The purpose of mold remediation is to correct the moisture problem and to remove moldy and contaminated materials to prevent human exposure and further damage to building materials and furnishings. Porous materials that are wet and have mold growing on them may have to be discarded because molds can infiltrate porous substances and grow on or fill in empty spaces or crevices. This mold can be difficult or impossible to remove completely.
As a general rule, simply killing the mold, for example, with biocide is not enough. The mold must be removed, since the chemicals and proteins, which can cause a reaction in humans, are present even in dead mold.
A variety of cleanup methods are available for remediating damage to building materials and furnishings caused by moisture control problems and mold growth. The specific method or group of methods used will depend on the type of material affected. Some methods that may be used include the following:
Wet vacuums are vacuum cleaners designed to collect water. They can be used to remove water from floors, carpets, and hard surfaces where water has accumulated. They should not be used to vacuum porous materials, such as gypsum board. Wet vacuums should be used only on wet materials, as spores may be exhausted into the indoor environment if insufficient liquid is present. The tanks, hoses, and attachments of these vacuums should be thoroughly cleaned and dried after use since mold and mold spores may adhere to equipment surfaces.
Mold can generally be removed from nonporous surfaces by wiping or scrubbing with water and detergent. It is important to dry these surfaces quickly and thoroughly to discourage further mold growth. Instructions for cleaning surfaces, as listed on product labels, should always be read and followed.
HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) vacuums are recommended for final cleanup of remediation areas after materials have been thoroughly dried and contaminated materials removed. HEPA vacuums also are recommended for cleanup of dust that may have settled on surfaces outside the remediation area. Care must be taken to assure that the filter is properly seated in the vacuum so that all the air passes through the filter. When changing the vacuum filter, remediators should wear respirators, appropriate personal protective clothing, gloves, and eye protection to prevent exposure to any captured mold and other contaminants. The filter and contents of the HEPA vacuum must be disposed of in impermeable bags or containers in such a way as to prevent release of the debris.
Disposal of Damaged Materials
Building materials and furnishings contaminated with mold growth that are not salvageable should be placed in sealed impermeable bags or closed containers while in the remediation area. These materials can usually be discarded as ordinary construction waste. It is important to package mold-contaminated materials in this fashion to minimize the dispersion of mold spores. Large items with heavy mold growth should be covered with polyethylene sheeting and sealed with duct tape before being removed from the remediation area. Some jobs may require the use of dust-tight chutes to move large quantities of debris to a dumpster strategically placed outside a window in the remediation area.
Use of Biocides
The use of a biocide, such as chlorine bleach, is not recommended as a routine practice during mold remediation, although there may be instances where professional judgment may indicate its use (for example, when immuno-compromised individuals are present). In most cases, it is not possible or desirable to sterilize an area, as a background level of mold spores comparable to the level in outside air will persist. However, the spores in the ambient air will not cause further problems if the moisture level in the building has been corrected.
Biocides are toxic to animals and humans, as well as to mold. If you choose to use disinfectants or biocides, always ventilate the area, using outside air if possible, and exhaust the air to the outdoors. When using fans, take care not to extend the zone of contamination by distributing mold spores to a previously unaffected area. Never mix chlorine bleach solution with other cleaning solutions or detergents that contain ammonia because this may produce highly toxic vapors and create a hazard to workers.
Some biocides are considered pesticides, and some states require that only registered pesticide applicators apply these products in schools, commercial buildings, and homes. Make sure anyone applying a biocide is properly licensed where required.
Fungicides are commonly applied to outdoor plants, soil, and grains as a powder or spray. Examples of fungicides include hexachlorobenzene, organomercurials, pentachlorophenol, phthalimides, and dithiocarbamates.
Do not use fungicides developed for outdoor use in any indoor application, as they can be extremely toxic to animals and humans in an enclosed environment.
When you use biocides as a disinfectant or a pesticide, or as a fungicide, you should use appropriate PPE, including respirators. Always, read and follow product label precautions. It is a violation of Federal (EPA) law to use a biocide in any manner inconsistent with its label direction.