Removing mold (remediation)

If you’ve found mold, toxic black mold or otherwise, in your home or business, the next step is to get to work removing the mold. Professionals call the job mold remediation. Mold remediation can be an expensive endeavor, largely because mold often grows out of view.

Regardless of the scale of the problem, when water restoration and remediation professionals deal with a mold issue they process generally includes the following.

  1. Remove moisture from the area
  2. Isolate the are with the mold issue
  3. Remove mold spores and toxins
  4. Mold removal
  5. Cleaning-up the clean-up

1. Remove moisture from the area

Mold often follows a water event such as a hurricane or storm, a flood, or a broken pipe. Regardless of source, if there’s standing water or waterlogged carpet, furniture or other building materials or furnishings, that’s where cleanup starts.

The first order of business is pumping any standing water out of the area. The next area of focus is on the moisture content in the air. Relative humidity needs to be brought down beneath 55%. This task is taken on by portable, commercial dehumidifiers meant to dry out the air quickly.

While performing a similar task to a residential dehumidifier, the dehumidifiers ones used by mold remediation professionals are meant to endure constant use over a long period of time. They’re often louder than their household counterparts as the primary task is completing the job at hand quickly. That’s because mold can start forming in as little as 24-48 hours.

2. Isolate the area with the mold issue

Cordoning off the specific area with the moisture and mold problem helps in three ways. First, isolating the area can prevent mold spores, pollutants and other bacteria from migrating from the affected area to other areas. Second, it can allow the rest of the structure to be used while the mold removal process is underway. Third, since the air will need to be purified, limiting the how much air needs to be processed can speed up the clean-up.

How extensive the mold growth is dictates the tactics used to isolate the area. Regardless of the scope of the problem, the HVAC system should be shut off. For less extensive circumstances, closing windows and doors may be enough. On the more extreme end of the spectrum, sheets of polyethelene and duct tape are employed.

3. Remove mold spores, pollutants and toxins

Air scrubbers create negative air pressure and trap harmful particulates. But, before enlisting air scrubbers, take steps to prevent airflow in the building or residence. As mentioned in the previous step, turn off the HVAC system and air movers. Next, strategically place air scrubbers, fans and air movers to direct and filter the air in the mold-affected area.

With air scrubbers and fans running, verify that negative pressure has been achieved by inspecting seals at windows, doors, or where polyethylene sheathing has been put in place. Make adjustments to ensure that negative pressure is achieved. Without negative pressure, air scrubbers won’t be able to effectively clean the air of mold spores, pollutants and toxins.

Note: be sure to know the difference between an air scrubber and a negative air machine. The terms are often used interchangeably. For an effective cleanup, an air scrubber with HEPA filtration is required. The best air scrubbers for mold removal aren’t cheap. Prices start around $500 and only go up from there.

Tip: If renting or purchasing an air scrubber, be sure you get one that will perform the minimum required air changes per hour (ACH) for the level of mold cleanup, and area (square feet) being treated.

4. Mold removal

Mold spores are very hearty. They can remain dry and dormant for years and their microscopic size allows them to easily travel in the air, undetected. Therefore, when cleaning dry surfaces, special care must be taken so mold spores don’t become airborne.

Using a water sprayer, mist the dry surfaces before cleaning them. While this step is important, it isn’t foolproof. And, even if every surface is handled with utmost care, some mold spores will still become airborne. For this reason, negative pressure should be maintained and air scrubbers should remain running until the entire mold removal and cleanup process is complete.

Clean and disinfect, and dry all surfaces.

Mold removal requires that both porous and non-porous materials that mold feeds upon are dealt with. Examples of non-porous material are glass, hard plastic and metal. Semi-porous materials include concrete, insulation, paper and wood. Inspect all material and household items. If the extent of the damage to non-porous materials is minor, such as limited to surface-level mold, the item or material can often be cleaned and saved.

If water damage and contamination is severe for non-porous, and more importantly, porous materials, they should be removed and replaced. The risk is much higher with semi-porous, and especially high with porous material. The more porous a material is, the better the chance that mold has infiltrated deep into the material.

Examples of porous and semi-porous materials include, but are not limited to:

  • Cardboard
  • Carpet
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Clothing
  • Drywall
  • Furniture
  • Insulation
  • Wood

Mold removal is complete when all visible mold has been taken care of and materials that are deemed too-compromised to save are removed. Once complete, the area should still remain isolated and air scrubbers and movers should be left running until the area is completely dry.

5. Cleaning-up the clean-up

Once the mold has been cleaned up, there’s one more thing to do: Clean-up the clean-up. Let us explain.

The last thing that could happen at this point is for the mold which was removed to take hold in the same, or a new environment. To prevent that from happening, properly clean and/or dispose of of all clothing, tools, supplies and mold-laiden material from the cleanup.

Clean all reusable tools, protective clothing and equipment. Clean air movers and replace filters in dehumidifiers and air scrubbers.

Finally, place everything that is disposable as well as all moldy material into strong, puncture-resistant bags. Double or triple-bag the trash before sending it to a landfill.