The musty smell and gross appearance of mold are probably the first things you notice about a mold infestation. Those fuzzy black or green blotches on the walls and the carpet give off spores. The mold spores spread and, according to the CDC, may aggravate asthma, allergies and other respiratory problems.
For a small patch of mold, you may be able to eliminate it yourself using common household cleaning products. For bigger mold problems, you may need help determining when you should call in a professional mold removal company and how much it will cost. Finally, you will want to make sure the mold does not come back once it is gone.
Mold basics: How does it spread in a home?
A basic understanding of mold can help you know how to prevent it and get rid of it. Mold is a fungus. The mold growing in your house could be any number of different species of mold. If you have a mold problem, there is no need to get the mold tested. No matter what kind of mold it is, you are going to want to get rid of it. The safety precautions for mold are the same for all types, so a test would not provide any actionable information.
All fungi, including mold, reproduce by emitting spores. These spores float into the air until they settle on a surface. There are mold spores everywhere indoors and outdoors. The only way to significantly prevent or eliminate mold spores from your home is to install an expensive industrial clean room filtration system, but that is not practical. Mold spores do not usually cause any problems, even when they land on a surface. There are relatively few of them in the air – not enough to trigger respiratory problems.
Moisture and mold growth
However, if the surface the mold lands on is wet, the spores may grow into mold and release more spores. The concentration of mold spores will be higher, potentially high enough to trigger allergic reactions, throat irritation or other problems. They key to preventing mold from forming is to keep your house dry. If there is a leak or a flood, clean it up promptly and dry out everything that got wet. Ventilate damp areas like bathrooms and kitchens. It is best to get everything dry within two days. After two days of staying wet, mold is likely to form. Do not forget to repair the cause to prevent future leaks or flooding, otherwise you will have to start the process all over again.
Small mold problems: DIY cleanup
If your mold problem covers ten square feet or less, the EPA suggests that you can handle the problem yourself. DIY mold removal consists of five steps:
- Determine if the surface with mold on it is hard or porous. Hard surfaces include metal, tile and concrete. Porous surfaces include fabrics (upholstery and curtains), carpets, wood and plaster or drywall. Porous surfaces can be extremely difficult to remediate, since the mold grows into every crevice. You can attempt to clean a porous surface of mold, but if the mold returns, you will need to throw the moldy item away. This can be an expensive problem if it is a section of wall or carpet, but it may be your only choice. If a porous item will fit in the washing machine, the mold may be removed by washing it in hot water. If the item still looks or smells moldy after a wash, it will need to be thrown away.
- Remember that safety comes first. Even if you do not use bleach, it is still important to take safety precautions, because cleaning will release mold spores into the air. Use a proper respirator with a HEPA filter to avoid inhaling spores. You also want to minimize the chances of spores spreading throughout your house. Ventilation to the outside will help clear the air inside. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services recommends you use plastic and tape to seal off the rest of the house, although for small mold problems this might be overkill.
- Scrub the mold away. You do not need any special chemicals to clean up mold, just a good household cleaner to make it easier to wash away. Some sources suggest using bleach, however, the California Department of Public Health says that bleach is not needed unless the source of the mold was a flood that included sewage. In that case, the bleach will kill the bacteria left behind by the contaminated water. However, in most cases, bleach will not work any better than non-bleach cleaners against mold, and it can be hazardous to work with. A non-toxic cleaning solution will get the job done with less risk of inhaling toxic fumes and irritating your eyes or respiratory system.
- Consider using an air purifier. An air purifier that is capable of removing mold spores from the air will reduce the chances of mold spreading into the rest of the house, and also minimize inhalation risks. To learn more about air purifiers and mold, check out our article, “The Best Air Purifier for Mold, Mildew and Microscopic Spores.”
- Finally, clean the mold. Cleaning the mold will require two buckets and two different sponges. Fill one bucket with water and cleaning solution and the other with plain water. Use the cleaning solution to scrub away the mold and rinse the sponge in the same cleaning solution bucket. You may have to scrub hard to really get all the mold off. When all the mold is gone, use the other sponge and rinse the area with clean water. Make sure to give the area plenty of ventilation so that it dries completely. You can use a vacuum cleaner to suck up excess mold. However, you must use a vacuum with a HEPA filter. A non-HEPA vacuum will not contain the mold spores and will actually disperse them into the air. That is exactly what you want to avoid.
Whether you are cleaning a hard surface or a porous one, keep a close eye on it in the days after you complete the cleaning. If mold reappears on a hard surface, repeat the cleaning process. If mold reappears on a porous surface such as wood, drywall or carpet, you will need to cut out the moldy section and replace it. With some wood surfaces, you might be able to scrape, sand and refinish the wood. However, never apply paint, stain or caulk on top of mold. All mold must be removed before you resurface or seal anything, otherwise the mold might return.
Bigger mold problems
You will need to hire professional mold removers if the mold problem in your house is:
- Larger than 10 square feet
- Is behind the walls
- Involves the ducts or other parts of your home’s HVAC system
Costs of mold remediation
The cost of professional mold remediation will vary widely based on the scope of the problem. You might not be aware of the scope until an expert is able to come in and look behind walls or into basement and attic spaces that are difficult to access. It will also depend on how much needs to be replaced, from drywall to wall-to-wall carpeting to wood studs. A mold removal job can range from a few hours to weeks of intensive work.
As a rough guide, the smallest professional mold removal jobs will cost several hundred dollars. Most mold remediation costs between $1,500 and $6,000. If your house is very large or the mold infestation is within the walls, the cost could be much higher.
Preventing large mold problems
The best way to avoid expensive mold remediation is to prevent mold from forming. Keep your house dry, clean up after leaks promptly, and properly ventilate moisture-prone areas. If an unexpected flood or leak causes mold in your home, you might be able to take care of the problem yourself.
How a Molekule air purifier can help during mold cleanup
An air purifier can help remove mold particles that are released into the air during the cleanup process. The Molekule PECO air purifier is the only technology that effectively destroys mold spores and fragments, instead of simply trapping them on filters. Prevention, proper mold cleanup and an air purifier can help offer clean indoor air to your home in the long term.