Nailing It Down — Rid your home of mold safely


After reading last week’s column did you find yourself looking for any traces of mold in your house?

We hope so! As we mentioned, 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 with respiratory health problems such as asthma or emphysema should not perform the cleanup.

FIGHTING A PATCH OF MOLD

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 worked at preventing the problem in the future, you can clean all moldy surfaces with a household bleach (like Clorox) and water. The mix the Clorox folks recommend is a 1 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of water. Stubborn patches may need a more potent mix. And a longer than 15 minute wet time.

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

Now, make sure the area you are working in is well ventilated while you work. Then apply the bleach water mix to the surface with a sponge. After letting it sit for 15 minutes, thoroughly dry the surface.

During this cleanup you should wear a proper mask, rubber gloves and again make sure you have open windows or some other form of good ventilation. The area under and around should be protected from bleach staining, with plastic drop cloths.

You may be able to skip the bleach and just scrub hard with water and some dish soap like Dawn. (Sometimes bleach can be caustic to various materials, plus you must be careful not to breathe it in.) Try this first and then work with bleach if the mold is stubborn.

HEAVY MOLD INFESTATIOn AND FLOOD DAMAGE

To fight heavier mold growth, usually requires protective waterproof gear. In addition to rubber or vinyl gloves and a proper tight-fitting mask, wear goggles, rain gear and rubber boots.

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.

After extensive water damage or flooding, carpets and furniture, and other items with absorbent material must be removed and discarded if they are not thoroughly dried within 24 hours. A very difficult task.

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

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

You may need to replace stained ceiling tiles or wallboard. Full-strength bleach may be necessary in some places; consult an expert before applying.

As you clean, make sure to replace or clean the furnace filter and put in a new vacuum cleaner bag.

Floors, walls 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. (Reminder: While it’s OK to add some light dish soap, do not make the potentially hazardous mistake of adding anything that contains ammonia with your bleach solution!) Apply solution with pump sprayer, mops and sponges. A wet-dry vac is very handy here.

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

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 opportunities 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.