Tips For Removing Mold Growth

Most every home in Long Island has mold growth somewhere. It can be a minor nuisance or a major problem depending on the relative humidity and how it's dealt with. Minor mold nuisances such as, discolored grout, stains on wood trim or drywall and dark spots on siding and decks can be unsightly. Major problems are downright unhealthy, especially for those with allergic reactions. I recently overheard a colleague telling one of our clients “Growing up on Fire Island you get used to mold. My clothing always smelled like mold growing up.” He is absolutely right. Living in Long Island, the relative humidity puts us in the perfect range for mold growth.

Why is mold so common in Long Island?

According to the NOAA's National Climactic Data Center (2002 data), Islip, Long Island has an average annual relative humidity of 75% in the morning  while Las Vegas, Nevada has an average of 39%.

Mold remediation

Here are a few tips on how to avoid / remove mold problems in Long Island. This is only a guide. Please seek professional help if mold growth in your home exceeds 10 square feet as mold can cause SERIOUS health issues!

Prevent mold by reducing relative humidity

Realize first, if you have a mold problem, you have a moisture problem. Mold spores are in the air all around us. They land on every surface in the house. If they fall on a surface that has a significant source of food and moisture, they will multiply. You cannot control the food so you must control the moisture. Bringing the relative humidity down to levels below 40-50 % will significantly reduce the chances of mold growth as mold spores will go dormant without moisture.

Here's your first to-do list:

Find the water problem: Mold will multiply where it has the most resources and it won't take long. If you can find the place that has the most mold, you will also find the place that has the most moisture. Is it an exterior wall? Under the sink? Near water pipes? Find the leaks and fix them.

Move the air: Getting outside air into the home will help. Create negative air pressure inside the building; you will be bringing fresh air in and exhausting contaminated air. We'll talk about negative air pressure later on. It's important to prevent the spread of mold to un-affected rooms by using this principle.

Use dehumidifiers: Reduce the relative humidity to levels where mold goes dormant. 30-35% is a good target but if that's not possible get it down below 50%.

So now that you've fixed the moisture problem, prepared for proper air movement and employed dehumidifiers to reduce relative humidity, what's next? If you want to get through this and still maintain your health, you should follow the next step.

Take precautions for health

Here are a few guidelines:

For an area less than 10 square feet:The US EPA recommends N95 respirators, gloves and protective goggles for any area less than 10 square feet. Containment may not be necessary but use HEPA air filters and keep the door closed in the room you are working in, just to be safe. Use a window fan to blow the contaminated air out of the house.

For areas between 10 square feet and 30 square feet: As the size of the affected ares increases, so does the risk. While you are cleaning this mold contaminated area, you will be releasing mold spores into the air. The larger the area, the more mold spores you release.

how to build mold containment

A professional mold containment

  1. Isolate the work area with plastic sheeting - The area MUST be sealed off from unaffected areas of the building to prevent cross contamination. This includes blocking off any air ducts leading to any other rooms.
  2. Use of protective equipment – N95 respirators. Mid length Plastic, nitrile or thick rubber* gloves. Eye protection sealed and without vents. Disposable protective clothing.
  3. Negative air pressure in the work area at all times. Do NOT use fans blowing against the affected areas or into the room you are working in.
  4. Use HEPA air filters to filter the air.
  5. Use HEPA vacuums while cutting wallboard or any other affected area.

For areas larger than 30 square feet: Consult a professional mold remediation service.

Negative Air Pressure

Negative air pressure is obtained by pulling air out of a room more quickly than it enters. To help you understand how this works, think about the last time you went to a restaurant where the front door was difficult to open. Usually, it's because the exhaust fans they use in the kitchen are so strong, they are creating a small vacuum inside the building. They suck the air out of the restaurant more quickly than air can enter.

Creating negative air pressure in the work area is important in preventing the spread of mold spores.

Just a note: Do NOT use the air conditioning system for ventilation during mold remediation.

Prepare your tools

N95 respirators – NIOSH approved N95, filters out 95 percent of airborne particulates.
Mid length heavy rubber*, plastic or nitrile work gloves.
Eye protection – Must be designed to prevent entry of microscopic particles to eyes.
Spray bottles – You should have at least three.
Scrub brushes – One wide brush and a detail brush either wire or nylon bristle.
Plastic/metal scrapers – For heavy mold growth.
Microfiber cloths – These will be used to wipe away cleaning products and leftover mold.
HEPA vacuum – You will use this to remove mold spores both at the beginning and the end of your mold cleanup.
Plastic contractors bags – Used to remove mold affected debris.

For areas between 10 square feet and 30 square feet add to the above list:

Disposable protective clothing – Prevents mold spores from contaminating clothing.
Plastic sheeting to isolate the work area – There are kits available to block off doors but it can also be done with masking tape and adhesive velcro.
Masking tape and adhesive velcro – To adhere plastic sheeting to doors. The velcro is used to create an opening for entry.

Treat mold affected surfaces accordingly

If you have had flooding, it is important to do an inspection of the structure. If the flood has reached areas of the house that has fiberglass insulation, the wall boards must be removed. The rule of thumb is: one foot above the highest water line. Work room by room using the negative air pressure system with the work room contained by the plastic sheeting.

  • Cut away the sheet rock while using a HEPA vacuum to remove the dust from the air. It is possible that mold spores will be released while you cut. Remove and discard the damaged wall boards into double bagged contractors bags tied tightly.
  • Remove the waterlogged insulation and discard in the same fashion as the sheet rock.
  • Dry the wall cavity using wet vacs if necessary and allow to dry completely.
  • Heavy signs of mold should be physically removed by scraping and/or brushing.
  • Vacuum entire work area thoroughly with a HEPA vacuum.
  • Treat with a mold removal product. Ask us about our safe, green mold products.
  • All structural lumber should be well below 16% Relative Humidity before closing wall cavities.

Clean-up tools, clothing and your body

Once you are finished with the work for the day, wash non-disposable tools and allow to air dry completely before further use. Dispose of any disposable tools or protective clothing along with the debris. These should be double bagged in contractors bags. If you have contaminated clothing that must be washed, wash in a load of only contaminated clothing. Do not wash with other household laundry.

Revisit affected area

Even though you have treated all of the visible signs of mold, this is no guarantee that you have removed all of the live mold growth or spores. They are microscopic organisms and they live in the air all around us. Periodically check for signs of mold after the work is done and keep the relative humidity down below 50%.

* Individuals with latex allergies should choose plastic or nitrile.

If you feel uncomfortable doing this yourself, call professional cleaning services in Long Island to do it for you.

Fun Fact:  The Salem Witch Trials may have started because of hallucinations brought on by moldy bread.