Mold Control on a Budget


Toxic black mold removal and removal of other fungi often can be done safely and effectively by the homeowner.

Read these self-help, do-it-yourself stories about 4 different situations homeowners resolved with my step-by-step guidance in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania (NY, NJ, CT, PA, MD). The 5th story in Maryland illustrates a hazardous situation beyond most homeowners' skills.

EnviroHealth professional mold inspections are available in Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, with special arrangement for other areas. Call 1-888-735-9649 for information.

Tip:  One thing I've noticed with the "toxic black mold," Stachybotrys, is that if it's present, it's usually visible to the naked eye, unless it's hidden behind a wall or other surface. Other kinds of mold could be present in high levels but not necessarily visible to the naked eye.

Visible black mold doesn't automatically mean Stachybotrys. There are other common black fungi that can be visible, too, such as Chaetomium, Ulocladium, and Cladosporium. To rule out toxic black mold, Stachybotrys, see if the mold is on wood or wood product and if the area was wet for a prolonged period of time. Stachybotrys requires water, not just elevated relative humidity.

Tony did his own toxic black mold removal in NY:

Tony had some water intrusion in his basement. Although most of the water seeped through the concrete or went into a floor drain, some of it wet a large piece of cardboard on the floor. Tony didn't think to throw out the cardboard. He figured it would dry out by itself. Several weeks later, he saw black mold on the cardboard.

Here are Tony's do-it-yourself steps for toxic black mold remediation in NY:

  • Wear a P100 respirator and gloves.
  • Gently HEPA vacuum the area around the cardboard. Avoid rapid movements that might stir up settled mold spores.
  • Gently move stored items away from the cardboard.
  • Cover any remaining items with a sheet that can be washed later or a drop cloth.
  • Assemble tape, a box cutter, and a few plastic lawn bags.
  • Without disturbing the cardboard, tape a piece of plastic over visible mold.
  • Gently slice the cardboard into pieces that would fit in a plastic lawn bag.
  • Place the cardboard pieces into plastic lawn bags.
  • Secure each bag and place it in the trash.
  • HEPA vacuum the area around where the cardboard had been.
  • Wait at least eight hours to allow stray spores to settle down, and gently vacuum again. Repeat vacuuming a few times at eight or more hour intervals.

Erroll did mold removal in a sink cabinet in NJ.

Erroll had a plumbing leak in the kitchen sink cabinet, and water ran onto the deck of the cabinet and into the cavity beneath it. The plumber fixed the leak, but Erroll suspected that mold might have grown below the deck of the cabinet.

Here are Erroll's toxic black mold removal steps:

  • Wear a P100 or N95 face mask.
  • Empty out the sink cabinet. Plastic or glass containers can be wiped off.
  • If any cardboard box got wet and is moldy, place it gently in a plastic bag and dispose of it. If the box got wet but isn't moldy yet, empty the contents into another container and throw away the box.
  • HEPA vacuum the inside of the sink cabinet at the deck.
  • Carefully cut out the deck.
  • Using a strong flashlight, examine the base for signs of mold.
  • If there are signs of mold, HEPA vacuum the mold to remove loose material. Look for green and white mold, as well as black mold.
  • Remember to check the back wall of the cabinet near the water pipes, too. Sometimes the back and side walls of the cabinet, the base and the rear walls have to be removed, too.
  • Scrub down the inside of the cabinet with Borax solution. Do not over-wet the area, or you will be encouraging more mold growth. Just give the inside a moderate scrub, passing over an area 2-3 times. As soon as you finish scrubbing, wipe off remaining debris and moisture with a clean rag.
  • If you are planning to re-use the deck of the cabinet, scrub that, too.
  • Allow the base of the cabinet and the deck to thoroughly dry.
  • If you suspected mold growth, encapsulate (paint) the inside of the base of the cabinet and the underside of the deck with 2 coats of Caliwel or whitewash.

Call May at 888-735-9649 for information on the EnviroHealth mold inspection with on-site microscope - or to schedule an inspection in CT, MD, NJ, NY, PA, or VA, with other areas by arrangement.

Rajah conducted black mold remediation in a wall cavity in Connecticut.

A water pipe broke in a first floor bedroom wall. Rajah is handy and decided to fix the plumbing leak himself. Rajah's mold remediation steps:

  • Place plastic sheeting on the whole floor to protect carpeting.
  • Put drop cloths over the bed and furniture.
  • Wear an N95 or P100 respirator and goggles.
  • Using a box cutter, carefully cut out drywall around the leak. Place the removed drywall in a plastic bag for disposal.
  • Avoid banging on the drywall or any rough treatment of the drywall. He didn't want to dislodge mold spores unnecessarily.
  • Remove drywall at least 1 foot beyond where mold was visible.
  • If the leak went on for a long time, 1 foot might not be sufficient. Make a judgment about how much drywall should be removed.
  • No insulation was present in this wall cavity, but if insulation was present, it should be removed and discarded, too.
  • Using a strong flashlight, look at studs and sill plate (vertical and horizontal lumber) in the wall cavity. If mold is seen, HEPA vacuum it to remove loose material.
  • Fix pipe leak.
  • Then scrub//wipe/dry as described above.
  • When materials in the wall cavity are completely dry, encapsulate with 2 coats of Caliwel, whitewash, or other encapsulant to prevent future mold growth.

Maggie's six-month-old PA home had Aspergillus growth on the ceiling joists and subflooring of the basement.

This mold condition is common in new homes. Maggie  was fortunate to have had a mold inspection early on, before the growth got very advanced. Through on-site tape testing, she learned that moderate to high levels of Aspergillus were present on the subflooring, with low to moderate levels on the ceiling joists.

Maggie treated the basement ceiling herself in this new NJ home:

  • Maggi donned an N95 respirator and goggles, since she would be working above her head.
  • Fortunately, she did not have many possessions stored in the basement, and the basement was not finished.
  • She used her HEPA vacuum cleaner to vacuum off loose mold spores on the subflooring (horizontal surface beneath the finished floor of the first floor).
  • After this, she sprayed the entire ceiling, including subflooring and ceiling joists, with two coats of Caliwel.
  • She also sprayed every other unprotected wood surface in the basement, such as all surfaces of the stairs, the wood backing of the electric box, and her wood work table.

Pran and Rudy arrive from vacation to find a flood disaster in their MD basement.

Apparently the leak occurred some time before, because mold was visible on walls. This was a disaster!!

  • Caution! Danger! Stay out!
  • If such a situation ever happens in your home, don't go in. Call someone who knows what they are doing to shut off electricity, gas, and the water. If a live wire is in the basement water, you could be electrocuted by stepping into the water. Call a water damage restoration company or the fire department to shut off the water.
  • Besides any electrical hazard, there could be so many mold spores around that breathing them in would be hazardous. Anyone entering such an environment should wear a proper respirator and other protective gear.
  • The next call is to your homeowners insurance company to report a flood. True, homeowners insurance policies these days typically don't cover mold cleanup, but there can be a fine line between water damage and mold. Check in at the website of Policy Holders of America for any guidance they might have for dealing with your homeowners insurance company --
  • This kind of situation really isn't a do-it-yourself mold removal job. Mold is probably in wall cavities, and removal of sheathing may be required. Hopefully you will get some coverage from your homeowners policy so you can bring in a professional mold remediation company, but don't count on it.

These common scenarios have been presented to orient homeowners relating to mold remediation.

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Updated 9-2011