House Mold Removal and Odor Control – Q&A
From: Susan B.
Subject: Moldy old house
I’ve enjoyed Allergy Consumer Review for several years now and finally have a question I’d like to ask.
My mother and I are considering swapping homes, so that I could live in our family house and she could move into my two-bedroom condo.
Unfortunately, the house has been neglected for well over a decade. Because it is always damp and cold, there is mold growing on some of the walls and furniture (which I’d like to salvage), and there is a pervasive stench of mildew. The roof also needs to be repaired or replaced in several spots where the ceiling is swelled and dripping.
And I won’t even mention the bug problem…
What steps would you suggest to ensure that the house is allergy-proofed before I move in? Are there professionals I could call to evaluate the condition of the home — and its potential before I get started? And how can I be certain that it won’t start to deteriorate again in years to come?
Thanks in advance for your advice.
There are many things you need to consider before moving in.
First, perform a mold test in various sections of the house with a mold test kit where you think the mold is present. Once you perform the tests and get the results back, if you can determine how extensive the mold problem is, then you should have it professionally removed.
If you have mold that is active in the house, it is likely the mold spores are emitting mycotoxins, which are Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), into the air that can cause various symptoms in people depending on their allergies. These can range from headaches, dizziness, tiredness and or possibly neurological symptoms. Setting up and running portable air purifier with a HEPA filter for the mold spores and gas filters for the VOCs will help reduce the amount of allergens and gases in the air directly associated with the mold.
Second and most important is that the source of the mold is determined and remedied. If the source of mold is from leaks in the roof, they need to be fixed because the mold removal problem will reoccur even if you clean up the mold. If you have a high humidity problem, I would also recommend a dehumidifier to maintain a relative humidity of 50% or below. This will help in two important areas. The first is mold creation. One of the things necessary for mold to develop is water in a liquid state or high water vapor in the air. If this is controlled, the mold development will be difficult. The second way a dehumidifier would help control dust mites that thrive in environments with humidity levels 60% and over.
It will then be necessary to eradicate the mold that is present in the home. The reason is that use of the dehumidifier will prevent the mold growth from getting any worse, but it will not kill the mold and remove it. In the future, if you have any moisture develop from a leak or if your dehumidifier turns off or breaks, this mold could become active within 24 hours. Therefore, I recommend you remove it.
If this is a job you think you can do on your own, here are some ways to remove the mold.
You want to isolate the area where you think the mold is. You want to wear gloves and a mask because the mold spores will be disturbed when you clean it and they will become airborne. That is also why you want to isolate the mold so it will not land somewhere else to redevelop. You should go over the area to be treated with a HEPA vacuum to remove any of the loosened mold spores.
Here are 4 natural solution you can use to kill the mold:
- Mix 2 teaspoons of tea tree treasure with 2 cups of water mixed in a spray bottle and apply it to the area and let it sit. Do not rinse. The smell will be very strong but it works. It’s expensive but a little goes a long way.
- Citrus seed extract (also listed as grapefruit seed extract), which is odorless, can also work well. Mix 20 drops of citrus seed extract with 2 cups of water in a spray bottle and apply it to the problem areas. Do not rinse. Straight vinegar is the least expensive method, but as you can imagine the smell is strong.
- Straight vinegar will kill 82% of mold. Pour some white distilled vinegar straight into a spray bottle and spray it on the moldy surface and let set without rinsing. The smell should dissipate.
- Fourth is to use a dry vapor steam cleaner which — because the steam’s temperature is in the area of 180 to 220 degrees — most molds will be killed. The reason is most molds are heat sensitive and will be killed at temperatures of 160 degrees and above. However, there are many types of mold, and some of them are not heat sensitive, so the hot dry steam may have no effect. Use the steamer over the surface of the areas where the mold is present, and let the steam heat kill the mold. You can remove it with a towel after the steam is applied and you can also apply the steam directly through a towel attached to the brush, so the mold will be killed and absorbed directly into the towel at the same time.
As far as cleaning the mold from the furniture, I recommend first going over them with a HEPA vacuum so any surface mold spores would be removed. Then, I would clean the items with a solution of hot water and detergent or non-ammonia soap. Scrub the entire area where you believe the mold is present. Rinse the cleaned areas with water and dry thoroughly.
Keep in mind, mold spores, whether they are dead or alive, can still cause an allergic reaction.
Once the mold is removed, continued use of your dehumidifier to maintain a relative humidity of 50% will eliminate the possibility of mold redeveloping in the future.
You can also consider one other way to prevent mold from reoccurring in the future and this would be the Airfree Sterilizer. Each unit will sterilize an area of 250 square feet with an average ceiling height of 8 feet so it will control an area of 2000 cubic feet. The unit works by taking in the microorganisms in the air by convection where they are incinerated at 400 to 600 degrees in a chamber. From there the air is cooled and then emitted back into the room through the top. The sterilization process occurs slowly over a 3 to 4 week period and the result will be no airborne micro organisms would grow.
The use of a dehumidifier is also very helpful against the development of mold because you will be controlling another one of the two things necessary for mold to develop, which are water vapor in the air or high humidity. Once the humidity is above 55 to 60 percent any condensation occurring will allow mold to begin to form and grow on a surface. Lowering the relative humidity with a dehumidifier will lower the dew point in the room, making the occurrence of condensation forming on a surface unlikely. Most room surfaces are wallboard, wood, concrete, etc., which are good breeding surfaces for mold. So, as you can see it is the other two areas we need to focus our attention on.
Finally, as far as the bugs are concerned, you would need to find out what kind of bugs you have. If it is mainly the dust mites you can control them on your own. However, if they are ants or termites you would need to contact an exterminator.
Here are some useful sites for articles about mold removal: