Mold infestations are common in houses, especially in wetter regions like the Pacific Northwest. The moist winters here can do a number on wood, drywall, and flooring, so it’s important to clean mold before it gets bad. Removing mold from your home may seem like a daunting task, but it isn’t as complicated as it may seem. With the right tools and process, you’ll be able to rid your space of mold and mildew in no time.
How to Get Rid of Mold
- Identify the Mold-Infested Areas
- Determine What May Be Causing the Mold
- Repair the Moisture Problem
- Isolate the Contaminated Area
- Control the Spread of Dust
- Remove and Discard Affected Materials
- Clean Contaminated Area
- Look for Any Remaining Mold
- Dry the Space
- Replace and Reinstall Materials
1. Identify the Mold-Infested Areas
Mold is a fungus that propagates by releasing its spores into the air, which allows it to find a new home on any damp surface. Mold can be found anywhere that is moist and warm, and unfortunately thrives in the same temperature range as humans: 40 and 100 F. The most common mold found in houses is mildew, which won’t damage the structural integrity of your house by itself but may be a sign of rot. Before implementing a remediation plan, document the infestation with photos and videos.
2. Determine What May Be Causing the Mold
A mildew infestation consists of tiny black spots that can grow into large colonies that are often found on damp walls, house siding, and shower grout. Their location can give you an idea of what is causing them to spread. Mildew colonies can be hard to distinguish from dirt, but if it’s in an at-risk area subject to moisture, it’s most likely mold. Odor is also a telltale sign; mold smells musty and large colonies can make a room smell especially funky. Check for unwanted moisture in and under carpets, on walls, in crawl spaces, on the roof, etc; anywhere that can be subjected to moisture is at risk for mildew. It’s important to clean up these damp and possibly moldy areas to get rid of mold smell and to prevent the spread from getting worse; it’s hard to track where the spores have gone and how deep the mold has grown.
How to Get Rid of Mold Smell
- Use an odor absorber
- Increase air circulation
- Change air filters regularly
- Use a dehumidifier
- Don’t let wet laundry sit
3. Repair the Moisture Problem
Now that you’ve identified your problem areas, it’s crucial to fix the moisture problem. If you can prevent built-up moisture in the area, you will lengthen the life of your remediation efforts. Doing this first is important because you want to keep all of your new, replacement materials as dry as possible.
4. Isolate the Contaminated Area
Next, it’s time to isolate the area. As I said above, mold propagates by spores, and any removal of mold can trigger their release. Isolating the contaminated area decreases the possible spread of the infestation. This may include closing any doors or windows nearby to physically seal off the spot. For larger infestations, you may need to cover all doorways and openings with 6 mil polyethylene sheeting, sealing every seam with duct tape and leaving a slip entrance.
5. Control the Spread of Dust
Suppressing dust with a mist will also prevent the spread of spores. It may be counterintuitive to dampen areas that you’re trying to remediate, but mold spores are dry and they will release if subjected to any agitation. Keeping them moist will prevent the spores from entering the air and finding new spots to infest.
6. Remove and Discard Affected Materials
Once the area has been isolated and dampened, it’s time to begin removing the damaged materials. Remove anything that is wet and porous which shows signs of mold growth. Unfortunately, in order to get rid of black mold on wood, you may need to scrape, remove, and replace the wooden materials. All moldy materials can be treated like regular garbage, but they must be double-bagged in two plastic garbage bags that are 6 mil thick. The bags must be tied shut and wiped down with a damp cloth and detergent before leaving the contaminated area.
7. Clean Contaminated Area
After removing all of the damaged porous materials, it’s time to clean all of the non-porous surfaces. It’s best to clean these vigorously with a wire brush and scrub them with a damp, soapy cloth. This is a great way to remove mold from walls. After the cleaning, rinse the area with clean water to ensure that all of the mold has been removed. Dispose of all cleaning materials in the same fashion as you would everything else that has contacted the mold: 6 mil polyethylene bags, cleaned before leaving the contaminated area. The cleaning process is divided into two levels based on the size of the infestation. Level 1 remediation is saved for smaller areas up to 10 square feet and requires only a damp cloth with a detergent solution. Level 2, on the other hand, is a bit more involved as it should be used for areas up to 30 square feet. This kind of remediation requires initial vacuuming using a HEPA vacuum before scrubbing the surface down with a rag and detergent.
How to Remove Mold From Walls
- Fill a spray bottle with white vinegar and spray on mildew.
- Let it sit for a few hours.
- Soak an abrasive sponge in hot water and then baking soda.
- Scrub mildew off of the surface.
8. Look for Any Remaining Mold
After a thorough cleaning, a simple visibility test should help you determine if you’ve removed all of the mold. Make sure that the whole area is visibly free of any mold, dust, or dirt. If you can’t see any debris in the contamination area, it’s time to move onto the next step.
9. Dry the Space
Drying the affected area is very important because ultimately the whole issue was initially caused by unwanted moisture. To speed up the process, feel free to use dehumidifiers, higher room temperatures, and fans to dry all of the remaining materials and evaporate any moisture in the space. Drying spaces like this is a great way to get mold out of the carpet.
How to Get Mold Out of Carpet
- Clean the carpet with a steam cleaner OR scrub the carpet with a cloth and detergent.
- Mix 1 cup of bleach with 1 gallon of water and apply directly to the contaminated spot. DO NOT mix this with any detergent containing ammonia.
- Let it sit for 15 minutes.
- Pat the area dry with a rag.
10. Replace and Reinstall Materials
Lastly, it’s time to replace all of the materials that you removed and discarded. This means replacing drywall, carpeting, or wood parts that succumbed to the mold. After replacing everything, keep an eye on the area to make sure that your hard work continues to last through storms and wear and tear. Having fixed the moisture problem in step three, you hopefully won’t have to worry about a mold infestation occurring again anytime soon.
Call in the Professionals
Some mold and mildew infestations can be handled by homeowners themselves, but for bigger jobs, removal is often more involved than a simple scrub and dry. The more mold that you see, the more likely that it has grown deeper into the material than you think, and therefore is quite a bit harder to remove. If you have a larger mold situation, it’s best to call in the professionals to do it for you so they can effectively remove the infestation to ensure the safety of your family. Here at JSE Labs, we offer laboratory mold testing and inspections so that you can learn more about your mold and mildew problems before taking it to the professionals. We can help you judge whether it’s a job that can be handled at home, or not.
Lisa started in the industrial hygiene and environmental industry in 1992 as an asbestos microscopist and began performing building inspections for asbestos, lead paint, and other hazards in 1994.
“This career has been an amazing experience, traveling for work to perform inspections both locally and abroad to locations such as Hawaii and Germany. My real love however is being in the laboratory and assisting our wonderful clients.”