The Ultimate Guide to Removing Mold

  • by Ben Wilson • 
  • January 17, 2020

By Ben Wilson

Published 7 months ago

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Need to get rid of mold in your property? You’re not alone. Experts estimate that there are 300,000 types of mold. But the good news is that the horror stories on the internet are mostly click bait. Just like a lot of the unqualified health information out there. 

In fact, when you know what mold is, what causes it and how to prevent it – then you can clean up your home in no time. Which is a breath of fresh air, in more ways than one. 

In this article we’ll dive in deep to ensure that your home is completely mold free. You’ll learn the ins and outs of mold, how to remove black mold and stop it coming back once and for all. 

What is Mold?

 

Mold is a plant/ fungus that fires microscopic spores into the air when it reproduces. It’s the spores that can cause health problems. Mold is a major issue for home owners the world over. But it needn’t be. 

There is nothing new about mold growing in homes. We are just getting more aware of its existence, but it’s been on the earth for millions of years. The bible even offers some advice on mold from Leviticus. Mold spores are in every home and are only an issue when the mold spores in the house exceed the number of spores outside. 

Most mouds in homes are not toxic, they are allergenic. Which means that they are not going to affect everyone. Sure mold isn’t pleasant or good for you. But the good news is that most molds are not of the toxic variety.

Sadly there is no way to know what mold that you have in your home just by looking at it. The colouration comes from what the mold eats, rather than its variety of mold. 

Mold vs Mildew

 

Mildew starts as small grey dots, often spotted around your bath, and at the bottom of your shower curtain. Mildew looks a lot like dirt, and is the lesser of the two evils. Both mold and mildew are types of fungi – but mildew is a whole lot less sinister.  

Mildew is a surface mold that can be wiped up with borax, bleach, vinegar or a household cleaner, like Cillit Bang Black Mold Remover.

Mildew can cause allergic reactions, but they are a lot less severe, plus mildew is simple to eradicate. Here are three identifying characteristics of mildew so that you can differentiate it from mold:

  • Pungent smell
  • Powdery appearance
  • Grey or brown

Mold on the other hand can be hard to remove due to its strong roots. Additionally there are some dangerous types of mold that you need to look out for. Mold is fuzzier in texture and darker in colour than mildew. Typical traits of mold include:

  • Red, green or black in colour
  • Fuzzy texture
  • Smells musty

INFO: Mildew is a surface mold that can be wiped up with borax, bleach, vinegar or a household cleaner, like Cillit Bang Black Mold Remover

5 Ways to Avoid Mold in A New Home

 

As the saying goes: “Prevention is better than cure”

This couldn’t be more true when it comes to mold. Once you let it in, it’s troublesome to remove. If you are building a new home, then it pays to invest in some mold resistant products to avoid mold infestation later on. 

Mold has an affinity for air humidity and moisture. So ensuring that everything is waterproof and water has no way of sneaking into your home is a must. 

Here are 5 steps that you can take to avoid mold getting into your home in the first place:

  1. If you go to a place that is moldy, change your clothes, shower and wash them immediately. This will prevent contamination from outside.
  2. Use a water resistant membrane in your attic and walls like SmartSHIELD and CertaWrap.
  3. Paint a protective coating on the framework of your home. Better still – use a metal frame to eliminate the chances of the frame getting moldy.
  4. Use mold resistant drywall and mold resistant drywall tape such as Adfors FDW8664
  5. You can also invest in mold resistant tile backers. Although tiles are normally porous, mold can get in between the tiles and into the wall behind. A mold resistant tile backer can protect the walls in your bathroom or kitchen. 

PRO TIP: If you are building a new home, then it pays to invest in some mold resistant products to avoid mold infestation later on. 

The 4 Most Common Types of Mold

 

According to the CDC the most common types of household mold are:

  • Cladosporium
  • Penicillium
  • Alternaria 
  • Aspergillus

No matter what kind of mold you have in your home, it will need to be cleaned up and then fix the moisture problem. In most cases this can be done by a competent adult. In saying that, some types of mold and mildew are easy to remove, while others can be more tricky. 

