Once you've identified a mold problem, what should your next step be? The following information is excerpted from an article by leading natural physician Dr. Joseph Mercola. In this article, he refers to his interview with renowned toxicologist, the late Dr. Jack Thrasher.
As soon as you've identified the problem, you have to stop the water intrusion and remediate the problem at its source.
How to Clean Up Minor Surface Mold
If you have just a small area of surface mold, you probably don't have to call in an expert. However, only attempt to clean it if it's limited to the surface of a small area. You cannot "clean" deep-rooted mold. Dr. Thrasher has one word for those of you who have bought into the home-remedy advice to "kill off mold" with ammonia or bleach: Don't.
"What happens is you'll kill the mold but you'll leave the carcass behind," Dr. Thrasher explains. "The carcass will disintegrate and release toxins into the air. So you really went from one problem (mold growth) to another problem; dead mold and the release of all of their toxins... and then once water is reintroduced in the environment, the mold will grow right back to the surface."
However, for minor visible surface mold on say a baseboard, or on a piece of furniture, you could use a little bit of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and vinegar to wipe it off.
"I just use the concentrated vinegar and baking soda," he says. "All you need is a couple of tablespoons [of baking soda] to a quart of water. The vinegar I just take straight out of the bottle... I generally do the vinegar first and then follow it with the baking soda... The vinegar will kill the mold and the bacteria but you're going to leave residue on the surface and so you scrub the surface to try to get rid of the residue.
... I never validated that procedure, but that's what I recommend; what I do use and it seems to work, but I haven't validated it with research data. I have to be honest with the population out there."
Next Step: Remediation
"Let's say you have an infested wall that's in the middle of the home between the living room and say, the adjoining den; what is recommended is that the whole area must be walled off from the rest of the house... In other words, you drape them with a plastic and you have to tie the plastic down with masking tape so that that area will not, theoretically, contaminate the rest of the house," Dr. Thrasher explains.
While you can clean affected metal objects, all organic materials (such as wood, particle board, and carpets) must be completely removed and replaced. You want to make sure that the contractor you hire for the job uses a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Arresting) filtration machine to trap minute particles, and that they're meticulous when using it.
WARNING!! Be Careful How You Choose Your Remediator
There is no question that a high quality active air purifier can help control mold issues, but it will NOT remediate against them. You can use the best air filters and purifiers and they will never solve the problem if you continue to have water intrusion into your home that increases the humidity and feeds the growth of the mold.
You will need to stop the water at its source and carefully remove and clean the mold-infested materials. While this may superficially seem an easy task, let me assure you that it isn't.
I recently had a leak in my basement that was improperly remediated for $10K. The cause was not addressed so the problem worsened, which more than tripled the price to properly clean it up. That is part of the reason that prompted me to contact some of the leading experts in this area and learn how to do this properly.
So let me tell you from personal experience, you need to find a qualified expert and professional that is certified by one of the agencies below. I would also suggest getting several bids for the work. You can find contractor or professional listings on the following sites. Both the IICRC and NORMI are certifying organizations for mold remediation, but the IICRC certification is perhaps the most widely used:
• IICRC (Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification)
• ACAC (American Council for Accredited Certification)—a certifying body that is third-party accredited.
• The IAQA (Indoor Air Quality Association)—a membership organization with no certification program (the ACAC handles this by agreement)
• RIA (Restoration Industry Association)
• NORMI (National Organization of Remediators and Mold Inspectors)
Keep in mind that a mere certification or listing may not be enough. Also evaluate the remediator's qualifications and insurance (liability as well as workman's comp). With the ACAC, there are a few different levels.
What about Ozone Generators?
While Dr. Thrasher does not recommend using an ozone generator, other indoor air experts do. Ozone generators essentially generate photocatalytic oxidation that can help destroy airborne mold. However, Dr. Thrasher strongly cautions against their use, stating that oxidizing an organic chemical of any kind will create free radicals, and he also points out that ozone can be highly irritating to your mucous membranes and lungs.
Personally, I believe the claim that ozone generators facilitate the removal of volatile organics is correct... But do beware that they should not be used when you're in the room at levels higher than the EPA recommends, and they do pose a danger to both plants and pets. However, the ozone dissipates quickly, so after airing the area out for about 20 minutes, it's safe to return.
Keep in mind that this is different from air filtration, as the ozone generator actually purifies the air and neutralizes any odors at the source, on the molecular level.
You can read more and listen to Dr. Mercola's interview with Dr. Thrasher at The "New" Hidden Pandemic Sweeping Across America.