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The journey to better indoor air quality can be confusing, stressful, and disheartening. With heaps of misinformation and conflicting opinions out there, it can be difficult to determine exactly where you should start. How do you even test for mold in a home?
The good news is, you are not alone! Many people over the years have been in the exact same place, worrying about the impacts of mold growth and exposure. Whether you need help with understanding how remediation works or want to start taking preventative measures now to stop problems before they start, I’m here to help give you guidance. Everyone deserves to have peace of mind that they’re living in a healthy, safe, and happy indoor environment.
Below is a list of commonly asked questions to help get you started creating a mold-free home.
MOLD INSPECTIONS & Testing for Mold
Hiring a mold inspector is the best way to get a clear picture of the air quality in your home. Yes, there are at-home tests you can complete yourself but those won’t provide all of the information your remediation team will need to create a thorough treatment protocol to fix the issue the first time. A professional will be equipped to use multiple measuring techniques, assess the entire home, and test for all contaminants present. Home testing kits leave the door open to errors or missed data, like another mold problem in a different room. So, the short answer is: hire a mold inspector!
There’s a way to self-test to see if there is mold, but it wouldn’t tell you where the sources are. It’s best to hire an inspector. They can go through the entire home, determine which areas are problematic, which mold species are present, the sources causing the mold, and any other contaminants present. The process will take a few hours and cost more upfront, but it will give you an accurate picture of what the air quality is like in your home.
I’ve collaborated with many mold inspectors over the years and know who the best of the best are. You want someone in your corner that prioritizes your health. This individual should be experienced, they use a variety of measuring techniques and they should know to test for all contaminants. Above all, they should understand that the data they collect sets the foundation for complete remediation. Here are my recommendations for mold inspectors based on the state you live in.
This technique is called an aggressive air sample. You could take this route, or you could take a normal air sample to see what’s naturally there and complete an ERMI to see what’s in the surrounding environment. If you do an aggressive air sample, it takes away the ability to see what’s producing in the air versus what’s getting kicked up.
They should guarantee to bring your space back to normal levels in the areas that were found to be elevated. In the event that a post-test indicates there are still elevated levels in that area, they should come back to address it at no extra cost to you. The only time this should not be covered is if an additional area was found that wasn’t in the original mold investigation.
For example, let’s say you find mold in your attic and a team comes in to remediate that space. When a post-test is completed, it shows there is still an elevation found due to a spot that they missed. The company should then come back to resolve it at no additional cost. However, if the elevation exists because there is additional mold found in the bedroom below causing an elevation in the attic (and it was not originally called for to do any remediation in that bedroom) they would only charge for the amount it takes to come back to resolve the condition found in the bedroom. That’s why I always recommend a thorough investigation be completed prior to starting a mold remediation plan.
I sure can! All American Restoration is CMRS Certified, Certified Microbial Remediation Supervisor, and a Certified Member of IAQA, IICRC, ACAC, & A+ Rating BBB. We understand how mold and its byproducts can impact your health and will draft a treatment protocol that eliminates contamination in your home. No one should have to continue suffering through adverse health reactions due to mold exposure, which is why creating a healthy home environment for you and your family is our top priority. We’re also licensed and insured in every single state, so we can be there to meet all of your remediation needs- whatever your address may be.
Non-porous items such as metal, plastic, or glass are safe to clean. Vacuuming and cleaning these surfaces with EPA-approved products can effectively remove contaminants. Semi-porous items like wood require more diligence but can be cleaned as well. These contents are more difficult to deal with because the mold can grow slightly into the surface, so the remediation process takes more effort. An example of this is sanding if the contaminated wood product is unsealed. Porous items are tricky. For these, the best thing to start with is to determine what you have to keep and what can be discarded. Getting rid of as much as possible will help decrease the amount of continued exposure to potentially contaminated items. For items that you decide to keep, use EPA-approved cleaning products, like EC3 Laundry Additive for anything machine washable. For items that cannot go into a washing machine, treat them with borax and EC3 and a HEPA vacuum cleaner. Re-introducing these products one by one can help determine if they’re clean or if they retrigger adverse health symptoms.
Fogging is not complete remediation. It’s a tool in the toolbox. And like any tool, it has to be used properly for it to add any value to the treatment protocol. If you use it as the singular way to remove mold, you’ll only be removing what exists on the surfaces of the home but leave behind the root cause of the problem. Fogging doesn’t fix water intrusion and it doesn’t remove colonies of mold growing behind your walls (even if you fogged behind them). So what is fogging actually good for? It’s great as part of the cleanup AFTER remediation. The process can help bring aerosolized particles to surfaces in the home to more thoroughly clean the entire site. Make sure you hire someone who knows how to use it properly.
