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ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS - INSPECT, TEST, REMEDY
AIR CLEANER PURIFIER TYPES
AIR POLLUTANTS, COMMON INDOOR
AIR QUALITY IMPROVEMENT STRATEGIES
AIRBORNE PARTICLE ANALYSIS METHODS
ALLERGEN TESTS for BUILDINGS
ASBESTOS IDENTIFICATION IN BUILDINGS
BACKDRAFTING HEATING EQUIPMENT
BLACK MOLD, TOXIC & ALLERGENIC
BLEACHING MOLD, Advice about
BOOKSTORE - ENVIRONMENTAL
CADMIUM in the HOME
CARBON MONOXIDE - CO
CARPETING & INDOOR AIR QUALITY
CAT DANDER in BUILDINGS
CELL PHONE RADIATION
CHEMICAL CONTAMINANTS in WATER
COMBUSTION PRODUCTS & IAQ
DIRECTORY of MOLD / ENVIRONMENTAL EXPERTS
DUST SAMPLING PROCEDURE
EMERGENCY RESPONSE, IAQ, GAS, MOLD
EMF ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELDSRE
ENDOCRINE DISRUPTORS at BUILDINGS
FLOOD DAMAGE ASSESSMENT, SAFETY & CLEANUP
FLOOR TILE ASBESTOS IDENTIFICATION
FUNGICIDAL SPRAY & SEALANT USE
GAS EXPOSURE EFFECTS, TOXIC
HEATING OIL EXPOSURE HAZARDS, LIMITS
HOUSE DUST ANALYSIS
HOUSE DUST COMPONENTS
HUMIDITY CONTROL & TARGETS INDOORS
INDOOR AIR QUALITY IMPROVEMENT GUIDE
LAB PROCEDURES MICROSCOPE TECHNIQUES
LEAD POISONING HAZARDS GUIDE
Legionella Legionnaires' Disease
LIGHT, GUIDE to FORENSIC USE
METHANE GAS SOURCES
MILDEW in BUILDINGS ?
MOISTURE CONTROL in BUILDINGS
MOLD ACTION GUIDE - WHAT TO DO ABOUT MOLD
MOLD CONSULTANTS / INSPECTORS
MOLD DETECTION & INSPECTION GUIDE
MOLD EXPERT, WHEN TO HIRE
MOLD RELATED ILLNESS GUIDE
MSDS Material Safety Data Sheets
MVOCs & MOLDY MUSTY ODORS
NOISE / SOUND DIAGNOSIS & CURE
ODORS GASES SMELLS, DIAGNOSIS & CURE
OIL, HEATING, EXPOSURE HAZARDS, LIMITS
OIL HEAT ODORS & NOISES
OIL SPILL CLEANUP / PREVENTION
PET ALLERGENS / PET DANDER
PET STAINS & MARKS in BUILDINGS
PLASTIC ODORS-SCREENS, SIDING
PLUMBING SYSTEM ODORS
PVC - VINYL BUILDING PRODUCTS
RADON HAZARD TESTS & MITIGATION
SAFETY HAZARDS GUIDE
SAFETY HAZARDS & INSPECTIONS
SEPTIC METHANE GAS
SEPTIC SYSTEM ODORS
SEWAGE BACKUP TEST & CLEANUP
SEWER GAS ODORS
SMELL PATCH TEST to Track Down Odors
STAIN DIAGNOSIS on BUILDING EXTERIORS
STAIN DIAGNOSIS on BUILDING INTERIORS
SULPHUR & SEWER GAS SMELL SOURCES
UFFI UREA FORMALDEHYDE FOAM INSULATION
URETHANE FOAM Deterioration, Outgassing
VINYL CHLORIDE HEALTH INFO
VOLATILE ORGANIC COMPOUNDS VOCs
WATER ODORS, CAUSE CURE
Mold test procedures: pre-cleaning. this article explains why it is best to leave moldy buildnig surfaces alone if you are about to bring in a professional for building inspection and testing as a screen for contamination.
