Safely ridding your home of mold


Have you found any traces of mold since last week’s column? There’s something about this insidious enemy that seems to so quickly invade.

Mold is definitely worth paying attention to. In addition to its sometimes unpleasant odor, mold can damage the materials of your home and even affect your health.

Remember mold can come in a rainbow of colors — usually green, black, brown or yellow.

Like most health concerns and like most housing maintenance issues — prevention is the key to ridding your home of mold.

However, today we’re going to talk about what you should do to get rid of it once it appears.

For starters, according to the expert advice of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, if you have more than a square foot of mold growth you should seek professional advice on how to clean it up.

Also, those folks with respiratory health problems such as asthma or emphysema should not perform the cleanup.

TACKLING A SMALL AMOUNT

Before you begin the cleanup of a light growth of mold, locate the water problem and correct it. All roof or plumbing leaks or unventilated areas should be remedied.

Once you’ve stopped the source of moisture, you can clean all moldy surfaces with a household bleach (like Clorox) and water. The mix should be 1 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of water. We like the pre-mixed product called X-14® for this job.

In addition, you can add a little dish soap to the bleach water to help cut dirt and oil on the wall, which can also support mold growth.

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Then apply the bleach-water mix to the surface with a sprayer, sponge or scrub brush. After letting it sit for 15 minutes, thoroughly rinse and dry the surface.

During this cleanup you should wear a proper mask, rubber gloves and again make sure you have opened windows or provided some other form of good ventilation.

FIGHTING HEAVY MOLD

To fight heavier mold growth, you’ll need to purchase and wear some special, protective gear. It starts with rubber gear, vinyl gloves, goggles, waterproof boots and a properly filtered, tight-fitting mask.

Of course make sure the area is well ventilated – both for breathing and for drying purposes.

Also, the EPA recommends that anyone who isn’t involved in the clean up should not be at home.

IF YOUR HOME FLOODS

You should know that flood waters usually contain very high levels of dangerous bacteria and that trying to save absorbent materials, after a general flood, is less likely than from a simple broken water supply line in your home.

Soiled curtains, clothes, linens and other items that can be laundered should be removed and sanitized.

Other items should either be thrown away or disinfected for at least 15 minutes using one cup of laundry bleach per gallon of water.

You may even need to remove and replace any wet sheetrock, insulation, ceiling tiles or plywood wallboard. These and any other surfaces contacted by flood waters should be properly disinfected for at least 15 minutes with a chlorine solution of one cup of laundry bleach per gallon of water.

Full-strength bleach may be necessary in some places; consult an expert before applying.

After you clean and air out, replace the furnace filter and put in a new vacuum cleaner bag.

In basement areas, make sure to wipe down pipes, heating ducts, ceilings etc. Obviously, extreme caution should be taken around electrical equipment and fixtures.

Caution: Bleach is dangerous enough and while it’s OK to add some light dish soap to the mix, do not make the potentially hazardous mistake of adding anything that contains ammonia with your bleach solution or — boom!

MORE SAFETY TIPS

During cleanup besides making sure you have protective gear and adequate ventilation, take heed of the following tips:

• Do not allow children and pets into affected areas.

• Do not allow cuts or open sores to be exposed.

• Do not smoke, eat or drink during clean up.

• Do not turn on any appliance that has been wet until it has been thoroughly dried and checked.

While one truth about mold in our homes is that you can never totally eliminate it, we hope this information helps to make both you and your house healthier.

Dave Murnen and Pat Beaty are construction specialists at NeighborWorks® of Grays Harbor County, where Murnen is the executive director. This is a non-profit organization committed to creating safe and affordable housing for all residents of Grays Harbor County.

Do you have questions about home repair, renting, remodeling or becoming a homeowner? Call us at 533-7828, write us or visit us at 710 E. Market St. in Aberdeen.

 

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