A common problem you will face as a homeowner or tenant, especially if you live in an area where your climate is largely humid, is indoor airborne and surface mold growth. If you find yourself wondering how to deal with airborne mold, there are fortunately many ways you can and I show you how in this post.
However, before we jump into my detailed guide on the various mold remediation methods, in summary,
How do you remove airborne mold? There are numerous ways to remove airborne mold, however, all of these ways basically involve two steps. Airborne mold is removed by firstly getting rid of excessive indoor moisture and secondly keeping indoor spaces clean. All mold remediation approaches are based on these two foundational steps.
Keeping these two principles in mind I can now walk you through the details of effectively getting rid of airborne mold in your home.
Read on and go through this post to learn about why it's critical for you to get rid of mold and to discover all the do’s and don’ts of cleaning mold and all the stuff you need to have and to consider for you to successfully remove mold from your indoor air.
What Is Mold & How Does It Get In Your Air?
Mold is a type of fungi that is pretty much everywhere around us but in some places, it grows erratically and becomes a nuisance. Outdoors, mold is very important as it helps decompose dead organic matter from animal remains down to wood and vegetation.
However, indoors it can be unsightly on walls and cause health problems if it gets into your air. Just as plants produce seeds, molds reproduce by creating small spores that give birth to more mold.
These spores are tiny, light, and invisible and are what we often refer to as airborne mold in your home or workspace when you have a mold outbreak. Once they are produced by surface mold they disperse around your home onto other surfaces where if the conditions are suitable, they grow into surface-mold and further reproduce.
There are many different types of mold and the common ones that grow indoors include Alternaria, Aspergillus Chaetomium, Cladosporium, Fusarium, Mucor, Penicillium, and Stachybotrys. For mold to thrive and pollute your air indoors, it needs a food source and moisture.
Common food sources for indoor mold include wood, clothes, wallboards, damp carpets, insulation, and various organic matter like leftover foods and dead skin or food pieces in a corner somewhere that were never cleaned for ages. Sources of moisture include humidity, leaks, water damage among others.
Now if you couple such household moisture and food sources together with a low light or dark environment with poor ventilation like in a basement, then you create the perfect environment for an indoor mold infestation.
If the conditions are favorable, mold, and mildew inside a home or office can grow and spread in as little as 24 to 48 hours. Mold thereby typically gets into your indoor air if spores from outdoors enter your work or living space, and find a favorable environment to continue to grow and reproduce.
Why You Need To Get Rid Of Indoor Mold Fast
For me, the first reason you have to get rid of mold as fast as you can is because of the rapid pace at which these unhealthy and dangerous fungi reproduce right under your nose. If you leave things for tomorrow, be prepared for headaches getting rid of all the unwanted effects of mold in your home or building.
You wanna get rid of mold before it's too late because it's not good for your health. Before you even know that mold has infested your air, you start getting itchy eyes, severe coughing and wheezing, and sneezing. Studies have shown some molds even cause psychological problems and have linked mold to depression.
Mold is also known to cause skin infections and trigger various allergies. According to the CDC and American Institute of Medicine, it’s important to deal with mold in homes and buildings because “excessive exposure to mold can cause adverse health effects in susceptible persons regardless of the type of mold or the extent of contamination,”
Besides the health issues, mold just looks disgusting once it starts growing on surfaces and materials around your home. Lastly, mold causes an irritating and at times unbearable, earthy, and musty indoor odor. Accordingly, if you value a clean, pleasant, and fresh smelling home or workspace, you have to do all you can to prevent and get rid of indoor mold.
Important Steps To Take Before Trying To Get Rid Of Mold
With the reasons to get rid of mold in mind, fortunately, there are several ways you can get rid of mold. However, before you start your clean up process, I found there are a couple of useful steps you have to take to effectively and safely deal with your mold problem.
Before starting your cleanup process, you have to make sure you have the proper equipment for the job and you have taken the necessary precautions to protect yourself during the whole process.
