Household Mold (Part 3): Remediation
It’s time to get BOLD with MOLD. Welcome to the third (and final) segment of my introductory series on Household Mold. In PART 1, we explored types of mold, where to look for it, and how to prevent it. PART 2 got personal by diving into how mold can affect your health, including insomnia, anxiety, and depression. Today you’ll learn how to properly handle mold in your home.
Mold can be a sight to behold, and can be quite unnerving when its discovered unexpectedly. I’m not referring to the little moldy grout corners that can show up in a shower stall from time to time. I’m talking about the aggressive, mean stuff that is out to take over the world.
When I Found Mold in My Home
A few years ago, my husband and I remodeled a home. The previously owners had used one of the rooms as a home office and we wanted to change it back into a guest suite. The room was filled with built-in cabinets and a desk that needed to be removed. When our contractor pulled the units off the wall, we were unfortunately greeted by a moldy mess. Every inch of the dry wall behind the cabinets was covered with black mold. It was devastating. Not only did it add cost to the project, it added complexity to the process as well.
Luckily, the home was gutted and no one was living there. We had the opportunity to have everything removed, cleaned, and replaced. Our air quality tests came back clean with only traces of common outdoor molds due to the lawn being mowed the morning of the test.
But what happens when you discover mold in your home? Or, when you discover that mold in your body is what is making you sick, leading you to go on the hunt for the source?
Mold Sleeps in the Walls
Mold is sneaky, and can be hiding dormant in the walls of almost every home. I recently had a conversation with a builder who said he has mold on almost every piece of lumber that is delivered to his projects. They just spray it down with bleach and keep building. Unfortunately, this is a common approach and is completely the wrong thing to do, especially inside of a home or other building.
You see, bleach just makes mold angry. While it might change the color of the mold, it doesn’t kill it. Taking its revenge, mold will release its teeny tiny spores into the air (think wishing on a dandelion), thus contaminating carpets, furniture, dark and damp spaces, and air ducts in the home. So now, not only is the mold ticked off, you have spores all over the home and porous wood that is wet with bleach (creating a prime food source for mold and all its moldy friends). Remember, mold, like every living creature, needs food, water, and shelter to survive. Sealing damp, moldy wood up in an air-tight building envelope creates a dark, warm, and delicious paradise for it to thrive. No Bueno.
As an aside, bleach only works on non-porous, solid surfaces. Wood and grout do not fall into this category.
If mold is dormant and the wood is dry when it is enclosed inside the walls, mold will likely stay asleep. Although some molds do not release a smell when active, many do – called mycotoxin. This is that musty, moldy smell often associated with grandma’s basement. The inhalation of mycotoxin can also be harmful to human health. It just takes a little water for mold to “wake up”, so if you smell it, chances are that the mold is on a feeding and reproductive frenzy. Therefore, it is incredibly important to keep an eye on the vulnerable parts of your home like roofs, rain guttering, exterior-facing walls and corners, foundations, basements, and areas with indoor plumbing (bathrooms and kitchens). Also, no need to cut into your drywall to try to find mold. You don’t want to risk “spore-spreading”. A professional has special cameras and meters that can detect water damage that may not be visible.
Mold is serious business and should not be taken lightly. The internet offers a plethora of DIY mold remediation solutions and products. Some companies will try to sell you UV, ionizing, and ozone accessories for your HVAC system (none of which are good for your overall indoor air quality), and foggers that introduce toxic chemicals into your living space. These companies claim that their devices and chemicals are healthy and non-toxic. However, they do not have an understanding of the downstream biological impact their products can have on the home and the people living there.
Out of curiosity, I called one of these companies who claimed their DIY foggers were safe and EPA approved, a perfect example of “greenwashed” marketing practices. I asked for something called the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). What I received was a list of awful chemicals that I would never introduce into my home. Never. My advice? Go Pro.
There is a reason why there are complex and lengthy training programs for professional mold remediators. This stuff is dangerous.
Always choose a remediation company or professional that is Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certified, or IICRC. You can search for a certified professional in your area by clicking HERE. If a mold professional says they want to fog or spray down the mold, do not hire this person. A true remediation specialist will seal the area and remove the mold-contaminated materials. While this may be expensive, I encourage you to settle for nothing less.
It bears repeating, if you uncover active mold in your home, do not touch or disturb it. Look for the source of water that is contributing to the issue and handle it. It’s also best to seal the area until you can have an IICRC professional in your home. And remember, not all heroes wear capes. Sometimes they show up in a Hazmat Suit.
There are also companies that can measure the air in various parts of your home for mold and mycotoxin presence. This can be a key to discovering both the presence and type of mold in the home. I personally had success with Adaptive Environmental Consulting. They have several teams located across the U.S. that have done great work for my remote clients as well.
Life After Mold
Our homes are delicate ecosystems that directly affect our health and wellbeing. Just like we get routine check-ups for body, skin, eyes, and teeth, the home can benefit from the same attention. I can help. For friendly reminders on how to maintain the health of your home, sign up for the Uplifting Spaces Healthy Home Calendar HERE. You can also purchase safe and healthy cleaning products HERE.
Let’s be sure to connect to talk about your home and your health, including how your home may be a factor contributing to insomnia, anxiety, depression, and EHS. Your home could be the missing link to your healing journey. Schedule time HERE.
Until next time,