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Can You Kill Mold By Drying It Out?

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020
mold issues

No moisture, no mold. It sounds like a simple solution to mold issues in a home. Since mold is a fungus that requires moisture to grow, just drying out mold growth ought to eradicate it in short order. Right?

Like many easy answers to complex problems, it ain’t necessarily so. While moisture is the key factor that triggers the active growth mode that causes mold issues, ironically, the absence of moisture alone doesn’t make mold go away. Here are two reasons why:

  • Mold can exist in more than one living state. Active or viable mold triggered by moisture grows and releases microscopic airborne reproductive spores that spread that growth to other locations in the house. These spores contain mycotoxins that cause allergic reactions or other symptoms when inhaled by certain individuals.
  • In the inactive state, an absence of moisture causes mold to be dormant and cease growth—yet not be technically dead. Inert spores from dormant, dried-up mold can be just as allergenic as active spores from living growth if inhaled. Moreover, moisture from any source such as water damage or leakage—or even simply sustained high humidity—quickly reactivates dry, dormant mold growth and triggers the release of reproductive spores once again. Mold issues then recur throughout the house.

Successful mold remediation isn’t a one-step solution. It requires multi-faceted treatment to ensure comprehensive decontamination.  

  • All mold growth must be tracked down and physically removed from wherever it exists in the house. No existing mold—active or inactive—can be left behind, as any remaining growth may likely reactivate at some later point under certain conditions.
  • After removal, areas of contamination must be directly treated with EPA-approved fungicides to sterilize surfaces and prevent regrowth.  
  • The source of water which triggered active mold growth must be identified and permanently eliminated.
  • If mold growth occurs as a result of a water damage incident, prompt professional water damage remediation includes standardized mold prevention methods like air sampling to detect the presence of spores and proven techniques to locate and remove mold growth and sterilize affected surfaces. 

How to Treat Mold Inside Walls

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020
mold inside walls

Discovering a mold problem anywhere inside a house is never good news. Mold inside walls, however, is particularly problematic. Microscopic mold spores in wall cavities typically remain dormant unless/until moisture triggers the spores into active growth mode. Potential internal moisture sources include seepage from plumbing pipes routed through the wall, water from roof leaks dripping downward into walls, recent flooding or other significant water damage.

What Are the Signs?

A mold problem inside a wall may become extensive before it becomes obvious. Signs of possible contamination include:

  • Persistent musty odor that is strongest in a certain room.
  • Black spotting on walls where internal mold growth has penetrated through the drywall.  

What If You Suspect Mold Inside Walls?

Direct visual examination to confirm a suspected mold problem typically requires cutting access holes of significant size in drywall. Opening a mold-contaminated wall cavity, however, may release toxic spores that spread mold throughout the house.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends engaging professional mold remediation services for inspection and treatment to eliminate a mold problem inside walls.

How Is Mold Inside Walls Treated?

Simply applying disinfectants to an active mold problem is not sufficient. Some spores typically survive topical treatment and mold eventually recurs. All mold growth inside walls must be physically removed and properly disposed, followed by treatment with effective fungicides.

  • The internal wall cavity should be cleaned with a HEPA-filtered vacuum.
  • Infected drywall requires replacement if mold growth is established on the inside surface or has penetrated the material.
  • Fiberglass or cellulose insulation present inside a contaminated wall cavity cannot be effectively disinfected. Insulation should be removed and replaced with new material.
  • If wooden studs or joists exhibit mold growth, the mold must be physically removed. Sanding wooden surfaces may also be required to ensure no residual spores remain.
  • After removal of mold growth, the wall cavity should be sprayed with an EPA-approved antimicrobial disinfectant.  
  • Encapsulating sealant may be applied to surfaces inside the wall. This coating, similar to paint, contains fungicides that kill residual spores as well as inhibit any future mold problem.

Selling Your Home? Resolve Mold Issues First

Thursday, May 7th, 2020
mold problems

If you’re considering putting your home on the market and the house has an ongoing mold problem, what’s the preferred strategy? Should you offer the house at a discounted “as is” price—mold contamination included? Or is it a better idea to take control of the issue and get professional mold remediation now, before trying to attract prospective buyers? Here are some facts to take into consideration when you’re selling a house with a mold problem.

  • You can’t keep it secret. A known mold issue—or even knowledge of conditions that would likely trigger contamination such as water damage—are facts that, in most states, must be divulged to prospective buyers in a pre-sale disclosure. If existing mold not mentioned in the disclosure is discovered after the sale, the seller may be liable for civil damages.
  • In the real estate industry today, the presence of mold is considered a substantial liability. Neglected mold contamination is often a deal-breaker or at least a substantial negative impact on market value.
  • Many qualified buyers won’t make an offer on a house with existing mold issues—at any price. There’s simply less risk and headaches by offering fair market value on an uncontaminated property, versus dealing with potential issues that accompany the moldy house down the street.

Before You Sell

Mold issues resolved by a qualified mold remediation service eliminate the stigma that drags down a home’s value. In fact, proof that a house has been certified mold-free by trained professionals is a positive selling point.

  • If you know or even suspect mold contamination, get testing and inspection by an IICRC-certified mold remediation provider. This includes in-depth visual inspection in areas where mold is likely to occur, air samples to detect mold spores, and attention to secondary factors associated with mold, such as ongoing moisture issues or water damage.
  • If the presence of mold is confirmed, have the problem professionally resolved before listing the house for sale. Once the home is declared mold-free, you’ll have written certification to substantiate that fact as an extra inducement to attract qualified buyers and the most favorable offers.

Is DIY Mold Removal Ever Safe?

Thursday, February 27th, 2020
DIY Mold Removal

Is DIY mold removal safe? It depends. Will it fully eliminate mold contamination from a house? Probably not.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, mold contamination larger than 3 feet by 3 feet should be left to qualified mold remediation professionals. If a very limited area of mold growth on a non-porous surface is all you’re dealing with, put on gloves and eye protection. Mix 1/2 cup of household bleach with a quart of water, saturate a rag and wipe away the mold. Leave the surface wet and open windows to ventilate fumes until it dries. You’re done. Or are you?

What You Don’t See

Superficial mold is often only the visible evidence of more extensive, covert contamination you can’t see. Mold flourishes in chronically damp and dark spaces of a structure not frequently (or easily) accessible. From that primary focal point, active mold releases airborne reproductive spores that spread contamination throughout the house. DIY mold removal such as wiping away a very limited spot is well and good—if you’re careful. But, it doesn’t address the comprehensive problem in a contaminated house, nor potential hazards that come with removing it.  

How the Pros Stay Safe

Professional mold remediation teams arrive fully trained and prepared to locate and safely neutralize all mold growth inside a house, wherever it may be. Teams typically include a designated health and safety technician specifically certified by the IICRC (Institute of Inspection Cleaning Restoration and Restoration Certification) to assure the safety of mold remediation workers. Crews are also specially equipped to reduce hazards when working around mold, including:

  • Full face mask with a filtered respirator
  • Protective overalls and booties
  • Rubber or nitrile gloves
  • Air exchangers to vent spore-contaminated air from the structure and induct fresh filtered air during the project
  • HEPA-grade air scrubbers to capture airborne spores in the indoor environment
  • Specially formulated antimicrobial chemicals to sterilize contaminated surfaces

Established safety procedures and specialized equipment for comprehensive mold remediation are beyond the scope of the average DIY-er. For anything beyond the most minor contamination, follow EPA recommendations and call a professional.

How Does Household Mold Affect Asthma?

Tuesday, February 18th, 2020
household mold

Household mold and asthma frequently develop under the same roof.  Asthma is a sensitivity in the air passages leading to the lungs. By itself, the asthmatic condition is frequently silent until some specific “trigger” is inhaled. Typically beginning with shortness of breath and tightness in the chest, an asthma attack can result in a variety of acute symptoms, including wheezing, coughing, a sensation of straining for air and excess congestion in the lungs.

It’s In The Air

Indoors, asthma may be triggered by a variety of airborne irritants: dust, pollen, lint, pet dander, cigarette smoke, and air pollution. A common asthma trigger is spores released by household mold. Airborne mold spores contain mycotoxins that are a known respiratory allergen. In outdoor air, the concentration of mold spores is usually very diluted and does not cause symptoms in humans. Inside an enclosed structure, however, levels of these toxic microscopic particulates may become elevated to an extent sufficient to trigger a reaction in individuals with a predisposition to asthma.

Finding Mold And Fixing It

Effective asthma prevention includes reducing exposure to triggers in the indoor environment. An elevated spore count is one indicator of active mold growing somewhere inside the house that may be responsible for asthma reactions in occupants. The presence of chronic moisture that promotes mold growth is another red flag.

Professional mold remediation utilizes a proven treatment sequence to eliminate contamination:

  • Air sampling to determine spore count and estimate the extent of mold growth inside the house.
  • Locating all active mold growth and testing to establish the specific type.
  • Removal of active mold and sterilizing surfaces where mold growth occurred with EPA-approved fungicides.
  • Identifying and resolving ancillary causes inside the house that promote mold growth, including prior water damage and ongoing moisture issues such as plumbing or roof leaks.
  • Controlling indoor humidity to maintain safe levels that do not support mold growth.
  • Conducting one or more follow-up air samples inside the house to ensure that remediation is effective and mold growth has not recurred.

