Mold is present in all environments everywhere in the world. It is impractical to remove all mold spores from a structure with current technology. The goal of remediation is to control the levels of mold and restore the structure to a "normal" level.
Visible mold growth in a structure can produce higher than normal spore counts in the air. Mold spores may settle on surfaces and contents throughout. This increases the the chances of future mold growth, and can impact those suffering from health issues related to mold exposure.
With time, air quality should return to normal background levels after you identify the source of mold and correct it. Yet, even when you improve the air quality, there may still be elevated levels of mold spores on surfaces throughout the home. You may also reduce these surface spores over time, depending on how often you clean.
Many people, especially those with health problems, won't want to wait for the spore counts to reduce over time. You can remove the settled spores more quickly with a thorough cleaning. To do this, you must clean all surfaces and contents in the home, or the affected area(s). There is a lot of time and labor involved, which can make hiring a contractor very expensive. We want to help you avoid that cost by telling you how you can do it yourself.
Be sure to pick up cleaning supplies before starting
You will need some of the following supplies to get started. Almost all the items in this list are available at your local hardware and big box stores.
Use a HEPA filtered vacuum to keep spores from spreading while you clean (see sidebar, "What is HEPA?"). Modern vacuums usually have HEPA filters, and most Shop-Vacs can be fitted with a HEPA filter and allergen bags. Either of those should perform well enough for decontamination cleaning.
True HEPA vacuums sold for professional remediation are expensive, and probably overkill for what you're trying to do. Remember that remediation is about control or reduction, not complete elimination.
For carpets, use a vacuum with a beater bar (the little spinning brush) if you can. Vacuum the carpet slowly in one direction, then turn and vacuum across like you're making a cross-hatch pattern.
You can vacuum other contents and surfaces as well. Vacuum walls, ceilings, rough surfaces, and uneven materials with a brush attachment. The brush will help seal the area to get more suction where you need it. The goal is to reduce the dust present in the area. Use many passes, with a slight scrubbing action, to help dislodge surface contamination and heavier growth.
Always complete HEPA vacuuming before damp wiping, not after. Damp wiping, if possible, is always the final step in cleaning.
HEPA, or High Efficiency Particulate Air, is a standard for air filtration. According to the U.S. government, an air filter must remove 99.97% of all particles that pass through it that are 0.3 microns to be considered HEPA.
Mold spores are generally 10-30 microns, so HEPA filters are more than capable of removing them from the air.
When damp wiping, try to maximize cleaning efficiency and reduce cross contamination of surface debris and waste. Use the damp wiping method on hard non-porous surfaces and hard surfaced contents. You can also damp wipe many semi-porous surfaces such as wood framing, but results will vary.
The above process keeps your cleaning solution bucket clean and effective to prevent cross contamination. Remember to keep those dirty rags out of the cleaning solution!
Use the Damp Wiping Procedures above to clean contents with hard surfaces. The goal is to wipe the entire surface of each item. You may want to clean heavily soiled items with a HEPA filtered vacuum first.
Use the HEPA Vacuum Procedures above to clean soft, porous surfaces. Use a brush attachment to clean difficult or uneven surfaces.
Some materials may not be cleanable if they have visible mold growth or heavy contamination. Any item you cannot properly clean with vacuuming is damaged. The item should be discarded or cleaned with a riskier, more drastic method.
For example, you have a basket with visible mold growth. You should begin by HEPA vacuuming the basket. If that does not work, you may want to try damp wiping or even dipping the entire basket into some cleaning solution. Dipping or soaking an item in sanitizing solution can have great results, but there is a much higher risk of damage. Also, you will need to ensure dipped items are properly dried. On nice days, you can do this outside in the sun. On cold or rainy days, you can place the item over a register vent or use a fan to blow on it. Anything to reduce the drying time decreases the risk of permanent water damage.
Whenever possible, use immersion to clean textiles. A normal cleaning cycle in your washing machine should be sufficient. Powdered detergents have mold-resistant cleaning agents; use them if available. Non-chlorine bleach or oxygen based powders are helpful.
Take any item that is dry clean only to the cleaners. The dry cleaning process is effective in restoring fabrics and eliminating spore contamination.
Clean books and other paper products with your HEPA filtered vacuum. You can usually use isopropyl alcohol with the damp wipe procedures above for further cleaning. The alcohol rarely causes damage to the surface or edges of books due to the rapid evaporation, and the pages inside rarely need cleaning.
