How To: Get a Hold on Mold
Its Right Place
Molds love to set up shop in new locales. This is why it’s especially important that, during the clean-up process, you prevent them from traveling to other areas of the home where they can find moisture and get growing again.
For jobs that require more than wiping off, use tarps or plastic to seal the area so the tiny spores can’t spread. Also make sure that any nearby air ducts are sealed and that the heating or air conditioning systems are off; otherwise you run the risk of blasting spores into other rooms.
If you’re removing any moldy materials, just make sure to bag them up before you traipse them through the house; and once the affected area is dried out, give it the once-over with a HEPA vacuum, then discard the bag.
If you think you might have mold in your air system, spend a little extra and have your ducts cleaned.
Remember that mold can trigger symptoms even in people who don’t have allergies, so Dr. Ginger Chew, an epidemiologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommends that anyone doing the removal always protect themselves with an N95 mask, gloves and goggles. Those with allergies and asthma should avoid the affected area altogether – especially kids.
“It’s a case-by-case thing, but for a major rip-out of a moldy sink or cabinet, for example, I think allergic or asthmatic children should be as far away as possible,” she says. “And you’ll probably want to cover the furniture, because wherever the spores land, even if it’s dry at the time, given enough moisture and nutrients they could start growing there, too.”
Wash It Off
You’ve conquered the mold – but like any formidable opponent, it’s going to do its best to come back. That’s why it’s especially important that, when you’re finished, you wash the clothes you were wearing, and hop in a shower to send all those mold spores down the drain.
“Washing the mold spores from your hair is a good idea, because if you don’t, they can be transferred to your bed, or the sofa, or the child’s bed,” says Chew, who emphasizes that surfaces don’t need to be wet for mold to grow.
In fact, even a mattress with a tiny layer of moisture can be enough to kick start a new colony. “It can be just a thin layer of moisture that is invisible to the human eye. That’s one of the reasons that mold grows on walls, especially in climates where you have a big difference between the temperature inside and out,” she says.
Mold can reappear if the dampness isn’t quite completely eliminated, and sometimes when homes go from being improperly sealed to airtight, moisture can get trapped in unexpected areas. Burton recommends that, after any renovation or remediation, homeowners keep their eyes and noses peeled, and act quickly if they notice any signs of moisture or mold.
Still, she emphasizes that most often, the pesky fungi simply take full advantage of human neglect.
“Usually it comes from someone not dealing with the problem when it started. They had a leak, they patched it, put the wall back up and it was still leaking in behind. Or they had an issue and just painted over it.
“I can’t think of a story I’ve heard that didn’t start with a moisture problem that could have been controlled from the beginning,” Burton says. “The biggest thing is: once you find it, you fix it.”