Indoor Mold - Part 2
Part 2 - Mold Problems and Indoor Air Quality
Safety Precautions To Take When Around Mold
As we learned last month, mold (also called mildew) is an allergy trigger that can cause chronic sinusitis, itchy eyes, runny nose and sore throat in millions of Americans. In addition, some molds can be toxic, emitting spores that cause symptoms ranging from a dull headache to nausea and mental lapses. For this reason, it is wise to limit your exposure to mold and mold spores by taking appropriate safety measures when around it. While your environment may not host such dangerous mold species as Stachybotrys, it is still wise to use caution when beginning a mold clean-up project.
Protect Your Lungs: Wear an N95 rated respirator/mask when working around mold. These masks, when worn properly, will prevent mold spore as well as other allergens from entering your lungs. The N95 rating was developed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and means the mask media will filter 95% of all non-oil based airborne particulates. N95 rated masks are used by most professionals in the mold remediation business.
Protect Your Hands & Skin: Wear rubber gloves, preferably those that extend to the middle of the forearm, to prevent inadvertent contact with the mold contaminated area. If you are sensitive to latex, there are gloves available made of other materials such as vinyl.
Protect Your Eyes: Mold allergen is already an irritant causing many to have runny nose and watery eyes. Goggles are an important defense against getting potentially dangerous mold spore in your eyes. Goggles that don't have ventilation holes are best. Standard swimming goggles can be used for smaller projects, but may fog if used extensively.
A mold problem in your home may not call for an expensive remediation specialist. In fact, you can breathe easier knowing that mold remediation is often as simple as finding the source of moisture and eliminating it. It would also be helpful to know the history of your home or apartment complex. For example, have you or previous owners experienced water damage or leakage of any kind? Has the foundation been inspected for moisture or seepage? Below are some practical, cost-saving cleaning tips to help you eliminate unsightly mold stains, and to prevent further growth:
- Repair all moisture leaks. Mold can only thrive in areas with moisture. Water leaks and damage should be repaired within 48 hours of occurrence in order to prevent mold growth.
- Before cleaning an affected area, lightly spray it with water or your chosen cleaning solution. This will prevent the spores from becoming airborne as you clean. And remember to wear gloves, goggles, and a mask as noted above.
- Scrub mold off of hard surfaces with cleaner and let dry completely. Some porous and absorbent materials, such as ceiling tiles, that cannot be cleaned completely may need to be thrown away or replaced entirely.
- Do not just paint or caulk over a moldy surface. First, clean the area thoroughly, let it dry completely (24 hours if you have used a chlorine based product), and then treat the area with No More Mildew or paint with a mold-retardant like M-1 added to the paint.
- Clean your showers, windowsills, kitchens, basement and other areas that might be prone to moisture and mold growth. Treat these surfaces with a mold inhibitor such as No More Mildew.
- Closely monitor and clean appliances such as humidifiers, water based vaporizers and air conditioning units that generate or collect moisture. Note: Arizona and other desert-state residents may know about evaporative swamp coolers. Believe it or not, despite the dry climate, these cooling units are major mold culprits. Regularly clean your swamp cooler to prevent mold spore from growing and disseminating into the air.
- Basements have all the conditions that help mold thrive. Keep your basement clean by removing moldy articles, cleaning all surface molds, then spraying floors, walls and joists with a mold preventative. Use a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture.
- Clean the air in your environment by utilizing a HEPA air cleaner. HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particulate Arrestor and is a NASA-developed technology that will remove airborne mold spore and other harmful allergens (99.97% of them, in fact!) by circulating and purifying the air.
The following is a handy guide outlining some common mold-affected areas and the best methods for cleaning them. Again, remember to wear gloves, goggles, and an N95 rated mask during cleanup. Also, please note that these guidelines are for surface areas of 10 square feet or less. If the evidence of mold covers more than 10 square feet, you should seek professional consultation as it may be endangering your health and could require containment:
- Monitor humidity and temperature levels in your home regularly. Humidity levels should not be above 60%.
