One day in college I noticed mold growing on my bedroom wall. My allergies at the time were horrible, and it was tough to sleep through the night without a heavy dose of antihistamines. My roommates and I were not exactly slobs, but it did take me awhile to motivate myself to clean up the mold. When I finally mustered the necessary motivation, I bought a sponge, a pair of gloves and some cleaning solution from the local store. I pulled back my bed to discover a solid wall of green fuzzy mold growing from the floor to the top of my bed. I stepped back and assessed the situation. I pushed the bed back against the wall, went back to the store and bought more antihistamines.
Knowing what I do about mold today, I would have acted differently. Mold can cause allergic reactions in many people, and some molds can cause very serious health problems. When you see mold, you should clean it up as soon as possible. Cleaning up mold however is only half the battle. Moisture control is the other half. Where there is mold, there is moisture. Mold won’t grow without it. You need to clean up the mold and find the moisture source and fix that as well.
Cleaning up mold can be difficult. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued basic guidelines for mold cleanup (see the U.S. EPA “Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings” at www.epa.gov/mold). If there is more than 10 square feet of mold, they don’t even recommend cleaning it up without using some professional judgment. They also don’t recommend clean up mold if you have health problems or if the mold problem was caused by contaminated water or a sewage leak. Instead mold abatement contractors should be used.
In those situations where they do recommend cleaning it up yourself, make sure you have long gloves, safety goggles and a protective respirator (called an N95 respirator, which should be available at local hardware stores). For solid, non-porous surfaces you will need to clean off all visible mold, and you should check the surface after a week or so to see if the mold is growing back. You might need to dispose of porous surfaces like carpet that are contaminated with mold. It is just too hard to get mold out of these materials in many cases.
If you have a mold problem, don’t wait to act and don’t rely on antihistamines as the solution.
Care2′s own green expert Annie B. Bond has some great non-toxic mold solutions. Read about them here.