Here are some of the basic tools and equipment you will need depending on your cleaning approach:
- Airborne mold test kit
- Rubber gloves
- Scrub brush
- Disinfectant household cleaner
- Ozone generator
- Spray bottle
- Tea tree oil
- Air Purifier
- Disposable gown
- N95 face mask/gas mask
Should you suspect you have mold in your air, the first thing you have to do to make sure it is mold is to test your air for mold using a mold test kit. However, if you have visible mold on surfaces, don’t waste your time running tests, you certainly have mold in your air.
Once you have identified, you have mold, you can choose to call a professional mold removal company to come to clean your house or decide to do it yourself and this means gearing up.
Irrespective of what kind of mold you have, the cleanup process is the same. In preparation to start cleaning, you have to put on your gloves, goggles, face, or gas mask, and protective gowns to avoid mold getting on your clothes.
Your gloves should be rubber gloves, and your protective gear won't just protect you from mold but also all the harsh detergents and disinfecting chemicals you will be using.
Once you all are geared up, you then need to inspect your entire household for areas where you have excessive moisture and areas where surface mold is growing so you can make your cleaning plan.
So in summary, in preparation to remove airborne mold, you have to
- Test your home or workspace for airborne mold
- Put on protective gear before mold inspection and cleaning
- Inspect your home or facility for mold prone areas and mold growth
- Plan your cleaning approach based on your inspection findings
Once you have taken these steps, you are ready to start removing mold around your home. One thing to always remember though is that you cannot completely get rid of airborne mold if you have not gotten rid of your surface mold.
Also, note that naturally there will always be some level of mold in your indoor air. The problem however arises when the naturally acceptable levels are surpassed and usually, that’s when people start getting sick and mold starts visibly growing on materials, surfaces, and walls.
14 Ways You Can Get Rid Of Airborne Mold
1. Clean Up All Visible Mold
If you see mold on walls, materials, or surfaces around your home, there are many natural and man-made chemicals you can use to clean this. I have seen many people recommend bleach, but bleach is really not the right stuff for mold.
It will turn mold from grey to white when you use it and it will look like it's done the job, but do not be surprised if the mold resurfaces within a month around the area you cleaned with bleach. A more effective chemical to use to kill visible mold is ammonia.
Another good product that works well is Bar Keepers Friend and there are also a host of mold remover and preventer products on the market. Many remediation specialists however recommend using borax for surface mold. When you use borax, you don't even need to rinse it off as it also prevents mold from growing again.
Once you clean surfaces and walls around your home, you will have debris with mold on them all over the place, especially on floors. The best way to clean these up is to use a vacuum cleaner.
After you have dealt with surface mold, next you should wash all your linen and clothing on which you find mold. A normal laundry wash should do the trick, otherwise, you can actually throw in some borax into your washing machine to disinfect your clothes, linen, curtains, and any washable fabrics.
When you finally get rid of all surface and material embedded mold, you have cut off one of the major sources of airborne mold in your home. With cleaning alone, given your environment remains dry and clean, you could see a significant drop in your airborne mold levels.
2. Fix Leaks And Moisture Problems
As you clean your home it's a good time to fix your moisture issues if you detected any during your inspection. If any pipes are leaking and causing your walls or floors to be damp, they will create suitable damp conditions for mold to grow and disperse in your air.
You also wanna watch out for under sink moisture, cabinet and wardrobe moisture, and anything causing moisture in between drywalls if you have dry walls in your home. If anything is producing moisture, fix it before mold grows there and spreads into your air.
3. Keep Your Gutter Clean
As part of your mold cleaning plan, do not forget to clean your gutters as they can store damp decomposing organic debris which mold thrives on. Left uncleaned, mold spores formed in your dirty gutter can eventually find their way into your home through the air. So to get rid of airborne mold in this case, you have to keep your gutter clean.
4. Use An Ozone Generator
I never recommend the use of ozone generators because of the dangers of ozone. Ozone is corrosive and an irritant to humans and animals that causes bad health effects especially for people with respiratory issues.
It consequently has to be used with a lot of care. If you do not know what you are doing avoid ozone. On the other hand, ozone is a powerful air and surface cleaning agent. In your air, it oxidizes all kinds of pollutants killing airborne bacteria, viruses, and mold.