DIY Mold Testing

 

If you are concerned about the type of mold in your home, then you might want to invest in a mold testing kit. This will save you the hassle of hiring a mold professional. 

Mold testing kits are available for under $100 on Amazon.

Toxic Black Mold

 

A less common form of black mold is Stachybotrys Chartarum. This sort of mold colonises in homes that are in areas with a humidity of more than 55%. Which is pretty much every area in the UK and a lot of the US. The north of Scotland, UK has 70% humidity and Texas, US has about 96% humidity. Whereas Las Vegas (Nevada), US has a 20-40% humidity, which is much more acceptable.

All black molds are not toxic – simply being black doesn’t mean that it’s Stachybotrys Chartarum. You cannot discern whether a mold is toxic or not simply by looking at it. For this you’ll need to get samples tested in a lab. Or use a DIY mold testing kit. 

Another form of toxic mold is Aspergillus. This mold is found in air conditioning units, composts and damp or flood damaged buildings. Aspergillus can cause fungal infections that can infect the lungs and people with weakened immune systems. In serious (but rare) cases Aspergillus can kill.

INFO: You cannot discern whether a mold is toxic or not simply by looking at it. For this you’ll need to get samples tested in a lab. Or use a DIY mold testing kit.

How Mold Can Affect Health

 

In most cases mold isn’t toxic, but it can cause allergic reactions such as asthma attacks, skin irritation or eye infections. However, if your home tests positive for toxic black mold such as Stachybotrys Chartarum. Then there can be some serious health implications. In some instances the seriousness of toxic mold exposure in homes can be as detrimental to health as lead-based paint and asbestos.

If anyone in your home has health conditions that seemingly cannot be explained and they’ve been exposed to black mold, then toxic mold exposure could be the issue. Household mold isn’t safe for anyone, but may only lead to problems for people with weakened immune systems. 

The people most at risk for health complications due to dangerous household mold are:

  • People with allergies
  • Those with a weakened immune system
  • People suffering with lung disease

WARNING: If anyone in your home has health conditions that seemingly cannot be explained and they’ve been exposed to black mold, then toxic mold exposure could be the issue. 

How Mold Spreads

 

To thrive mold needs three conditions: food, moisture and the right temperature. Eliminating these conditions will get rid of the mold. 

Food for mold is dust and dirt. The ideal temperature for mold is 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Most molds cannot survive temperatures above 140 degrees Fahrenheit. When it comes to moisture, a humidity above 60 percent is enough to grow mold. Which is the humidity of most properties. 

It’s not uncommon for people to think that they need a burst pipe to grow mold, but that is incorrect. Wet building materials or furnishings must be cleaned and dried within 24-48 hours to avoid mold growing on them according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

That means that if rain gets into your home, the wooden floor gets wet or water gets into your basement, then there is most probably mold growing in that area. 

Other things that can grow mold in your home can be hanging washing up on the heaters. This generates a lot of moisture in the air, that mold loves. Leaks in roofs, windows, pipes or air ventilation systems are prone to mold as they come into contact with the air outside. 

Mold can grow on just about any surface like – drywall, carpet, fabric, paper, tiles, wood, dust, or cardboard. Mold isn’t fussy about where it lives, and as such it gets everywhere. 

PRO TIP: Wet building materials or furnishings must be cleaned and dried within 24-48 hours to avoid mold growing on them according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Does Bleach Kill Mold?

 

In one word – NO. Bleach will remove surface mold, but mold can grow deep roots and as such, bleach will not remove mold from porous surfaces. In some cases bleach can contribute to mold infestation on porous materials like wood, upholstery and drywall. 

Older bleach loses its effectiveness over time, as the chlorine evaporates, even through plastic. So if you are using bleach, make sure that it’s fresh. Older bleach can make matters worse by spreading the spores around and not cleaning up the mess. 

Using bleach can actually contribute to mold growth as it will only remove the surface mold. Leaving the deep roots firmly in place and watering them, creating a worse mold problem. 

