Photograph of moldy basement ceiling before cleaning. Photograph of a basement ceiling after cleaning by media blasting.

How to Clean or Remove Toxic Mold in buildings
Owner/Occupant's Guide to Mold Remediation
     


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This article describes how toxic or allergenic mold is removed from buildings - mold cleanup, or mold remediation. We discuss how to physically remove problem mold (don't just spray over it), what cleaners can be used for mold removal, and use of bleach in mold cleanup and removal jobs.

We also list related mold cleanup or remediation articles that address special problems such as mold odors, mold removal from irregular surfaces, and stains or odors on roofs or in cars.

The steps in this document will be sufficient for many building owners who want to do their own mold investigation, mold testing, mold cleanup, and mold prevention in their home or office. The photos at the top of this page show the results of media blasting moldy wood surfaces.

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How to Clean or Remove Mold, Moldy Debris, Other Indoor Environmental Contaminants - a Homeowner's Guide

Very mold contaminated floor framing and subfloor (C) D FriedmanThis article provides a succinct guide to mold cleanup for homeowners or tenants.

Protect the occupants and yourself from mold, demolition dust, debris, cleaning chemicals, etc.

Where a large area of cleanup is involved (more than 30 sq.ft.) a professional is usually called to establish negative air in the work area and to install containment barriers of plastic or other material to protect cleaner areas of the building from cross-contamination during the cleanup.

If you used a building environmental specialist to inspect and define the scope of work, you should have baseline mold test samples of both the work area and other building areas which will permit you to state definitively, at the end of the cleanup, whether or not the cleanup has caused cross-contamination of other building areas.

The spotless cleaning produced for the second photo above was obtained by using a professional who used media blasting to clean these surfaces. Such measures may be needed for large or complex surfaces, but quite often the necessary steps are less technical and less onerous, as we describe next.

Clean or remove mold and moldy debris: The most succinct Mold Remediation or Mold Cleanup Guidelines one could state would be this: the objective is not to sterilize your environment or "kill" mold, steps which are ineffective anyway - the operative words are "clean" or "remove" problem mold and then to correct its cause.

If the total square feet of moldy material is less than 30 sq.ft. it is reasonable to handle the mold cleanup as an ordinary building cleaning or renovation procedure - hiring experts to establish negative air, dust containment, etc. is not required, but you should still take steps to minimize cross contamination in the building and to protect yourself and other occupants from moldy dust and debris.

If the total contiguous square feet of moldy material is large (more than 30 sq.ft.) then you should consult a professional to inspect the building, find all of the problem mold areas, and to prepare a mold cleanup or mold remediation plan which will guide the mold remediation company (who should be a totally independent contractor in order to avoid conflicts of interest).

The mold consultant should also advise on the steps needed to prevent future mold growth - fix the causes of mold contamination. If the mold cleanup is a costly project you should have the independent mold consultant perform a thorough visual and physical inspection of the building after the mold cleanup to assure that it was effective.

Note: some sources have amended the 30 square feet rule to 10 square feet as the size suitable for homeowner cleanup.

Remove and dispose of moldy items that cannot be effectively cleaned: Moldy drywall, paneling, trim, carpets, boxes, junk, are removed and disposed-of as construction debris or trash, either because the item cannot be effectively cleaned, or in some cases because the cost of cleaning exceeds the value of the object. Be sure to remove building insulation that has been wet or smells moldy or has been exposed to high levels of airborne mold.
See INSULATION MOLD TEST.

Usually moldy drywall and other debris can be disposed-of as ordinary construction debris or trash.

Scrubbing moldy surfaces - no sprays, no ozone, no sterilization: We're talking about scrubbing here. It's the physical removal of moldy or allergenic debris that's important, not the surface sterilization. The second we permit someone to "spray for mold" we can count on them to fail to do an adequate mold cleanup.

And if the moldy surface to be cleaned is "cleanable" so irregular or inaccessible as to make physical wiping or scrubbing impractical, you may want to consider
MEDIA BLASTING for MOLD REMOVAL
.

What to Use to Clean Off Mold from Building Surfaces, Contents, Items

What to use to clean off mold from all of the exposed hard, cleanable surfaces: to clean off a moldy surface, you could use simple clean water, soapy water, spray cleaners, or if you prefer, a commercial biocide (follow their directions) or a dilute bleach cleaning solution. But because so many readers have asked about specific mold "cleaning" or mold "killing" methods we list and comment on these approaches below.

At MOLD CLEANERS - WHAT TO USE we provide a detailed description of different methods people use to "clean off" or "kill" mold.

How to Use Bleach to Clean Up a Moldy Surface

Bleaching or "killing" mold is not the objective. Bleach will not kill all of the mold anyway - we can tease viable spores out of lots of "bleached mold" samples we see in the lab.

The object of mold removal is to clean the surface, to remove loose moldy material, not to try to sterilize the surface. Certain mold-contaminated materials that cannot be cleaned (drywall, carpeting, curtains) should be discarded. Clothing and bedding linens or towels can be washed or dry-cleaned.

Keep that in mind. If you want to use bleach as a cleaning agent instead of other cleaners (soap and water would work just fine) here are some mold cleanup suggestions for homeowners from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation CMHC.

See MOLD CLEANUP with BLEACH for details of how to mix and use bleach to clean a hard surface in a building as well as warnings about where bleaching mold is a cosmetic band-aid that just won't work. Here are the basics of using bleach to clean up a building surface:

  • Dilute bleach with one part household bleach to four parts of clean water (do not add other cleaners to this solution as you may accidentally cause the release dangerous chlorine gas)
  • Ventilate the work area
  • Wear rubber gloves and eye protection
  • Bleach exposure time: After physically cleaning and removing all loose mold, dirt, debris, from the surface being cleaned, let the solution stand on the surface for 10-15 minutes.
  • Rinse the cleaned surface thoroughly
  • Dry: Be sure that the cleaned surfaces are totally dry before restoring any building insulation, drywall, etc.
  • Discard moldy fabrics or other similar materials that cannot be surface-cleaned.

Other Mold-Related Problems

CAR SMELL - Mold DEODORIZING - mold in cars, campers, trucks, RVs can be caused by water leaks and can make a moldy smell problem that's hard to cure.

Renters may also want to see RENTERS & TENANTS GUIDE TO MOLD & INDOOR HAZARDS.

Home inspectors should see MOLD TEST by HOME INSPECTORS?

 

Continue reading at CARPET MOLD CONTAMINATION or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.

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MOLD CLEANUP GUIDE- HOW TO GET RID OF MOLD at InspectApedia.com - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.

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