time-consuming process, it is not impossible for the average homeowner to deal with. Keep in mind that mold spores are everywhere, so you do not need to eradicate every last spore. Removing all visible mold, thoroughly drying the area and resolving whatever caused the moisture to begin with are the key steps in removing mold. A thorough wipe down with a damp cloth and a HEPA vacuum can accomplish most of your mold removal needs.
An air purifier can help provide clean air while you are getting rid of mold from your house. The PECO technology inside the Molekule air purifier can destroy pollutants like mold spores and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Other air purifiers simply trap airborne mold particles on filters, leaving the possibility for mold to grow on the filter itself and be released back into your home. The Molekule technology is a revolutionary new way to clean the air you breathe.