WARNING: Using bleach can actually contribute to mold growth as it will only remove the surface mold. Leaving the deep roots firmly in place and watering them, creating a worse mold problem. 

Alternatives to Bleach for Killing Mold

 

Borax (sodium tetraborate) is a popular alternative to bleach for killing mold. 

Borax is a natural white mineral and salt powder made from the element boron. Borax is an alkaline eco-friendly and sustainable alternative to bleach. You can check out the Material Safety Data Sheet to confirm that Borax is a health hazard level 1. Which puts it in the same category as salt and baking soda. 

Borax is an antifungal cleanser and deodoriser that is used in detergents and cosmetics. Borax is detested by fungi, bacteria and insects and will easily cleanse your mold problem. Borax is cheaper than most other cleaners and is also an insecticide. You can mix borax with most other substances except hydrochloric and sulfuric acid. 

PRO TIP: The one occasion where bleach is necessary is when the moisture that caused the mold in the first place was from sewage.

When You Shouldn’t Try To Remove Mold

 

According to the EPA you shouldn’t try to remove mold from a surface area of more than 10 square feet. Additionally, if there is a disaster, like a flood and you have to evacuate your home for more than 24-48 hours then you might want to call a specialist to make sure that everything is safe. 

Children, the elderly or people who have weakened immune systems shouldn’t attempt to clean up mold. If the job seems too big you might want to hire a mold remediation specialist. 

Some surfaces are better off ripped out, rather than taking time to clean them. For example porous surfaces like upholstery, carpet or drywall are best removed and replaced, rather than cleaned. The exception would be if you have a small mold infestation that you can tackle quickly. 

If you decide to use the pros then search Google for “Environmental and Ecological Consultants,” or “Industrial Hygiene Consultants,” alternatively you can call your local public health department.

This guide is intended for normal domestic mold removal. Even if you decide to call in the pros, it pays to be clued up on the problem to make sure that it’s eliminated effectively. 

WARNING: Children, the elderly or people who have weakened immune systems shouldn’t attempt to clean up mold.

How Not To Remove Mold

 

If you’ve tried to remove mold from your walls in the past, you’ll be all too familiar with the problem swiftly coming back. Despite your efforts to get rid of the stuff. If you clean the surface and do nothing to prevent the spores, then the mold will grow again. 

To get rid of mold you need to get rid of the surface mold and the underlying problem. Which is often moisture. If you have mold in your home, you most likely have a moisture problem.

What You’ll Need to Clean Up Mold

 

If you have a small mold infestation, then you can clean it up quite cheaply. The following items will be enough to quickly clean up a small mold problem with little fuss:

  • Safety clothing (for small areas: goggles, gloves and an anti-dust mouth face mask will suffice)
  • Borax/ bleach
  • Sponge
  • Spray bottle (optional)
  • Scrubbing brush
  • Dish soap/ detergent
  • Warm water
  • Bucket 

Remember that you’ll need to remove the food for the mold (dust/dirt) and also dry up moisture. For this you might want to invest in a dehumidifier.

Protective Clothing for Mold Removal

 

When removing mold you need to follow several safety precautions, one is wearing clothing that will protect your mouth, nose, skin and eyes. Here are some important facts about what to wear when tackling mold removal:

Protecting Your Skin

It is essential to wear long protective gloves. The CDC suggests non-latex, vinyl, nitrile, or rubber gloves. Never touch moldy items with your bare hands. Wear sturdy shoes and preferably a boiler suit. If you don’t have a boiler suit then a long sleeved top and full-length trousers will suffice. 

Protecting Your Mouth & Nose

If you are looking to pull out a full drywall, or spend a lot of time removing moldy items,  you’ll need a full-face respirator. For smaller jobs, like removing mold on the ceiling in your bathroom, an N-95 respirator is the minimum requirement. The OSHA General Protection Guidance article  provides everything that you might need to know about working with larger areas of mold.