Ozone also does well for the musty odor caused by mold leaving your house smelling fresh. Just be sure to use ozone generators properly. Generally, it's recommended that all humans and animals leave a home and return after at least 3 hours when ozone is used to disinfect the air in a home.
You also obviously have to wear a gas mask and other protective gear if you are the one operating this air purifier. Run an ozone generator after you have cleaned all the visible mold and dealt with moisture issues to ensure you remove any remaining mold on surfaces and in the air around your home.
5. Use A Negative Air Machine
Another thing you can at the end of your mold cleanup is to run a negative air machine across your home. If set up properly, a negative air machine removes tainted air from a room or building and releases it outdoors.
Contaminants in your tainted air are filtered out through a series of industrial-grade filters so that they are not released into the air outside to cause further damage. Using a negative air generator will get rid of leftover mold in your air and get rid of lingering chemical and moldy smells after your mold cleanup.
6. Use A Dehumidifier
In humid climates, dehumidifiers are an essential tool in preventing mold from growing and releasing their spores into your air. Remember mold loves moisture and depends on it to reproduce and spread itself.
So by getting rid of moisture with a dehumidifier you are pretty much killing mold before it even comes alive. First and foremost, you wanna place a dehumidifier in your basement because it is a key area where moisture gathers and spreads from in a home.
Also, place a dehumidifier in your laundry room and one on each floor of your home. Then lastly you can place some mini dehumidifiers under sinks and in cabinets, storerooms, and wardrobes.
Additionally, use hygrometers and humidity gauges to monitor and manage the humidity levels in your home and ensure you have adequately covered your home with dehumidifiers. To prevent mold growth and mold in your air, the relative humidity level across your home or building should range between 35% - 50%.
At this level, you are sure to keep moisture at bay. This is obviously provided you have addressed water leaks and other fixable moisture issues across your home and that you are only dealing with climatic humidity. Dehumidifiers won’t really help you so much if you still have leaks or water damage, as your moisture source continues to produce moisture.
7. Use An Air Purifier
With your moisture under control and mold cleanup done, to continually keep mold out of your air you need to run an air purifier. An air purifier is an essential line of defense against mold that comes into your home from outside in addition to reducing spores produced by mold you may have not noticed growing indoors.
The types of air purifiers you want to go for when it comes to mold are activated carbon True HEPA or Photocatalytic Oxidation (PCO) air purifiers or some hybrid of the two. Air purifiers with UV are also good but make sure they are combined with a True HEPA and activated carbon-based air purifier.
An air purifier I highly recommend and that works extremely well for mold is the EnvironKlenz Air System Plus. You can also check out other effective PCO and HEPA air purifiers I suggest here.
An important note with air purifiers though is that they will not resolve an existing visible mold growth problem in your house. If you have visible mold you have to physically get rid of it first for your air purifier to perform effectively and you absolutely cannot rely on an air purifier to deal with surface mold.
8. Install A High-Quality Filter In Your HVAC
There are two key things you have to do to remove mold from your air as an HVAC owner. Keep your HVAC clean and regularly maintain your filters. You also have to ensure you install high-quality filters that keep mold out of your HVAC system.
If you do not keep your HVAC clean and maintain it with high-quality filters, you risk turning it into a highly efficient airborne mold distribution center. Once mold gets into your HVAC, it's only a matter of minutes before spores are delivered into every room that is connected to it. The same applies if you run a central heating system or central air system in your home or facility.
9. Use A Window Screen Filter
There are several window screen filters out there you can choose from. Some cover your entire window while others can be retrofitted under your window. I prefer the system you install under a window.
The whole idea with these filters is for you to be able to open up your home to let air in while keeping most air contaminants including mold out.
So simply put, mold is trapped in the window screen filter before it enters your home, reducing the amount of outdoor airborne mold that gets into your home. For an example of a window screen filter, have a look at the Safeguard Window Screen here.
10. Do Not Install Carpets In The Basement
Whether you have high humidity or not, it’s not a good idea to put carpet in your basement. Things take time to dry in a basement and if you accidentally spill something on a basement carpet you are just setting yourself up for a serious mold outbreak.
