A Silent Threat
It creeps uninvited into damp, dark places, silently infiltrating your basement, your crawlspace, and your bathroom. It’s mold — and it’s one of the most dreaded household infestations a homeowner can face. The slightest indication of mold can leave homeowners filled with dread because the unpleasant fungi are notoriously difficult to eliminate. What is worse is that mold thrives on moisture as a means to multiply in size and scope. Once a small patch of mold has been remediated, it can often remain hanging in the air or clinging to a crack in a surface, only to return with a vengeance.
There are myriad cleaning products that promise to eliminate mold completely. Aside from calling a cleanup crew, the following steps are one of the most effective ways to safely and effectively oust unwelcome mold from your home. To stop a mold infestation, you must understand where mold comes from, how it spreads, and why it’s so difficult to eliminate.
1. Stop the Leaks
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, “the only way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture.” Water damage is responsible for most of the mold found in homes, whether they’re historic houses, or brand-new buildings. Before homeowners start scrubbing mold deposits, they should focus on eliminating the source of the leak. Look for faulty pipes, and watch for leaks coming through the ceiling, as this may indicate a structural problem with the building’s roof. If the water damage is the result of a flood, hurricane or storm, it’s best to treat the problem within one to two days of the disaster, if possible. Consult a professional if sewage or other toxic materials contaminated the water, as this can pose a health hazard.
2. Monitor the Moisture
Excess moisture can also collect as a result of elevated humidity. You don’t have to live in a humid climate for this to affect your home. Dehumidifiers and air conditioners can help balance indoor humidity that might be contributing to or accelerating mold growth. Keep mold-ridden and moist areas ventilated to prevent further fungal growth. If moisture has collected anywhere, dry the area as thoroughly as possible before, during and after cleaning it.
3. Clean the Infestation
The next step is to kill any and all signs of mold that are still evident. There are plenty of solutions for how best to attack existing mold, including a fair share of natural mold remedies, such as tea tree oil. A lot of what is effective depends on the surface that you’re treating. Your best bet is to contact a supplier and/or restorer specializing in these products and processes.
Contrary to popular belief, bleach does not kill mold spores. In fact, a majority of over-the-counter products are not recommended for remediation. Spot test a small area before committing to a specific solvent. After scrubbing the affected area, make sure once again to dry it well. Avoid painting over any spots that once had mold, as spores may resurface.
4. If You Can’t Clean It, Toss It
Mold’s ability to spread depends greatly on the surface on which it grows. Wood and carpeting, for instance, is generally more porous, so spores can take hold more readily — and more permanently. It can be terribly heartbreaking to part with a favorite rug or piece of furniture that has been affected by mold, but sometimes that is the only option when dealing with a stubborn infestation. Rather than spend hours scrubbing a hard-to-remove spot and potentially missing a tiny bit of mold that can creep undetected into nooks and crannies, it’s best to say goodbye to a severely water-damaged piece of furniture or fungus-infested ceiling tiles.
5. Maintain a Mold-Free Zone
If a home has experienced water damage due to flooding or leaking, mold can set in (usually within 72 hours if all conditions are right), so it’s crucial for homeowners to take fairly swift and decisive action. Preventive maintenance can also help allay fears of an unforeseen setback. Carpeting and moisture are a bad combination, so avoid placing rugs in especially damp parts of the house or basement. Test your home’s exterior to make sure moisture can’t get in, and test for mold frequently because early detection can give homeowners the upper hand in stopping the spread of harmful spores.
Homeowners should always exercise caution when working to conquer a mold infestation alone. The spores can damage respiratory function if inhaled, and some cleaning products can be harmful if they come into contact with skin and eyes. Keep gloves, goggles and masks handy in case you experience irritation as mold releases. Bigger contamination — usually more than 10 square feet — often require the help of a professional service for safe and effective removal.
Bill Robinson is the Vice President of Operations for DKI Commercial Solutions. His main responsibility is to oversee disaster relief operations for commercial large loss in the United States. DKI Services is a nationwide disaster remediation and restoration company that offers emergency restoration services for residential and commercial buildings. Some of Bill’s efforts have been recognized throughout the media both locally and nationally.