Ensure you have proper ventilation when cleaning with isopropyl alcohol!
There may be mold growth on the interior framing of the furniture which is unreachable. In our experience, the risk of this is minimal unless the environment is very moldy, the furniture has been wet, or it is very old. If mold on the interior of the furniture is a concern, you may need to discard it or have it reupholstered. We can consult with you on specific pieces if you have questions.
If the interior of the furniture is not a concern, proceed to cleaning the upholstery. First, use your HEPA filtered vacuum to remove settled dust and spores. If there is visible mold, clean it with a quaternary ammonium chloride (Lysol) or hydrogen peroxide. This should help to clean surfaces and denature spores on the surface.
Note: Use leather cleaner to clean the exterior of leather furniture. They have the same difficulties for interior surfaces that upholstered furniture has. Special leather items (Like Suede or Italian Leather) may be permanently damaged by surface mold growth.
You can clean the exterior of most unique items as described in Hard Surfaces above, but interiors can be problematic. Older pieces like pianos, Victrolas, and tube Tvs can develop dust and debris in hidden interior areas. This dust and debris can support mold growth in high humidity, and can be difficult to clean. For valuable pieces, you should look for a professional that specializes in cleaning that item. It is often beyond the ability of a homeowner or even a mold remediation contractor to clean them effectively. As stated above, contact our offices with questions about a specific piece.
A project of this size can be overwhelming. If you can, get some friends or family to help. Social groups such as churches, boy/girl scout troops, or other organizations may also be available for help. Be honest in your request for aid; we all need a hand sometimes. Provide your volunteers with the information in this guide so everybody is on the same page.
Have your supplies, equipment, and a plan ready before you start. Pace yourself. You don't need to do everything at once. Keep in mind that this may be a good time to downsize, de-clutter, and organize. If you come across something you haven't seen in two years, you probably don't need it any more.
While you are picking up cleaning supplies, grab a couple of allergen filters for your furnace. Use one while you are cleaning, and install the other one when the cleaning is done.
Choose a room. If possible, move all contents and furniture out of the room. Start in the corner of the room and work your way around. Clean every surface in the room including floors, walls, ceilings, and any remaining contents. Use the HEPA Vacuuming and Damp Wiping procedures above. Pay special attention to horizontal areas that collect dust such as the tops of doors. Damp wipe all horizontal surfaces and any visible mold on walls and windows. Don't forget the baseboards and door trim.
If the room has carpets, vacuum them a few times very well. Use an encapsulation cleaning method before you move the furniture and other contents back in. You spray the encapsulation solution onto the carpets, let it dry, and then vacuum it again. This will not add excessive moisture to the floors, and is an effective method of mold spore control.
Sweep and mop hard surface flooring with a cleaning solution of your choice.
HEPA vacuum and damp wipe any cabinets or large furniture that remains in the area. Make sure you clean the bottom of large furniture. Furniture bottoms are often neglected, so it's a prime place for dust, mold spores, and mold growth. You may not need to clean cabinet interiors, but you can do it now if you are going to.
You can now clean your contents and return them to the cleaned room. Remember to de-clutter and organize. You may want to have a couple of extra storage containers handy. Move any contents that cannot be salvaged to the garage, outside, or in a dumpster. Put any questionable items to the side and consult a professional if needed.
If you have concerns about a particular area, start there. It's best to clean the worst areas first. If no area seems worse than the others, start in the area you most want cleaned, like a child's bedroom.
Warm air rises through the home and exits the attic. It may be best to start cleaning on the lower level so air flow isn't bringing spores from contaminated areas into clean ones. You may even want to use fans or other methods to keep air flowing in your desired direction.
Cleaning an entire house is a daunting task. If you have cleaned an entire room without stopping, you definitely need a break! Remember to take one task at a time, then a room is done. One room at a time and a level is done. One level at a time and your house is clean. You will get it all done. When you're ready, repeat the cleaning steps in the next room.
When all the rooms are clean, mop or vacuum all the floors in open areas again and put a new allergen filter in the furnace. Congratulations, you are done!
This is a good time to think about the future of your healthy home. We recommend that you take a little time to make a cleaning schedule so you can keep the house in good order. You don't want to have to do this all at once again. You have seen all the areas of your home that you never see, so it is a good time to repair any maintenance problems you have discovered. If you are considering new paint, look for anti-fungal options.
Thank you for taking the time to read our guide, we hope it is informative. Please contact Indiana Mold Remediation if you have any suggestions to help make it better.