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Removing Mold From Your Home

NRDC offers the following recommendations on how to conduct your mold cleanup in a manner that is safe and effective. Please note that these simplified recommendations are no substitute for professional knowledge and experience, and NRDC cannot assume liability for the safe and successful completion of your mold cleanup. If your home was badly flooded, consult a building professional if possible.


Why should I be concerned about mold?

When returning to your home you are almost certain to encounter mold. Mold is the common name used to describe various types of fungus that can be found growing both indoors and outdoors, especially in moist warm environments. Mold can be a dangerous indoor air contaminant and in residential settings usually requires prompt attention and cleanup.


How can mold affect my health or my kids' health?

Mold growing on damp surfaces releases spores into the air, which, if inhaled, can cause congestion, sneezing, runny or itchy nose and throat irritation. More serious symptoms include major allergy attacks, cough, asthma attacks, hypersensitivity pneumonitis (a pneumonia-like illness) and even infections in people with immune system problems. The elderly and young children are especially sensitive to mold. Mold can cause allergic reactions whether it's dead or alive, and some molds may even be toxic.


How can I protect myself and my family from mold?

  • Open windows and doors to provide ventilation and fresh air (but don't allow mold to blow into unaffected areas).

  • Do not touch mold or moldy items with bare hands.

  • When you are indoors where there may be mold, such as in a flooded house, wear nitrile gloves and an N95 respirator mask (you can buy these at your local hardware store for about $5).

  • If you are doing cleanup or debris removal in a moldy environment, wear full protective gear: gloves, a respirator, safety glasses, a Tyvek suit over your clothing, and boots or boot covers on your feet. Be sure to remove and dispose of the Tyvek suit and footwear as soon as you leave the moldy area -- don't take contaminated protective gear back into a car or living quarters.


How do I safely remove mold from my home?

  • Decreasing moisture in your home is the most critical factor for controlling mold growth. Use a dehumidifier or fans, if possible, to dry out your home.

  • Indoor mold growth may not always be obvious visually. It is likely that mold is growing in areas where you can't see it -- such as behind wallpaper or drywall, under flooring, carpets, or carpet padding, or above ceiling tiles. If your home was seriously flooded, assume that mold will be hidden in these areas. If in doubt, tear it out.

  • Remove all carpets and other porous flooring material, and remove drywall down to the studs -- simply cleaning mold off the surface of walls will not solve the problem.

    • After removing drywall, allow the exposed studs and materials to fully dry.

    • Use a High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) vacuum to clean any dust, dirt or other small debris in exposed studs and crevices. Dispose of the vacuum filter in a well-sealed plastic bag.

    • Studs can be safely cleaned with a bleach solution (see below), or with products containing quaternary ammonium compounds, aluminum hydroxide or barium compounds (check the labels for ingredients). After cleaning, make sure the area is fully dried.

    • Wear full protective gear when cleaning and make sure not to get these products on your skin or in your eyes, and avoid breathing in the fumes by using a respirator and providing good ventilation.

    • If there is visible mold on studs or wood floors, the best treatment is to sand them down to physically remove the mold (since liquid solutions will not kill spores and may not penetrate deeply enough into the wood). Sanding down mold-contaminated surfaces is dangerous and should be performed by a trained professional who is certified to do mold and hazardous materials cleanups, and who is wearing appropriate protective gear (including a respirator that has been fit-tested).

  • Throw away all non-cleanable items that have been wet for more than two days or that have visible mold. Non-cleanable items include mattresses, carpeting and carpet padding, rugs, stuffed animals, upholstery, wallpaper, drywall, floor and ceiling tiles, insulation material, clothing, leather, paper, soft plastics and wood. These items can hold spores and remain a source of mold growth for years, so they should be removed from your home immediately.

  • To remove or prevent mold growth on cleanable surfaces, wash them with dish or laundry detergent, a stiff brush and hot water. Cleanable surfaces include concrete, metal, hard tile, glazed ceramic and hard plastic.

  • Fix any leaky plumbing or other water problems to avoid having new moisture enter your home.

  • After you complete cleanup, use a HEPA vacuum to clean up any dust or debris. Dispose of the vacuum filter in a well-sealed plastic bag.

  • If you choose to use bleach, other disinfectants or biocides to remove mold, take the following precautions:

    • Never mix bleach with ammonia. Mixing bleach with ammonia can produce dangerous toxic fumes.

    • Never use full-strength bleach. Always dilute the bleach (one part bleach to ten parts water).

    • Open windows and doors to provide ventilation and fresh air while you work (but don't allow mold to blow into unaffected areas).

    • Wear protective gear (see above).

    • Biocides are considered pesticides -- use only those approved or designated for indoor use. Also know that using biocides indoors may pose additional health risks.

last revised 1.6.06

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