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DISINFECTING BUILDINGS with BLEACH
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MOLD GROWTH on SURFACES, TABLE OF
MYCOPHOBIA, STAINS MISTAKEN for MOLD
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ODORS GASES SMELLS, DIAGNOSIS & CURES
OZONE for MOLD OR ODORS
RADON HAZARD TESTS & MITIGATION
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SICK HOUSE IAQ QUESTIONNAIRE
SMELL PATCH TEST to Track Down Odors
STAIN DIAGNOSIS on BUILDING INTERIORS
VENTILATION in BUILDINGS
Using sprays, sealants, sanitizers indoors: this article discusses the use of sprays to address bacterial and mold hazards in buildings. We illustrate when the use of disinfectant or biocidal sprays, fungicides, bleach, paints, and encapsulant coatings are useful, and when they are a mistake. This article emphasizes that cleaning or removing problem mold and correcting the reasons why it grew are key steps, adding that consumers should beware of use of sprays of any kind if they substitute for those steps.
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When Is it Good Practice to Use Biocides, Disinfectants, or Fungal sprays in a Building to Address Bacteria or Mold?
Guide to Using Biocides, Fungal Sprays, Mold Sprays, Sanitizers, Sealants for Indoor Mold, Particle, or Odor Contaminants
What are the Proper Steps for Removing Indoor Mold Contamination?
Is there evidence of mold or bacterial contamination in the building such as areas of wood, paper, or other material covered with mold or mold-suspect material or signs of a prior sewer backup?
If the building has more than 30 sq.ft. of contiguous toxic or allergenic mold it should be cleaned by a professional mold remediation company. See MOLD EXPERT, WHEN TO HIRE and DO IT YOURSELF MOLD CLEANUP.
Beware: often the most serious mold we find in buildings is not the "toxic black mold" you see on a building surface, but rather the mold you don't see in building cavities, even on indoor building surfaces, or in fiberglass insulation in a damp or wet area. See MOLD in BUILDINGS and Mold in Fiberglass Insulation for details.
Sources of Disinfectants, Sanitizers & Sealants for Use in Buildings
At a follow-up investigation requested by homeowners (client Z., 2007) we learned that a local mold remediator had applied a spray product into wall cavities and on interior wall surfaces.The clients reported that a "biocidal spray" was used in their basement and in upper floor wall cavities. (See Biocide Sanitizer Confusion below).
Because the problem mold reservoir had not been properly located, moldy odors and mold complaints persisted in the home.
The client is shown (photo at left) indicating one of the basement spray application locations. Based on client-perceived odor sources, the remediator used an thermography - an infra-red camera to identify cool areas around a window, areas that he then identified to the client as the problem mold reservoir. A mold spray product was applied through small openings into wall cavities around the window and on exposed surfaces in other building locations. (Photo, left). THERMOGRAPHY IR Infra Red & Thermal Scanners - discusses use of infrared and thermography images and temperature scanning equipment.
The source of odors in a building can be tricky to pinpoint, as we discuss at ODORS GASES SMELLS, DIAGNOSIS & CURE.
When the client continued to complain of mold odors in the home, a subsequent inspection including test cuts by the author were made into the previously-sprayed wall cavity where we found evidence that no water or air leaks (an expected cause of mold in a building cavity) nor mold had previously been present where the spray was applied.
That inspection and subsequent laboratory testing indicated that the spray procedure had been ineffective, almost certainly because it was applied based on poor mold-locating methodology, and because it had not been applied where mold was in fact present in a problem mold reservoir that we located (by inspection) elsewhere in the building.
The client's leftover product's package label described the coating as intended for ceilings, roofs, decks, walls, mold, odor, and exterior surface cleaning, and USDA authorized for use in federally inspected meat and poultry plants. The "left over material" was labeled as CalBrite™.
The company's attorneys have indicated that:
At its core however, the ultimate success of this mold odor removal case turned not on choice of mold spray chemical, but on accurately finding the problem mold reservoir. It illustrates the importance of determining that a problem mold reservoir is present in a building, using valid investigation and testing methods, and accurately locating the problem(s) in the building before any costly cleaning, sprays or other steps are applied.
It appears that many consumers and perhaps some mold remediators are unclear about the distinction among definitions of biocide, disinfectant, sanitizer, and sterilizer. [Given just below.] While the producers of various cleaning products are careful to distinguish among these terms when describing their individual products, a search for official definitions shows why confusion might be expected among the general public. Even U.S. EPA mixes and merges these terms and often discusses them together.