Can Mold Dry up and Go Away on Its Own?

Tuesday, January 28th, 2020

Any type of mold in the home is a concern and may be linked to certain physical symptoms and/or chronic illness. Mold growth generally requires specific conditions to remain active and spread contamination.  Homeowners often ask a very good question: If we simply eliminate these conditions, won’t existing mold in the home just die and go away by itself?  

What Mold Needs

Mold is a fungus that prefers a particular temperature range, a dark environment, a little bit of microscopic food (usually cellulose of some sort) and moisture.  Of these ingredients, moisture is generally considered to be the definitive trigger that promotes active fungal growth. No moisture—no mold.

Dormant vs. Active Growth

Visual evidence of existing mold growth doesn’t tell you everything you need to know, however. Moisture-deprived mold may indeed appear dried-up and lifeless. In a sense, it is: without moisture to keep it active, the mold fungus mass stops growing and becomes inert. However, while the fungal mass is dead, microscopic spores that trigger regrowth and contamination aren’t.  In dry conditions, spores go dormant until exposure to moisture recurs. Once that happens, spores rapidly activate and begin spawning mold growth again, including airborne reproductive spores that spread contamination and may cause physical reactions in susceptible persons.

What To Do About Dried-Up Mold

  • Not everything that looks like mold is mold. Sampling and testing by a qualified mold remediation specialist is required to confirm the presence of dormant or active mold as well as determine the type. Air samples are also taken to identify airborne spores and estimate the extent of active contamination.
  • Proven mold remediation techniques utilized by professionals include physically removing active or dormant growth, then sterilizing affected surfaces with EPA-approved fungicides. In cases where mold has penetrated certain building materials, these materials may be cut out and replaced to totally eliminate growth.
  • Reducing moisture is also vital to prevent recurrence of mold in the home. Plumbing leaks, roof leaks and other moisture sources must be resolved. If chronically high indoor humidity is an issue, installation of a whole-house dehumidifier is also recommended. 

5 Frequently Asked Questions About Black Mold

Thursday, October 17th, 2019
black mold

Though there are approximately 20,000 species of mold, only about five are commonly found inside structures. One of these species, Stachybotrys chartarum, is also known as “black mold.” It’s not the most common type encountered inside houses, but black mold has a reputation for triggering particularly problematic symptoms in certain people exposed to it. Here are five questions and answers about Stachybotrys chartarum to clear up some confusion surrounding it.

  • Is black mold always black?  No, it may also appear dark green or gray. Conversely, other types of more common mold that may appear black are not the Stachybotrys chartarum species.
  • Does black mold occur more frequently inside houses than other mold?  Actually, the reverse is probably true. Stachybotrys chartarum tends to require more moisture to proliferate than most other common mold types. Therefore, it is most likely to be found only in more chronically wet indoor settings.
  • Is there something about black mold that makes it especially toxic to humans?  For individuals with a sensitivity to mycotoxins contained in airborne mold spores, black mold is associated with a wider range of reported physical symptoms than other types of mold. However, the severity of reactions to black mold spores also depends upon the extent of contamination inside the home as well as the duration of exposure. Individuals who are not sensitive to mold mycotoxins may not experience symptoms from black mold exposure.
  • Is black mold contamination more difficult to remove than other types?  No, the same basic mold removal techniques are involved: First, eliminate the source of moisture that triggers active mold growth. Then, test to confirm the type of mold present on the premises. Locate all active mold growth and physically remove it. Disinfect surfaces where mold existed and remove any materials that are permanently contaminated. Follow up with later air sample testing to confirm decontamination.
  • Are physical symptoms caused by black mold permanent? For most people who experience a reaction to mold exposure of any type, including black mold, symptoms will gradually disappear when professional mold remediation techniques are utilized to remove contamination inside the house. 

4 Reasons to Avoid DIY Mold Removal

Thursday, October 10th, 2019

Mold growth can occur almost anywhere under the right conditions. Dormant microscopic mold spores are ubiquitous in nature, both outdoors and indoors. In fact, you’re probably inhaling a small concentration of spores right now. So, if mold is such a common event, why not just handle it yourself?

Actually, small outbreaks of mold growth in common spots like a shower stall or underneath a kitchen sink aren’t a big deal and respond well to a DIY approach with off-the-shelf disinfectants. However, when more widespread contamination—or the conditions that inevitably trigger it—exist, professional mold remediation is usually necessary.

Here are four examples of why you shouldn’t handle mold removal yourself.  