Protecting Your Eyes

Wear protective safety goggles that offer complete eye protection. Check that your goggles don’t have air vents or gaps, as spaces in your goggles will allow mold spores to enter. Goggles designed to protect your eyes against dust particles are ideal.

Cleaning up Small Surface Patches of Mold

 

If you have a small patch of mold then it’s really quick and easy to rectify. Especially if the mold is on a non porous surface like a shower door, wall or around your kitchen sink. You’ll want to take some minor safety precautions like wearing long rubber gloves and protective glasses before you get started.  

Borax is best suited for the job as it is a fungicide and will help prevent future mold episodes.

Additionally it’s less toxic to the environment and more sustainable. Alternatively you can use bleach and detergent, if you can’t get your hands on borax locally. You can order Borax from Amazon Prime and have it delivered to you the next day. Borax will penetrate the area to cleanse mold spores. 

Sometimes mold can be stubborn and you’ll need to leave the cleaning fluid on for longer. Normally 15 minutes will be more than enough. If you choose to use bleach then add ½ cup of bleach and a small amount of detergent to a litre of water. Don’t use any products containing ammonia with bleach as mixing the two will produce a poisonous gas. 

PRO TIP: You can order Borax  which will penetrate the area to cleanse mold spores. 

Removing Larger Mold Infestations

 

If you need to remove a larger mold infestation yourself, then proceed with caution. 

You’ll need to bring the items on the shopping list below. Some items you might already have at home. Bear in mind that you’ll want to throw out anything you use as they will contain mold spores. Follow the “Mold Removal Safety Precautions” below. 

What You’ll Need to Remove Larger Mold Infestations

 

Unlike smaller mold infestations, larger mold infestations require quite a bit of preparation. Below is a list of all of the items you’ll need to have: 

Materials

  • Long rubber gloves
  • N-95 or N-100 respirator mask
  • Scrubbing brush
  • 6 mil heavy duty plastic garbage bags
  • Borax/ bleach
  • A bucket
  • Heavy-duty cleaner
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Painter’s tape
  • Oil-based primer
  • Safety glasses
  • Old clothes/ old boiler suit (that you don’t mind throwing out afterwards)
  • Sturdy boots

Items Required if you are repairing a moldy drywall:

  • A sheet of drywall
  • Extra insulation
  • Wood preservative
  • Pressure treated wood (incase the wooden wall frames are rotten)
  • Wood glue

Machinery/ Tools for the Job

  • Window fan
  • Drywall saw
  • Paintbrush
  • Shop vacuumUtility knife 

Mold Removal Safety Precautions

 

If you need to remove mold yourself, then you’ll want to do it safely. It’s important to both protect yourself and also the rest of the property. Here are twelve safety precautions to follow:

  1. Wear protective clothing (check the protective clothing section above)
  2. Remove wet materials and dry surfaces from the premises. If there has been a leak or a flood, remove water with a wet vacuum. 
  3. Double bag mold infested materials in heavy duty 6 Mil Polyethylene Sheeting, or 6 mil plastic garbage bags, and tape it up to keep the mold inside
  4. Open doors and windows 
  5. Switch off your air conditioning or furnace as there may be mold spores inside that can spread when it’s switched on
  6. If you are cleaning air-vents, switch off electricity
  7. Use fans and dehumidifiers to move the air and remove moisture
  8. Do not mix bleach and ammonia
  9. Ensure you get to the root of the problem, and don’t just paint over the mold
  10. Discard moldy items that you cannot clean easily
  11. Spray carpets or walls that are being removed with water to stop the mold spores spreading as you remove the materials. 
  12. Seal the room up with sheets of plastic and tape to protect the rest of the house if you are removing large moldy areas

Complete Guide to Removing Large Mold Infestations

 

Whether you need to remove a moldy carpet, open up or remove moldy walls – we’ve got you covered. In all instances, take time to seal off doors with two layers of plastic to prevent the mold spreading to other areas of the property. Also cover any ventilation holes in the same way. Here is an easy step by step guide to getting rid of large mold infestations:

How to Remove a Moldy Carpet in 4 Steps

Step 1 – Follow the safety precautions above. To recap – wear safety clothing, open windows and external doors, seal off other areas of the house with a plastic sheet, dampen carpet with pump sprayer (to prevent mold spores traveling as you remove carpet)

Step 2 – Once you have prepared the area, cut moldy carpet and underlay into roughly 2x3m sections using a strong stanley knife. 