The problem with remediating rental units is that renters can’t just start opening up walls to remove the source of mold without the landlord’s permission. The best thing to do is for the renter to perform testing, or hire a mold inspector, to determine the mold situation in the home. They can then show that data to the landlord. If there’s an issue, the renter can ask the landlord to hire a remediation company to take care of the issue in the unit.
About MOLD & Finding It In Your Home
There are many schools of thought on mold and conflicting information found on the subject. My thought process is simple. If you have mold, there is an underlying cause. The objective is to eliminate the mold source that is causing you and your family grief and then begin the repairs necessary to ensure that the mold will not grow back.
For example, if you have mold in your basement due to water seepage, you’ll need a company that will come up with a strategy to eliminate the water and moisture conditions that caused the mold to grow in the first place. Without that important step, the mold can certainly grow back. That is why they should not only eliminate the mold sources but consult on the repairs necessary to ensure optimal conditions to prevent mold from reoccurring.
I recommend finding an insurance adjuster and a mold inspector closest to you. A public insurance adjuster will help identify if this is considered a covered loss where you would receive financial help through your home insurance company. A mold inspector will provide you with a thorough evaluation of the mold condition and provide a remediation company with the appropriate scope of work needed to eliminate the mold sources. Proper treatment will bring your home back to a normal ecology while reducing the byproducts of mold back to equivocal levels. With this information, a remediation company can begin to provide you with a proposal to include costs on completing that scope of work.
To completely eliminate the visible mold, I would first clean the area using an EPA-approved product, then remove the silicone currently in place and re-silicone. Remember, to properly treat mold you have to kill it at the root. Otherwise, it will just continue to come back. If it doesn’t pop back up for a year or so, that’s a good sign! If it comes back in a few weeks, that points to a larger mold problem existing in the home. Mold could be growing behind the wall and require a remediation team to come in and treat it.
Mold spores in a toilet typically indicate a larger problem within a home. It essentially means that there are enough spores in the air to maximize on wet areas like your toilet tank. Take a moment to look at a few other areas. Any signs of water damage in the bathroom vanities? Underneath the kitchen sink? Around any doors or windows? Do you have a basement or crawl space? If so, is any mold growing in these areas? Any mold growing in the attic? These are all good places to start when looking for a mold issue. If you don’t see anything obvious you could have a hidden leak somewhere and you may want to hire an inspector to do some testing.
Unfortunately, while painting over mold seems like a cheap, easy option, it won’t actually deal with the problem. The mold will just continue to grow behind the paint (and probably eat it), causing a bigger mold problem than you initially had. When you have a visible mold problem, it’s best to create a solid roadmap of the issue to make sure you’re treating your home properly. That way, you make sure the air quality in your home is clean, and your body has the ability to heal. Instead of the pain, hire a mold inspector to figure out the scope of the problem and then find a remediation company to remove the mold and its byproducts.
Yes! Mold usually smells musty or earthy- a stale, damp scent that tends to linger on in the room. When you smell mold, you’re more than likely in an exposure zone from VOCs (volatile organic compounds), formaldehyde, mold, etc. It’s best to hire an inspector to do some testing and evaluate the scope of the mold problem in the home. When you can smell mold, chances are there’s a serious problem.
There is no difference! Mildew is just a type of mold. So when someone tells you not to worry about a mildew spot, that’s not true. Exposure to mold opens the door to adverse health reactions to those with sensitivities. If you have mildew, you need to start determining how extensive the mold problem is in your home. Is it just that one spot or are there other problem areas? Make sure to treat the mildew area with EPA-approved products as well to ensure the mold is taken care of completely.
You should use a NADCA certified duct cleaner that cleans under negative pressure so they don’t do damage to the rest of the home. Be prepared to clean the house after, just to rid your entire environment of contaminants at one time. I personally would use one of the botanical products like EC3 or Benefect to clean the multitude of surfaces of a home.
From there I would focus on installing filters that are equipped to filter out as many particles as possible. Most Merv filters aren’t blocking out small enough particulates, so they pass right through and continue to circulate through a home. Mold spores can be as small as 2 microns, and hyphae fragments are even smaller so you need a product that can handle these microscopic particulates. I would purchase a system like the Intellipure whole-home air purifier that can remove particles as small as 7 nanometers to ensure the air in the entire home is as clean as possible.
