- Joshua Leviton
Cleaning mold 101: The aftermath
One of the most difficult parts about having mold growth in your home is what comes after removal. How sensitive you are to mold will dictate how deep the rabbit hole goes unfortunately, but what I will try to do in this post is explain how to effectively rid your residence of mold and mold spores.
I am not a doctor and my advice is just based on my experience and the experiences of my clients who have varied levels of sensitivity to mold growth. So that being said, ridding your house of mold spores can be tedious and time consuming and in some cases it may be best to just discard a piece of furniture than try to save it. Either way, I would consult with a doctor or allergist if you have not already to determine if you are allergic. And one last time for good luck, I am not a doctor and following these steps does not guarantee anything, but for some of my clients taking these steps has proven successful.
I am going to use one of the most extreme cases I have encountered in order to assist the most sensitive individuals, and then everyone else who is not quite as sensitive can pick and choose how deep down the rabbit hole they want to go.
When you have mold growth in your home it is producing something called spores. These spores are what land on surfaces and with the right conditions (food, water, temperature, humidity) will turn into a mold colony. Even if these spores don’t become colonies you do not want to be breathing them in or ingesting them. When there is mold in your home these spores are being actively produced and usually can be found floating around in the air, stuck to dust particles, or settling on most of the surfaces in your home. These spores can be found in high amounts in nature and the goal here is not to rid your home of every single spore because that is going to be impossible. Every time you open the door 1000’s of these spores are likely floating inside. The difference is that these spores are generally plant pathogens and for the most part do not cause any infections or symptoms in human beings. However, the types that can grow inside your home due to leaks can be more hazardous, and even if you have normal plant mold growing inside, if spore counts in the indoor air get to high that can be hazardous as well.
So if you had unwanted mold growth in your home at any point it is possible that even after the mold is removed, the spores have contaminated most surfaces. I have clients who have sever allergies to mold and they had to spend time cleaning ever item and every wall in their home before they began to feel any better. So for those of you who have just had mold removed but are still feeling symptoms, here is what you can try.
Visible mold growth on an item
Any porous items that have mold growth on them need to be replaced. If there is mold actually growing on the item, then it has likely penetrated into the pores of the material and is very difficult to completely removed. Bleach kills mold but it does not penetrate into the pores of the material so unfortunately it doesn’t fully get rid of it. If the item in question is wooden, you can try HEPA sanding the affected areas to remove the growth and wiping it down with ammonia. You will hear me mention ammonia a lot because it is great for eliminating mold spores and is also volatile so it generally will not leave an odor. However, make sure that ammonia wont damage your items before using it. Again there is no guarantee this will fully remove the mold because it depends on how deeply it penetrates into the pores of the wood. The only guaranteed way to remove the growth is to discard the item.
If mold is growing on a non-porous material, then it can simply be cleaned off with any household cleaner. Most cleaners also contain ammonia.
No visible mold growth on an item
Clothing – My client washed all clothing items 3 times in a washing machine.
Cycle 1 – Ammonia and baking soda in cold water
Cycle 2 – Borax in hot water
Cycle 3 – normal wash with detergent
Furniture – If you can remove cushion covers then wash them with the same method as clothing. All porous furniture and items like a bed mattress should be brought outdoors, vacuumed, and then sprayed with ammonia. Then left in the sun to dry.
All non-porous items can be cleaned with household cleaners. Here is where we can travel further down the rabbit hole. It is possible that the Mycotoxins produced by the mold can separately stick to surfaces as well. So in addition to cleaning all surfaces mopping all walls with ammonia containing cleaners can eliminate spores or Mycotoxins that could be sticking to walls.
Along with all of this cleaning the most effective method to clean your residence is by running HEPA air filters which will be actively cleaning the air. There are many different air filters and the main thing to think about is how small of particles the filter can catch. Most HEPA air filters will catch particles as small as .3 microns. This is small enough to catch mold spores and dust particles which would do a great job at cleaning the air. However, Mycotoxins are generally even smaller and in order to try and eliminate everything possible, purchasing an air filter that catches particles as small as .2 or even .1 microns are necessary.
In the end, how deeply you need to clean depends on your sensitivity. Unfortunately, there is a little bit of a trial an error involved in this. You need to essentially keep cleaning the air and your items until you feel like your symptoms have been alleviated, and only you can know when that is.
Just to quickly recap, the first and most important step is to eliminate the source. Fix any leaks and get mold growth professionally removed. After a clearance test has confirmed the mold has been removed you can begin the cleaning process for your items. Large items should be washed outside and left to dry in the sun. Clothing and bedding can be washed in a washing machine. When scrubbing walls and surfaces with ammonia based products make sure to ventilate your residence adequately and always consult your doctor when dealing with mold related symptoms.
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