For basements, rather go for natural linoleum or concrete flooring or any other flooring that holds minimal moisture. That way you minimize chances of mold growing in your basement and spreading from there into the rest of your home through your air.
11. Use Exhaust Fans
If you can install exhaust fans in your kitchen, bathroom, under sinks, and basement then you should. Doing this greatly contributes to your efforts to control humidity and moisture in your home. Enough water vapor is produced in your bathroom and kitchen and an exhaust fan and cooker hood are very helpful in moving all this vapor out of your home.
In conjunction with all your other moisture eradicating measures, exhaust fans really help keep your home airborne mold-free by minimizing the moisture available for mold to reproduce in key moisture-producing areas of your home.
12. Let Wet Things Dry Outside
Another way the level of moisture increases in your home is when you leave wet items indoors. Remember mold can develop in just 24 hours if the environment is permitting.
Accordingly, having wet clothes, shoes, towels and other things lying around indoors works against your efforts to remove and keep mold out of your air. Therefore, as much as possible try to keep wet things outside your home.
13. Keep Decomposing Matter Away From Your House
I always wrap up organic trash and put it outside my home to avoid mold growing from there and sending spores into my home. The other thing I do is keep outdoor trash cans at the furthest distance possible away from my home.
Obviously, you are more restricted on what you can do if you live in an apartment block but still more, there are designated places for your trash and if you do not want mold in your air you should keep all organic trash out of your home. Don’t let the sunset before you take it out.
Then for those of you with a yard, make sure to rake fallen leaves and keep compost and yard-waste hips as far as you can from your home. Mold loves to grow in such places and the closer garden waste is to your house, the more mold is likely to spread from the air outside into your air indoors.
14. Direct Drainage Away From Your Home
The final way to deal with airborne mold indoors is to build or channel your existing drainage away from your home. This helps to reduce moisture in your basement by reducing seepage or water trickling underground into your basement from your drainage system.
With one less source of moisture in your basement, the better your chances of effectively keeping things dry to prevent any mold growth there and its subsequent spread through your air and on surfaces on surfaces around your home or workspace.
Now, I have taken you through quite a number of methods you can use to get rid of airborne mold. You by no means have to do all of them but rather focus on what applies to your circumstances.
Something you will notice, however, is that some approaches have to be used together with others. So be sure to combine the various where it makes sense.
Lastly, let me say this, of the numerous approaches you can try to tackle airborne mold, the simplest advice remains by far the best. Control your moisture and keep things as clean as possible and you will control mold and airborne mold in your home and workspace.
Precautions You Need To Take When Dealing With Mold
Some precautions like wearing protective gear when dealing with mold are very obvious and I think I have covered a lot on that already, so I won’t touch on these here. However, there are a couple things people overlook.
The first thing you must consider when cleaning up mold is that you can actually cross-contaminate other surfaces and items in your home. To avoid cross-contamination, and a second infestation after your clean up, before you start your cleanup, the smart thing to do is to move furniture, tables, and whatever else out of the room you are about to clean.
If the items you are moving also need to be cleaned, do the cleaning outdoors away from your home. Once you have emptied the mold-infested room, you can then clean all visible mold there without worry that spores will end up on other surfaces in that room and your mold issues will come back.
To avoid cross-contamination and mold coming back, sometimes you may even have to go to the extent of tearing out tiles and scraping paint and plaster off walls. Interestingly if you read the bible, in Leviticus 14:33-45 these kinds of precautions and drastic measures are advised against mold and mildew.
The other thing you should make sure to do is to cover air vents to your ducts and your air conditioner and make sure they are off when you are cleaning up mold. This way you prevent mold from getting into these systems as you clean up and eventually being spat out into your home again defeating your cleaning efforts.
Still on the point about cross-contamination, when you discard debris from your cleanup, make sure to put them in a well wrapped up disposal bag. You also want to thoroughly wash any equipment and clothing you used during your cleanup.
In conclusion, if you assess your mold problem and it's quite extensive, I mean like you have mold in between walls and all over your insulation, I think it's wise not to resolve the problem by yourself. For a large-scale mold problem, you are better off calling a licensed mold remediation contractor to clean things up for you.