Step 3 – Roll up sections and double wrap them with heavy duty 6 mil plastic wrap. 

Step 4 – Tape up rolls of carpet and dispose of them safely.

How to Remove Moldy Walls or Ceilings in 7 Steps

Step 1 – Follow the safety precautions above. To recap – wear safety clothing, open windows and external doors, seal off other areas of the house with a plastic sheet. Switch off electricity as you may touch power outlets or wires as you cut through the drywall. 

Step 2 – Run trimming knife along the top of your baseboards (Skirting boards), then use a hammer and chisel between the skirting and the wall, to pry the boards off the wall.

Step 3 – Check for moisture damaged areas

Step 4 – Poke whole in the drywallCut drywall back, beyond the damaged areas in a square or rectangle. 

Step 5 – Mist moldy drywall so that the spores don’s spread as you remove the damaged material. The insulation is likely to be moldy too.

Step 6 – Remove all of the damaged material and double bag in heavy duty 6 mil bags. Then tie them and tape them to secure the waste material. 

Step 7 – Clean wood and check for rot. If rot is present clean the wood and paint with wood preservative. Strengthen the rotten wood with pressure treated wood by adding an extra length of wood and sticking it to the existing wood with wood glue.

Cleaning Up After Mold Removal

 

Remove soiled material by placing it all in a heavy duty garbage bag. Then use trisodium phosphate (TSP) or for the more environmentally conscious – stick with the Borax! It does the same job, without the toxic side effects.

Let the area dry before sealing. Dehumidifiers and fresh fans can be used to help the area dry. 

Once dry you can seal up the drywall and replace the trimmings. 

5 Steps to Prevent Mold Coming Back

 

If you are building a home, make sure to check out our 5 tips for preventing mold in new builds above. After removing mold infestation in a property, make sure that you take steps to prevent mold in the future by following the following 5 steps:

Step 1 – Control dampness – use a dehumidifier if necessary

Step 2 – Prevent leaks

Step 3 – Ensure good ventilation 

Step 4 – Route water away from the foundation of the property

Step 5 – Use a mildewcide paint additive when painting in the bathroom, kitchen and any areas that might get moldy

How Much Does Mold Removal Cost?

 

The decision on whether to do the mold removal yourself or call in a mold remediation expert will alter the costs significantly. Firstly you need to ascertain the extent of the damage. 

Remember, what you see is only the tip of the iceberg, mold roots grow deep when mold is living on porous surfaces. 

Other surfaces like plastic, metal or ceramic tiles just need a surface clean, while porous surfaces require a lot more vigilance. In some cases the mold is airborne and can cause a real problem, as it is much harder to clean up all of the moldy areas. 

Ensuring that your family is healthy and safe is always the main priority. Cost is secondary. A small infestation will cost around $30 (£23) – all you really need is some cleaning supplies, rubber gloves and a mask. You may also want to invest in a mold test kit from Amazon at around $65 (£49). 

A slightly larger DIY project is the removal of drywall and the replacement of household items.  For anything larger you need to call in the experts. Below is a rough guide on how much you might expect to pay on mold removal:

  • Small DIY Mold Removal Job – Under $100 (£76)
  • Medium DIY Mold Removal Job – Under $500 (£385)
  • Small – Medium Professional Mold Removal Job – $500-$4000 (£385-£3100)
  • Large Professional Mold Removal Job – Up to $30,00 or more (£23,000+)

Be sure to check the prices of your local mold specialists to get the best deal. You’ll want to make sure that there is some sort of guarantee in place, in case the mold comes back. 

Depending on the cause of your mold problem, you might be able to claim some (or all) of the costs on your home insurance. 

The Bottom Line

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