We’ve got a quick guide on how to handle this homeowner nightmare without losing your cool. Depending on the severity, clean-up could range from a quick DIY cleaning, to something a professional must handle.
What it is:
Mold is a fungus that can be found both indoors and outdoors – the exact number of species is unknown but its in the range from 10,000 to 300,000 plus.
As you likely know, mold grows best in warm, damp and humid conditions. Mold sources include a variety of household ailments such as flooding, leaky roofs, backed-up drains, humidifiers, damp basements or crawl spaces, house plants, shower steam or leaks, and even wet clothes drying indoors. Mold spores can survive harsh environmental conditions, even dry conditions that typically do not support normal mold growth – this is why through clean-up is so essential.
Depending on your sensitivity, reactions can range from nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, wheezing, or skin irritation to fever or lung disease. Severe reactions may include fever and shortness of breath. Some people with chronic lung illnesses, such as obstructive lung disease, may develop mold infections in their lungs.
The general rule is, if you can see it or smell it, it needs to go.
What to Do:
Ultimately, it is critical to remove the source of moisture first, before beginning remedial action, since mold growth will quickly return if the infected area becomes wet again. After you’ve corrected the source of the problem, arrange for removal.
If the moldy area is less than about 10 sq. ft., you can handle the job yourself by following the guidelines put out by the EPA. Guidelines for acceptable levels of mold have not been established, varying from person to person. If you are hiring a professional, be very through in your vetting process.
Porous materials such as drywall, carpet and ceiling tiles need to be cut away where the mold is growing; mold can grow inside the material, not just on the surface. Bag and dispose of any materials that have mold residue such as rags, paper or other debris.
What Not to Do:
- Mold does not need to be tested (per the CDC); any visible mold should be eliminated
- Do not touch mold or moldy items with bare hands
- Do not get mold or mold spores in your eyes
- Do not breathe in mold or mold spores
- Do not items that can’t be cleaned – get rid of ‘em. This will likely be anything porous – carpet, wood, clothing, rags, etc.
Once the mold has been removed, continue to keep an eye on the situation. Was the source of the problem effectively corrected? If hidden mold is discovered, it is time to go back to the drawing board. Additional remediation will likely be needed. Ultimately, the only way to eliminate mold is to eliminate the moisture causing it.