It’s easy to identify mold
growing on an old wheel of cheese, loaf of bread or piece of fruit. Household mold is a craftier organism, though. It’ll hide on you. Some types are toxic. And left unchecked, whether it’s toxic to your health or not, mold can damage your home.
Angie’s List, the nation’s leading provider of consumer ratings
on local service companies, reached out to its highly-rated mold experts to get the scoop on how homeowners can safely and effectively find it, get rid of and keep it from coming back.
“Too often, homeowners wipe mold away or douse it with bleach, only to have it grow back at the first hint of dampness,” said Angie’s List founder Angie Hicks. “Giving mold the boot can be difficult if your problem is widespread.”
In addition to being unsightly and a health risk, mold can also damage or stain drywall, rot wood and cause structural damage. Wood products and paper-faced drywall are key components of both residential and commercial construction, and both are great sources of food for mold.
Mold doesn’t need much to thrive: humidity levels found in a typical bathroom can give it a great start. It often grows in dark areas, the backside of drywall, the underside of carpets and pads, and in wet basements – even those with only occasional dampness issues.
While mold has been around forever, recommended ways to deal with it have changed. One of the biggest myths about mold removal is that ordinary household bleach is a great way to get rid of it. In fact, bleach was once offered as a good remedy, but most highly rated mold experts and the EPA no longer recommend it as the most reliable or safe remedy.
“There are more eco-friendly products and less invasive ways to eliminate mold for good these days,” Hicks said. “Reliable remediation experts can advise you on the best approach for your particular mold issue, and more and more of them are turning to ‘green’ solutions.”
Homeowners with only a small bit of mold can likely take care of the problem themselves. But if mold growth covers more than a few spots, it will likely require a professional solution – and maybe more than one service type. Professionals trained to deal properly with mold include both mold testers and mold remediation experts.
Before you hire:
• Find the source: If you have a mold problem, you probably have a leak or other type of moisture problem. The mold won’t return if you fix that.
• Check references and get estimates: Check Angie’s List and references to learn about the mold professionals and plumbers (if you have a leak issue as well) before you hire. You can also check the National Association of Mold Professionals.
• Green options: Ask contractors if they offer eco-friendly options. Angie’s List identifies contractors who use green products and/or offer eco-friendly service.
• Know the plan: The EPA does not certify mold remediators or inspectors, but the agency does offer mold remediation guidelines. Make sure your contractor follows them and ask how the work may affect you and your family, including pets.
• Specifics: Ask your remediation expert to take samples both inside and outside your home. The outdoor sample establishes a reference for normal mold levels in your area, which are then compared to the indoor samples.
• Are you covered: Most homeowners’ insurance policies do not cover mold remediation. Check your policy to determine what it covers so you know your budget ramifications.
• Don’t cause more damage: Before attacking mold on an expensive or sentimentally valuable item, check with companies that specialize in furniture repair/restoration or carpet/rug cleaning to be sure you don’t cause more damage.
If the mold growth is small:
• Get the source of the problem: If you have a mold problem, you probably have a leak or other type of moisture problem. The mold won’t return if you fix that.
• Wear protective gear: Wear gloves, goggles and an N95 mask, which is commonly available in retail stores.
• Damp wipe: Remove mold from hard surfaces by scrubbing with water and detergent or a multi-purpose cleaner. Dry the surface quickly and thoroughly.
• Discard: Remove damaged materials and seal in plastic bags before disposing of them.
• Follow up: Revisit the site. It should show no signs of water damage or mold growth.
Angie’s List tips to prevent mold growth:
• Moisture control: Act quickly when water leaks or spills occur indoors. Dry it out within 48 hours. Hire a professional if you can’t meet that timeframe.
• Reduce humidity: Keep indoor humidity below 60 percent relative humidity. Vent appliances that produce moisture – such as clothes dryers, stoves and kerosene heaters – to the outside where possible. Use air conditioners or dehumidifiers when needed. Run the bathroom fan or open a window when showering. Use exhaust fans or open windows when you cook, run the dishwasher, etc.
• Prevent condensation: Increase ventilation by opening windows or use fans as needed. Cover cold water pipes with insulation.
• Keep drip pans clean: Keep heating, ventilation and air conditioning drip pans clean, flowing properly and unobstructed.
• Foundation check: Slope landscaping away from your home’s foundation so water does collect around the foundation. Clean roof gutters regularly to ensure proper drainage.
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