Mold remediation - remove mold to maintain value
Mold growth in living spaces can not only pose a significant risk to the health of the residents, but also reduce the market value of a building. Fighting mold is therefore in the interests of both residents and landlords. If mold occurs, appropriate measures must be taken to permanently remove the mold. A distinction is made between measures that combat the cause of the mold problem and measures that merely hide the symptoms. If the measures are only directed against the visible, superficial mold, the mold will spread again and again after a certain time. A renovation therefore always includes fighting the visible and invisible mold.
The prerequisite for mold remediation is the identification of the cause of the mold. If this is available, a decision can be made as to whether the mold can be removed yourself or whether it has to be removed by a specialist. In some cases, immediate measures are sufficient, some of which can be carried out with everyday household items. Correct implementation and the use of the right aids are crucial in order not to endanger your own health and to be able to permanently remove the mold. In other cases it is necessary to seek specialized help.
This guide provides information about the specific measures to be taken in the event of small and large mold infestations.
At a glance: Immediate measures in the event of slight mold growth
Measures in the event of mold growth
The exact measures taken to remove mold depend on the type and extent of the mold infestation. A distinction is made between primary and secondary infestation. In the case of secondary infestation, there is only a superficial mold infestation, which is located on a small area (less than 0.5 m²), while in the case of primary infestation, the areas affected by mold have a medium to large extent and also deeper mold contamination.
Depending on the type of exposure and the risk of danger, different measures must be taken. The underlying cause of the mold is decisive for the choice of the appropriate measure.
The expert for moisture and mold damage Mike Hahn states: “Residents often only notice mold infestation by chance, for example during renovation work or when changing furniture. Typical odor abnormalities are most common. The specialist literature currently describes around 20 odors typical of mold infestation, so-called MVOCs. The best known is probably the typical potato cellar smell. “
Mike Hahn advises: “As an immediate measure, it is generally advisable to replace the contaminated room air as often as possible. That means ventilating as much as possible. It is important to ensure that the infected areas are separated from the non-infected areas by sealing them off with plastic sheeting. “
Schimmelexperte M. Hahn
Only after a complete inventory of the infested object can decisions be made about how to proceed.
Nevertheless, all measures can be broken down into the following basic work steps:
Depending on the cause and measure, the work steps vary in complexity. In the case of a secondary infestation, smaller immediate measures are usually sufficient. If, on the other hand, there is primary infestation, the affected areas must be extensively renovated. In addition to the type of infestation, the measures also depend on the nature of the material concerned. Smooth surfaces require different measures than porous surfaces or textiles.
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Immediate measures in the event of secondary mold infestation
If there is only a small, superficial mold infestation, small immediate measures to remove mold usually help. Such mold growth can usually be traced back to incorrect heating or ventilation and does not require extensive renovation. However, only if the mold was discovered directly and did not have enough time to spread.
The following protective measures should always be used when removing mold yourself: Basically, people with respiratory diseases or a weakened immune system should refrain from cleaning mold-infested surfaces, as this can affect their health. We also generally advise against using special mold removers that contain chlorine bleach. Such agents fight mold, but also put a strain on the respiratory tract. Cleaning with household vinegar is also not recommended. This kills the mold, but under certain circumstances vinegar can promote mold growth.
Suitable protective clothing must be worn when handling or cleaning mold-infected material. This includes suitable hand protection (made of rubber or plastic), breathing protection, protective goggles and a protective suit. The respiratory protection must be removed after use. In addition, contaminated objects that can no longer be cleaned should be disposed of in the household waste in airtight and rod-tight manner. It is also important to work with little dust. In no case should the affected areas be treated with a broom or a dry cloth, as otherwise the mold spores will be distributed in the air and pose a health risk. Therefore, surfaces must always be moistened or vacuumed (with a fine filter) before treatment.
If the mold is noticed, objects such as food, children’s toys, clothing or other textiles should be removed from the room to avoid contamination. Larger objects such as furniture should also be removed or at least covered.
