Dealing with Mold

If you're cleaning an area where there's been a water leak for quite some time, seeing and/or smelling mold may have been the first indication of a problem. While there might not be much water to clean up, there may be a good deal of mold-related damage to deal with. You might have to remove and throw away some mold-contaminated materials, including…

  • Sheet rock.

  • Plaster.

  • Insulation.

  • Ceiling tiles.

  • Carpet and pad.

  • Laminated wood products.

These are all porous materials, which means mold can grow on them and in them. If only the top painted surface is moldy, you should be able to clean it off. However, mold growing underneath paint or inside of materials is virtually impossible to eliminate, especially if colonies are well established.

Nonporous materials with mold growing on their surface can often be saved via a thorough cleaning and drying. These include…

  • Concrete.

  • Glass.

  • Hard plastic.

  • Metal.

  • Solid wood.

A Fine Mess

TSP is a very strong cleaner. As such, it's important to follow dilution instructions carefully when using it. Always wear skin and eye protection when mixing and applying it, and be careful where you apply it. It can damage some metal and painted surfaces, especially if not properly mixed.

Follow the previous procedures for cleaning these surfaces. Disinfecting with bleach is recommended, but is not essential if you're not cleaning up after a sewer or septic break. If you do disinfect, mix 1/4 to 1/2 cup of bleach per gallon of water and apply to all surfaces where mold was growing. A sponge or spray bottle works well for this. Don't rinse or wipe off the bleach solution. Instead, let it air dry. Collect any solution that runs off with a sponge, wet/dry vac, or mop.

After you're done cleaning up, keep an eye out for new mold growth. Pay particular attention to areas where mold has grown before. New growth in these areas may mean that moisture still isn't under control. If you see new mold growth, repeat the above cleaning steps and use a stronger cleaning solution such as trisodium phosphate (TSP). TSP is a caustic chemical commonly used as an all-purpose cleaning agent. It's a powerful degreaser and cleaner and makes short work of things like grease and soot. You can use TSP to clean clothing, walls, floors, and some furniture. You can also add bleach to this mixture at a ratio of one part bleach to four parts water.

If mold growth continues, you might have to remove and discard the affected materials.

For help with cleaning other objects damaged by mold, see Cleaning Possessions and Valuables after a Flood.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Common Household Disasters © 2005 by Paul Hayman and Sonia Weiss. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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