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If you are thinking of hiring a professional to inspect, diagnose, and test your building for mold or other problems we prefer that you do NOT conduct a "do it yourself" cleanup ahead of time. Cleaning up the mold that you see does not preclude an expert's ability to find areas of suspicion or even to find mold, but
Rather, if you already believe that a mold emergency is present, rather than performing amateur cleaning before mold testing, you should probably not be in the building. See DEFINITION of MOLD EMERGENCY if needed.
Can You Clean Up Small Areas of Mold Yourself?
Yes, for small areas of mold, less than 30 sq.ft. of contiguous mold, usually the job can be handled as an ordinary building cleaning or renovation project, with the provision that should the cleaner discover a larger mold reservoir during cleaning, the job stops, an expert is consulted, and proper safetuards are taken.
If you're not able or interested in hiring a mold professional, and/or especially if the total known moldy area is small
More mold cleanup guidance is at
Reader Question: mold in rental property vents - what tests would be appropriate? Can I use a mold spray to cure a mold problem?
Daniel, I hired a 'professional' vent cleaning service to clean a rental home's ducts yesterday, against my better judgment, but to appease a difficult tenant.
As expected, they tried to 'upsell' the job, INCLUDING 'testing for mold', stating there were a few spots in vents that looked like mold. Upper level of home tested negative, Lower level tested positive. I've been told by a licensed HVAC contractor that it's common for a little mold to be present in many areas of a home, but highly unlikely for this to be problematic, given that we live in Albuquerque NM: high desert. The home is cooled by an evaporative cooler (vs refrigerated air).
Can you recommend how to best test this alleged mold? Also, when I was able to get the Vent Cleaner alone & 'thank' him for alarming the tenant w/ his mold comments, he stated that some simple, over the counter sprays from Lowe's or Home Depot could probably fix the problem (vs me paying him another $160 to do so) - L.W.
Reply: If there is no mold problem testing is not appropriate; if there is a mold problem, sprays alone are not a recommended "mold cure"
A competent onsite inspection by an expert, a real one, not an HVAC company trying to sell more duct cleaning services, can often finds additional clues that help accurately diagnose a problem, or that indicate that there is no evidence of a larger mold reservoir that justifies costly cleaning.
That said, it's true that often we find small patches of mold in HVAC systems and that an expert can find at least some mold in just about any building. Often a small Cladosporium colony is seen on HVAC ductwork just downstream from the blower fan in the ductwork. While Cladosporium sp. (the largest group of molds) contains some members that can be harmful to people, small immobile colonies of even a square foot or two are unlikely to be detectable in the building air.
Watch out: if the conditions that produced mold growth that you see anywhere in the building have also produced a larger but less obvious mold colony, say more than 30 sq.ft., and say of highly-mobile problem molds such as Aspergillus sp., the little, probably harmless mold you saw may not be the issue but it might be a pointer to a less obvious problem.
The article above is intended to help decide if an expert inspection and tests for mold are really justified and appropriate at a property. If the rules of thumb we describe above all fail to indicate that further inspection and testing are needed then it's unlikely that it is appropriate nor cost justified to perform more mold testing at your building as well.
The comment by your HVAC guy recommending a mold cure by applying sprays suggests to me that the person is not properly informed about mold.
Mold Sprays Alone are not a "Cure-all" for Indoor Mold Troubles
Sprays alone are not a "mold cure" and in some cases can even be a health problem themselves. There is a place for sealants and disinfectants but not as a "mold cure" see MOLD SPRAYS, SEALANTS, PAINTS.
Find and Fix the Cause of Indoor Mold Growth
And furthermore, if there really were a mold problem, in the ductwork or elsewhere in the building, finding and fixing the cause of the mold growth is an essential part of a mold remediation plan. Otherwise the time, trouble, and money spent on the "mold cleanup" is simply wasted when the mold-growing conditions remain and a problem returns at the same spot or others in the building.
Amateur "mold inspections" can be Risky - do nothing or do it right?
If legal or health complaints justify a check of the building for mold, I would be certain it's performed by an expert. You don't want to be in the position of asserting that there is "no problem" if in fact there is one, since someone could get sick and you could bear liability for it.
On the other hand, as we discuss in MOLD EXPERT, WHEN TO HIRE, in the absence of good reason, a thorough inspection and testing for mold are not justified, and superficial tests (air tests, cultures, etc.) used alone, without an accompanying careful inspection would be unreliable.
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