According to the dictionary, remediation is the act or process of remedying, or correcting, a fault or deficiency. When used in relation to the environment, remediation means the removal of pollutants or contaminants for the general protection of human health. Because mold is a contaminant that can cause mild to severe health problems for those living in a home, mold remediation refers to the process of safely removing and disposing of household mold, while correcting the conditions that allowed it to grow in the first place.
For significant mold growth to occur inside a home, or other building structure, three conditions must exist:
- There must be a source of food – common building materials, such as plywood, drywall, carpet, wallpaper, insulation, ceiling tiles, fabric, etc. provide the cellulose material that mold spores feed upon.
- There must be a source of humidity – moisture from rain intrusion, leaky plumbing, or even a high level of ambient dampness or condensation, will aid the decaying process that fuels mold growth.
- Time – depending upon the growing conditions, different species of mold will begin to propagate between 24 hours and 10 days after the first two conditions are met.
Before the remediation process can begin, it is necessary to determine the extent of the mold infestation and whether or not the variety of mold present is capable of releasing dangerous levels of mycotoxins, the poisons that can cause health problems if inhaled, ingested, or, in some cases, merely touched.
If the mold in your home is not toxic and the area of mold growth is small (less than 10 square feet, or the equivalent of roughly a 3 by 3 foot patch) then you can perform the mold remediation yourself. However, significant mold growth, either in size or threat to health, will normally require the services of a professional mold remediation service to remove the mold and the affected building materials, and to identify and eradicate the source of excess moisture so that the mold will not reappear.
The Mold Remediation Process
When cleaning mold it is important to protect yourself from accidental contamination and especially from inhaling the mold spores which are likely to be agitated during the remediation process. To avoid airborne exposure, you should wear a well-fitting respirator that will prevent mold spores from entering your nose or mouth. In addition, all remediators should wear eye goggles, gloves and protective clothing that can be properly cleaned or disposed of after the remediation is complete.
The contaminated area should always be sealed off from other parts of the house. This can be accomplished with the use of plastic sheeting. Doorways, vents and any other openings should be sealed shut with duct tape. If possible, an exhaust fan should be employed to blow air away from the infected area. This way, mold spores that are stirred up during the removal process will be diverted to the outside of the house.
Minor surface mold can be scrubbed away with a variety of ordinary household cleaning products, such as detergent, TSP, vinegar, or chlorine bleach. (The Environmental Protection Agency suggests using an approved fungicide that will actually kill the mold.) Removing large infestations, however, will require more work. Infected carpets and pads, for example, will need to be cut out, rolled up and disposed of properly. Wallboards may need to be opened up to get at the mold growing inside. Moldy debris should be vacuumed up with a wet/dry vacuum and all areas need to be thoroughly dried so that mold will not return. Cleaned surfaces should be sealed and repainted with paint that contains a mold inhibitor.
Professional Mold Remediation
In instances of severe mold infestation, the services of a professional mold remediation company are advised. These companies have the tools and expertise that most homeowners don’t possess: they are equipped to determine the presence and extent of moisture with various sensors and meters; they can identify hidden, suspect areas of infestation with infrared cameras; they can apply the most appropriate chemicals to kill mold; they have the necessary high efficiency particulate air/arrestance (HEPA) vacuums that can remove 99.97 percent of particles as small as 0.3 microns in diameter; and, most importantly, they are trained to create and carry out the most efficient and successful remediation strategies.
A qualified professional mold remediation contractor will set up and use proper ventilation and air filtration devices (AFDs) such as air scrubbers to ensure that mold spores do not infect other areas of the home. He will clean and disinfect the area and then apply biocide to kill the mold. After addressing any moisture or humidity concerns, he will then apply an encapsulant to prevent future mold growth. He will also utilize the best methods in which to remove contents from an affected area as well as package, transport, and dispose of them in an environmentally appropriate fashion.
In addition, after the remediation, a professional remediation contractor will provide a post-remediation evaluation to confirm that the process has been satisfactorily completed and that the environment has been returned to a pre-infestation condition. This may include protocols to assess and address deficiencies in a homeowners HVAC system, or how the system can be used as part of any future moisture removal strategy.
Lastly, whenever possible, you should try to enlist the services of a company that adheres to the Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Mold Remediation, published by the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC), a non-profit organization for the inspection, cleaning and restoration industries.