We recommend moistening the affected areas with conventional household cleaners and then disinfecting them with 70 – 80% alcohol (ethanol or isopropanol). This measure is effective for smooth surfaces such as ceramics, tiles, metal, glass or lacquered wood as well as for porous surfaces such as wall plaster or joints. The procedure for wallpaper is similar: the wallpaper is first moistened and removed, then the wall surface is treated with alcohol. In the case of very little mold growth, it may be sufficient to treat the affected area on the wallpaper directly with alcohol so that the entire wallpaper does not have to be removed.
However, not all surfaces can be cleaned. Problems exist especially with (upholstered) furniture and textiles such as curtains, carpets or blankets. Although it is possible to remove mold from textiles by cleaning them several times in the washing machine, existing mold stains can remain permanently. Here you should dispose of the affected furniture and textiles so that you can actually permanently remove the mold.
If upholstered furniture is affected by mold, it must first be checked whether the infestation is direct or indirect. In the case of direct infestation, the mold is not only superficial, but is located deep in the material. The mold was able to spread because the furniture is damp. If, on the other hand, the infestation is indirect, the cause is less due to moisture in the piece of furniture than to contamination from other mold-infested areas. For this reason, it is advisable to remove larger pieces of furniture from a contaminated room so that the mold does not jump over.
Different measures have to be taken depending on the cause of mold. If the furniture is directly affected by mold, cleaning is usually not economically viable because the mold has penetrated too deeply into the material. If the mold attacked not only the upholstery but also the wood, it is questionable whether cleaning is still possible. Likewise, after cleaning it is not guaranteed that the mold spores are completely removed from the material. Even after being killed, the spores can still be hazardous to health. It is therefore advisable to remove mold-infected furniture from the apartment.
If, on the other hand, there is only indirect exposure to the furniture, surface cleaning with a vacuum cleaner with a fine filter (HEPA filter) is sufficient for upholstery. Mold-infected wood should be planed off and then disinfected.
Remediation in the event of primary mold infestation
From a large area of mold infestation of more than 0.5m², it is advisable to forego immediate measures and to engage a specialist company who specializes in mold removal to take over the renovation. In this case, immediate measures do not lead to lasting success. Information about suitable specialist companies can be obtained from the consumer advice centers or the health authorities.
Mike Hahn: “In order to be able to clearly determine the cause of the mold growth that has occurred, it is necessary to determine the type and cause of the moisture unequivocally. Furthermore, the other growth conditions for mold growth, such as the thermal insulation behavior of the outer walls or organic wall construction materials, must be clarified on site. Due to the complexity, the search for the cause should generally be reserved for specialists. “
If the mold infestation is caused by cracks in the masonry, leaky roofs, flooding after a flood or defective pipelines, the cause of mold must first be removed in order to prevent mold from spreading again and again. Structural defects or improperly carried out energetic renovations can also be the cause of mold growth. The actual renovation work can only begin after an expert has taken stock of the situation and has rectified the cause.
Depending on the cause, the renovation work can range from simple chemical cleaning to a complete renovation. Mike Hahn points out: “Dry cleaning never fixes the actual cause of the damage.” If, for example, a broken pipe is discovered immediately, machine drying of the room can be enough to effectively combat the mold. However, if moisture and mold have had enough time to spread through the floor or walls, a complete renovation is necessary. This means that mold-infected (mostly also surrounding areas) must be removed and replaced. If, for example, the entire plaster of a wall is affected by moisture and mold, this must be removed and reapplied. In order to guarantee permanent mold removal, this must be done by specialist companies.
In the case of wood, it is not always clear whether it has to be removed and replaced or a superficial treatment is sufficient, because it is difficult to assess how deep the mold is in the wood. While absorbent wood materials such as chipboard or OSB should always be completely removed, this is subject to the expert’s assessment of untreated wood. In an emergency, it is better to dispose of the wood here too, so as not to risk further mold infestation.
Conclusion – mold restoration – value retention in case of mold infestation
Which measures are used in case of mold infestation should be made dependent on the cause of the mold. Not every mold infestation requires extensive renovation, but in many cases only a specialist can permanently remove the mold. If mold appears in the rented apartment, the measures to be taken must always be discussed with the landlord.
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