Basic Definitions of Biocide, Disinfect, Sterilize, Sanitize, Sanitizer
An example of a biocide product is Bio-Cide International's Pro-Oxine. More on biocides and an expert's recommendation against their use in mold remediation projects is provided at Recommendation Against Biocides.
Industry and product definitions of sanitizers emphasize what the producers state are less-toxic or even non-toxic (to humans and other animals) chemicals used in those products.
Our research found that a main distinction between a sanitizer and a disinfectant is that at the "specified use" dilution, the disinfectant will have a higher kill rate of bacterial pathogens than a sanitizer. As Burge points out below, some microorganisms are quite resistant to disinfectants / biocides.
Similarly, a narrow distinction between sterilize and disinfect is to distinguish between removing all living microorganisms and removing virtually all microorganisms.See ASTM E197105 and see CSPA Public School Cleaning Product Guidelines. Also see "Basic Elements of Equipment Cleaning and Sanitizing in Food Processing and Handling Operations", University of Florida IFAS Extension.
In addition to the use of biocides or sanitizers directly in or on buildings, some building coatings may contain a biocide or a sanitizer product as well.
Really? Some experts also warn that at least some biocides may be irritating or harmful to building occupants, may leave harmful particles, are only temporarily and only partly effective, and may add moisture that adds problems to the building to the question “When should I use biocides during fungal remediation in buildings?” , the short answer is that use of biocides should be avoided if you can. We agree with the following opinion expressed by Dr. Harriet Burge, our favorite teacher and a respected expert in the field of public health:
When is it Good Practice to use Disinfectants, Biocides, Mold Paints, Fungicidal Sealants and Encapsulant Sprays in a Crawl Space or in Other Building Areas?
Use a disinfectant when it is necessary to - as Burge said - kill something. For example when cleaning up a building sewage spill it is necessary to first wash, then disinfect surfaces and contents. Details about these procedures are at
Surface encapsulant sprays are used by mold and flood damage remediators to knock down remaining airborne particles in the work area and to immobilize (the hopefully very few) particles that remain on surfaces and in crevices of a building area after professional cleaning.
We sometimes see encapsulant sprays applied right on top of thick heavy debris or on building insulation. This is an ineffective shortcut that should be avoided. (Photo at above left).
Our laboratory photo shows how a clear encapsulant spray (Fosters 4051™) produced individual "over spray" dried droplets which captured both small particles and some large fiberglass insulation fragments that were airborne at the time the encapsulant was being sprayed in the remediation area.
Clean, don't just spray: Do not, however, permit the use of biocides, disinfectants, sprays, or encapsulants as a substitute for the physical cleaning that must come first.
Otherwise there is risk that you will leave harmful contaminants and particles in the building, and it is likely that cleanup will be inadequate. Look at the thick debris sprayed-over in this building. Simply stirring the debris shows that this approach was ineffective.
If you are going to apply a mold paint or sealant in a building, be neat and thorough. Don't accept an incomplete, amateur job like the one shown in our photo at left.
Once the building has been cleaned of debris and moldy materials, and building leaks, moisture traps, or crawl space water has removed, and after we've eliminated the sources of building water entry, we are ready to take the next steps to keep the building clean and dry. ( MOLD PREVENTION GUIDE)
But first continue reading at MOLD CLEARANCE INSPECTIONS.
For details about cleaning up mold in buildings, readers should see MOLD CLEANUP GUIDE- HOW TO GET RID OF MOLD. Readers should also see MOLD CLEANUP with BLEACH and MOLD CLEANUP - WOOD FRAMING & PLYWOOD and also MOLD CLEANUP MISTAKES to AVOID. Also see see TRAPPED MOLD BETWEEN WOOD SURFACES for a discussion of the question of need to remove mold from mated and inaccessible building surfaces.
Readers should also see CRAWL SPACE DRYOUT - home if your building is built over a crawl area
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about mold sprays, mold killers, biocides, sanitizers & other spray-treatments for mold contamination
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Directory of Producers of Mold Remediation Products, Fungicidal Sprays, Sealants, Biocides, Washes
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We have no financial interest in any of these products. This data was discovered by internet search. We have no independent scientific data as yet regarding the effectiveness, toxicity, chemical composition, nor durability of these products. Producers of mold remediation products are welcome to Contact Us by email (please, not by telephone) to suggest product listings, website technical content, or technical corrections.
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