- Provide adequate ventilation and air circulation in the home by installing exhaust fans and opening room doors and windows (individuals allergic to pollen or sensitive to other outdoor pollutants should use discretion about keeping windows open).
- Keep a close eye on areas prone to condensation. Cover cold surfaces with insulation and increase the air temperature when condensation begins to appear.
- In the bathroom, run the vent fan or open windows during and after a shower so that the moisture can dissipate. Use a mildew resistant shower curtain that can be easily laundered. Avoid using carpeted surfaces that absorb moisture. Use a mold-inhibiting paint or M-1 Paint Additive.
- Avoid foam-rubber upholstery and bedding items as they are more prone to mold growth. Bedding encasings are a good precaution against mold growth and they keep away the dust mites too!
- Keep a limited number of houseplants, and try adding a mold-preventative to the soil.
- Vent your clothes dryer to the outside of the house and do not let clothes sit for long in damp heaps, in or out of the washer.
- Periodically check carpet laid directly on concrete surfaces as the carpeting can absorb moisture. Consider covering concrete floors or crawl-space floors with plastic sheets or tarps in moisture-prone areas.
- If necessary, use an electric dehumidifier to keep the relative humidity below 60%.
From the EPA - Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings - Table 2: Guidelines for Remediating Building Materials with Mold Growth Caused by Clean Water.
|Material or Finishing Affected
||Personal Protective Equipment
|Books and Papers
||N95 respirator, gloves, and goggles
|Carpet and Backing
|Concrete or cinder block
|Hard surface, porous flooring (linoleum, ceramic tile, vinyl)
||1, 2, 3
|Non-porous, hard surfaces (plastic, metals)
||1, 2, 3
|Upholstered furniture and drapes
|Wallboard (drywall and gypsum board)
||1, 2, 3
- Method 1: Wet vacuum (in the case of porous materials, some mold spores or fragments will remain in the material but will not grow if the material is completely dried). Steam cleaning may be an alternative for carpets and some upholstered furniture.
- Method 2: Damp-wipe surfaces with plain water or with water and detergent solution (except on wood - use wood floor cleaner); scrub as needed.
- Method 3: High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) vacuum after the material has been thoroughly dried. Dispose of the contents of the HEPA vacuum in well-sealed plastic bags.
Prevention: It's Easier Than You Think!
Even if you live in a very humid area or your hometown has seen more rain than usual this summer, you are not necessarily resigned to having mold problems. The following tips will help you to keep moisture and humidity from turning into a potentially dangerous mold problem.
When It May Be Time To Get Help
Duct Cleaning is normally recommended for homes that are 15 to20 years old; for homes that have been flooded or suffered water damage; and in instances where a surface-sample mold test reveals mold spore within your ducts and component parts. Should you deem it necessary to have your ducts cleaned, be aware that it will stir up the allergens within your ductwork. As a precaution, we recommend that children and sensitive adults limit their exposure to the air in the home for 24 hours while a HEPA filter purifies the new air.
As stated above, mold problems affecting less than 10-square foot areas are manageable by homeowners. When the affected area is greater than this, the EPA and other agencies advise seeking professional assessment. If you are concerned with specific items that may have mold infestation, particularly those of sentimental or monetary value, consult a specialist to help you clean these items. Finally, should a do-it-yourself mold test reveal the presence of Stachybotrys mold, you should avoid any exposure to the area and seek professional help immediately due to the high toxicity of this dangerous mold.
You can find a mold remediation specialist by visiting the American Industrial Hygienist Association website and searching for a consultant in your area. Also check the yellow pages under Mold and Mildew or Indoor Air Quality. Most telephone directories list a variety of specialists in restoration, conservation, furniture repair and cleaning, etc.
Go Back To Part I
This information is for educational purposes only. Always consult with your doctor first about your specific condition, treatment options and other health concerns you may have.