  • Contamination is time-critical. When mold growth conditions are present, such as indoor water damage, the consequences become dire in a very short time. Mold activates and begins releasing airborne reproductive spores within 24 to 48 hours after exposure to water. Confronted by the aftermath of water damage, few homeowners are prepared to take the steps required to interrupt the sequence of contamination in that short time frame. Rapid professional intervention is vital.
  • You don’t know how much there is. Mold spreads and active growth is often not limited to a single occurrence. Every house is different. To evaluate the extent of contamination, mold remediation specialists take air samples and count the captured spores. This important calculation provides a basis for a treatment plan to deal with the specific circumstances in each home.  
  • Mold type matters. “Mold” is a generic term applied to a wide range of fungal growth. Some things that look like mold, actually aren’t. Certain types of mold growth are more likely to be toxic to some persons while other types are relatively benign. Because it’s important to know what kind of mold is present, mold remediation specialists physically sample active growth and have it laboratory-tested for positive identification.
  • It could be harmful to your health. Contacting and removing mold without protective measures could cause allergic reactions or illness in certain individuals, particularly those with specific fungus sensitivities. Leaving the job to properly equipped professionals is a safer approach. 

How to Effectively Deal With Mold Damage in Your Home

Tuesday, July 16th, 2019

Many of the effects of mold contamination inside a house require the services of a mold remediation specialist to resolve. In most cases, homeowner’s insurance will stipulate a qualified professional with the credentials and technology to do the job. However, do-it-yourself efforts may be useful in dealing with both causes and effects of mold contamination in certain limited circumstances. Here are some suggestions:

  • Eliminate contributing factors. Homeowners can help resolve conditions which trigger contamination in the first place and then spread mold damage. Track down and resolve chronic moisture issues such as leaky plumbing, roof leaks and excessive indoor humidity. Ventilate damp spaces like the basement and attic that tend to spawn mold. Immediately dry any areas that accidentally become wet.
  • Protect air quality. Make sure your HVAC air filter traps airborne mold spores that spread contamination. Filters with a MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) rating of at least 11 will remove about 80% of airborne spores. In homes where mold damage is a concern the filter should be changed every month.
  • Increase circulation. Mold prospers in stagnant, dark environments, so keeping air circulation optimal also helps inhibit contamination. Regularly open doors and air out closed, unused rooms and closets. Make sure all HVAC supply and return vents in the house are open and unobstructed. Open curtains and shades to let in sunlight.
  • Tackle the small stuff. Though significant, advanced mold contamination doesn’t respond well to DIY methods, there’s no reason not to attack minor, limited outbreaks before they become major issues. Over the counter mold cleaners can be used to knock down mold growth on tile grout in damp bathrooms or kitchens, for example. Where caulking around windows or elsewhere is contaminated, it can be extracted and replaced with new caulking. If only a small area in a room—such as just one corner of a sheet of drywall—shows signs of mold, you can hire a inexpensive handyman to cut out that limited portion and replace it. Then, use mold cleaner as a preventive measure on all other surfaces in the affected room to inhibit recurrence.

When mold is present due to water damage, or if the mold contamination is significant, it’s time for a professional to be called to deal with the situation effectively.

How to Easily Remove Mold or Mildew from Tile Grout

Thursday, March 7th, 2019

Moisture evaporates rapidly from the hard, slick tile surfaces in your bathroom. Not so, however, from the grout joining those tiles together. The composition of tile grout, usually grainy and porous, tends to retain moisture and bacteria. This makes it an ideal breeding ground for mildew and mold, especially in a warm, humid environment like a bathroom. That fact becomes very conspicuous when white or gray grout gradually turns ugly brown or black due to contamination.

The appearance of mildew or mold—both are types of fungus—present both aesthetic issues as well as health concerns.  Here are some ways to remove it from tile grout:

Pre-treatment:

  • Wet a large sponge with water and wash down the areas of grout affected by mold or mildew. This is necessary to remove any layer of grime such as soap scum that may shield the fungus from the cleaning process.
  • Using a small brush with stiff bristles—a retired toothbrush may work, too—scrub the grout briskly. Even though the grout lines are typically horizontal and vertical, add a circular motion to the brushing process to ensure that you get into all the tiny crevices and cracks in the grout.
  • Rinse down the grout with warm water from a sprayer, then pat the surfaces dry with a cloth.

For minor mold or mildew:

Mix equal amounts of warm water and white vinegar in a spray bottle and spray the mixture directly on the grout, saturating it thoroughly.  Wait about 10 minutes for the vinegar to soak into the mold or mildew spores, then vigorously scrub the grout lines with the stiff-bristled brush again. Rinse thoroughly with warm water and pat dry.

For long-standing contamination:

After the pre-cleaning procedure, saturate the grout lines by spraying a 50/50 mixture of warm water and chlorine bleach. Let the mixture soak in for at least 15 minutes, then briskly scrub with the stiff-bristled brush. Rinse well to remove all bleach residue and then dry with a clean cloth.