It essentially makes it more resistant to water damage and mold growth. Mold can still grow on it, but the wood is more resistant to the fungi. This process isn’t a silver bullet though. You still want to practice common sense and make sure the products dry out properly when wet. While pressure-treated wood helps resist mold growth, it can’t function properly on wet or damp lumber.
The answer to this is yes absolutely. Mold spores are everywhere- inside and outside. Being microscopic particles that float wherever the wind current takes them, it’s just a simple fact of life. This means when your pet is outside taking care of business or getting some of that energy out, the spores can land right on their coat and follow them back inside your home. I would find a broad spectrum disinfectant shampoo to ensure the mold spores are fully cleaned from their coat. Anti-microbial, as opposed to just antibacterial, is a better bet to thoroughly treat the mold spores.
I personally use Redgard in my bathroom. The fiberglass in the product helps protect your shower like sealant used in the bottom of a boat. Nothing will get behind it! It bonds straight onto the surface to create a moisture vapor barrier. Keep in mind, it is fiberglass so it does off-gas for a day or two after applying. You’ll probably want to go away for the weekend after you use it in your bathroom to avoid the fumes.
Mold & Your Health
Great Plains Laboratory is a good place to start! This organization offers comprehensive testing to assess your exposure to common environmental toxins and will help you understand the toxic load of your body. The best option is to consult with a local functional medicine doctor and ask them if they perform tests from Great Plains Labs. If not, online consulting methods are available where they mail you test kits and you mail them straight to the lab. Use these resources to begin your testing journey: https://health-truth.com/treatment/, https://drwillcole.com, https://www.nourishmedicalcenter.com/providers-and-staff/dr-jessica-peatross/
The short answer is no. It’s almost impossible to recover while you’re living with constant mold exposure because your body is continually being reintroduced to the contaminates that were causing the symptoms in the first place. The first and best step to healing is to remove yourself from the situation and allow your body the chance to detox. Once you’re away from the area, remediation can begin to start removing the contaminants and providing a healthy living space for you and your family.
These machines are excellent at removing water from the air. Whether used after a flooding event or taken as a preventative measure, decreasing the amount of moisture in a home helps remove the number of available locations for mold to begin growing, making dehumidifiers great investments. The ideal humidity level in a home should be below 50 percent to avoid mold growth. Just remember to purchase a dehumidifier based on the size of the space you’re placing them. I personally recommend Aprilaire’s dehumidifiers. They offer a range of products, from whole-home dehumidifiers to single-room and crawl space dehumidifiers.
I absolutely do! When it comes to HEPA vacuums, you want a machine that will filter out the smallest particles possible. The smaller the particles removed, the cleaner the surface. For this reason, I suggest the Advance Euroclean GD930 Canister Vacuum. The HEPA system filters out 99.7% of particles that are 0.3 microns or larger, making it a filtration powerhouse.
There are a couple of options when considering air purifiers. When choosing, remember that you want something that will filter out particles as small as possible. The more particles that are removed, the better the air quality in a home. If you can install an air purifier in your HVAC, I highly recommend the Intellipure Super V Whole-home air purifier to help filter the air in your entire home. Otherwise, I recommend the portable Intellipure Compact which can remove 99.99-plus% of harmful viruses, mold spores, and bacteria down to 0.007 microns in size.
Products depend on the types of surfaces you’re looking to cleanse. For machine-washable items, clean them with 1/2 cup borax, then EC3, then regular detergent. Multiple washes ensure all of the contamination is eliminated from the items. Benefect Decon 30 is best for cleaning toys, furniture, and other non-porous items. For wiping these surfaces, use a microfiber towel; they’re excellent at picking up small particles from the surface.
Yes, it is safe for homes with kids and pets! Made up of a blend of citrus seed extracts, this product is all-natural and chemically sensitive but still powerful enough to rinse away mold spores and bacteria.
Mold & Legal action
Mold can, unfortunately, happen to anyone. In the event that you’re forced to go to court for a mold exposure issue, it’s best to start with a solid knowledge base of mold, how it can impact your health, the history of mold studies, and cases that have already paved the way. Next will be finding an attorney who understands how difficult mold cases can be (due to the lack of presidents established so far) but recognizes the impact it can have on your health and will tirelessly fight on your behalf. To help with your information journey, here is a list of previous cases and their outcomes.
I would consult with a “toxic tort” attorney in your area that can advise you of your rights. Unfortunately, the rights vary from state to state so you’ll need someone who is knowledgeable and able to specific regulations in your area. Once you know your rights, you can start down the right path to make sure you have safe housing. Honestly, it is absolutely unfortunate we are in this predicament in the first place which is why creating a solid knowledge base is the best first step to take.