Can I Clean Up Mold Myself?
The answer to the question of “Do I need to hire a professional for mold?” is “It depends on a number of factors.” The major factors are the size and extent of growth and the health conditions of the occupants of the affected home or business. A detailed and careful assessment of the mold contamination can help to answer the question.
Before addressing mold growth, it is necessary to correct the issues that caused the growth; otherwise, the mold will return. Once the source is repaired, then the mold can be remediated.
Sources of Mold and Moisture
Mold spores exist naturally in the air everywhere, indoors and outdoors. Unusual mold conditions exist when indoor levels of mold are higher than outdoor levels of mold.
Mold requires oxygen, moisture, and a food source in order to grow. Naturally, oxygen and food sources exist everywhere in our homes—food sources are porous items, such as drywall, carpeting, and cardboard. Therefore, the only item that we can control to prevent mold growth is moisture. By addressing moisture issues quickly, and keeping conditions dry within a building, we can keep mold from growing indoors.
Moisture problems in homes usually come in two forms: emergency events or long-lasting events. Emergency events consist of conditions that occur suddenly, such as plumbing breaks, roof leaks, or flooding. Long-lasting events are conditions that develop over a longer period of time, such as incorrect attic ventilation, humid basements and crawl spaces, and other chronic building issues.
Common Moisture Sources and Causes
Water entering through ceiling
Roof leak or plumbing leak
Water entering basement
Broken or clogged gutters, lack of gutter extensions, or improper grading
Generalized black staining in attic on sheathing
Insufficient or blocked ventilation
Small local area of black staining in attic
Bathroom vent fan bringing moist air into attic
Home Maintenance Tips
In most cases, the moisture cause should be identified and repaired prior to cleanup activities.
- Your gutters should be cleaned regularly and repaired as soon as a problem is found. Otherwise, rainwater could be running right into your foundation.
- The grading around your home should direct water away from the foundation, rather than toward it.
- If you have a water leak or spill, it should be addressed immediately. Mold can grow in just 24 to 48 hours.
- If you have a bathroom vent fan, use it. The buildup of humidity can lead to mold growth over time.
- Your bathroom vent fan should exhaust the moisture air in the exterior, rather than in the attic. A bathroom fan sending humid air into the attic will cause mold growth right above the vent.
- Attics should have proper ventilation in the eaves and ridge; if the attic cannot breathe, moist stagnant air can cause mold contamination throughout the attic.
- Most basements should have dehumidifiers running to keep things dry.
- How do you track humidity? With a simple humidity meter, you can make sure your relative humidity is between 30–50%.
- Keep condensation lines and drain lines clear of obstructions and debris. Make an effort to check them on a regular basis.
Mold Cleanup Basics and Guidelines
Once the moisture is addressed, the mold removal can be completed. The US Environmental Protection Agency suggests that homeowners can handle mold cleanup of areas less than 10 square feet. However, in cases of larger contamination or where occupants have medical or allergy concerns, a professional opinion should be sought. In any case, the cleanup should be performed by individuals wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), including:
- An N-95 respirator to prevent mold spores from being inhaled.
- Goggles to keep mold spores from your eyes.
- Rubber gloves and Tyvek suits to keep mold spores from contacting skin.
The process for mold removal includes the following basic steps:
- Containment: Plastic barriers and negative air machines should be set up to prevent mold from spreading during the removal process. Negative air machines, also known as air scrubbers, are equipped with HEPA filters to remove mold spores from the air.
- Dehumidification: The affected areas should be dried in order to stop the mold growth.
- Controlled demolition: If the affected items are porous, such as drywall, they should be cut out, bagged, and removed from the site.
- Cleaning: The affected nonporous areas, such as wood, should be cleaned with an antimicrobial solution. The antimicrobial solution works to kill the mold spores on the surfaces. In many cases, bleach can be used; however, if dead mold spores are not removed, they can still affect the health of occupants.
- HEPA vacuuming: Surfaces should be vacuumed with a machine equipped with a HEPA filter. As mold spores are microscopically small, only a HEPA filter will be effective at trapping them.
Professional remediation will generally include some form of clearance testing—clearance testing is used to evaluate the success of the project. As airborne mold spores are not visible, air testing is often performed to find if abnormal conditions are present.
When Is My Mold Cleanup Done?
Mold remediation is considered to be complete under the following conditions:
- No visible mold is present.
- Moldy/musty odors are not present.
- No signs of water damage are seen.
- The area can be re-occupied without causing health issues or discomfort.
For Further Reading
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.