So you had a plumbing problem or some kind of leak and now you have some mold that needs to be cleaned up. You are wise to get it removed as quickly as possible when you consider the health problems mold can cause.
The first thing you need to do is make absolutely sure you have fixed the leak or the source of moisture causing the problem. If you don’t do this, the mold will quickly return and you will have wasted your time removing and cleaning the moldy area.
Next you’ll want to assess the damage and determine if you want to do this yourself or hire a professional. If a large area is affected you should probably call a professional mold remediation service. They have the equipment and supplies to safely contain and remove mold to prevent further contamination and potential health problems.
Before starting any mold remediation work you should wear a good respiratory mask, rubber gloves and eye protection. You can pick these up at any good home improvement store. If you have a compromised respiratory system you should consider hiring a mold removal service.
If a small area is affected you can remove the mold using a scrub brush and simple 10% bleach solution. A bleach solution requires longer exposure, so spray the area and let it sit for about 5 minutes and then spray again before you start scrubbing.
This is important. If the mold on the surfaces you are cleaning is dry you should spray it with water or the bleach solution before you start scrubbing. Remember that dried mold spores are easily made airborne and travel everywhere with the slightest air movements. When you douse the mold with moisture you effectively prevent this from happening.
It is important to clean beyond the area where mold is visible. Mold spores are very, very small and cannot be seen by the naked eye. Cleaning and disinfecting beyond the visibly affected area helps prevent future mold outbreaks.
If you have to remove any materials it is best to place them in a heavy plastic garbage bag. Keep this bag closed at all times and remove it from the home as soon as possible.
Once you have removed the mold you should sponge the area with clean water and ventilate the area until it is completely dry. When you’re all done you should keep your eye on the area to make sure moisture does not return. If it does, mold will start growing again and all your cleaning efforts are wasted. If moisture does return, you’ll need to ventilate the area and keep it as dry as possible to prevent mold from growing until you locate and fix the source of moisture.
If your basement has a musty or moldy smell you’ll want to take care of it as quickly as possible. Mold can be toxic and cause health problems. Another big problem that comes with high humidity are pests like termites. All sorts of unwanted insects search for and thrive in a humid environment.
To get started, the first thing you’ll want to do is detect where the moisture is coming from that is causing the problem. This could be as simple as high humidity or something worse like foundation seepage, leaking window wells or a plumbing leak. Most of the time the problem is obvious like damp floors after a heavy rain or water around a washing machine, water heater or bathroom sink.
Most of the time this problem is caused by foundation cracks, faulty gutters or insufficient grading. Obviously, if seepage is the problem you’ll want to fix the problem as soon as possible. To prevent a musty smell or mold problem you’ll want to dry-vac and ventilate the damp area as quickly as possible. Most molds will start growing within 24 to 48 hours so get out the fans and open the windows pronto! In some cases carpeting may need to be removed to rid the musty odor.
The same advice goes for plumbing leaks and leaking window wells. If mold has already started growing and is visible it should be removed after any leaks are fixed. Small mold problems can be cleaned with a brush and some bleach water or white vinegar. Thoroughly clean the affected area, rinse the work area with a sponge and clean water and then dry completely with fans. When cleaning mold it is always wise to wear a respiratory protection mask and make sure the work area is open or ventilated (leave doors open and run ventilation fans if possible).
High Humidity Problems
A sure sign of high humidity is condensation on basement windows. The optimum Relative Humidity (RH) level for a home is 30% to 50%. Humidity levels higher than this can promote bacterial growth. To reduce humidity in your home consider drying clothes outside that you don’t put in the dryer and run the ventilation fans when showering and cooking on the stove (your range hood should blow the air outside or this won’t help).
Other than this, you should consider opening up the windows on nice days to release indoor humidity. Another option is a dehumidifier but you should be careful NOT to overuse it. You don’t want to dry out the air too much and draw more moisture to the basement which can activate dormant mold spores.
A good idea would be to get an indoor humidity meter and monitor levels closely. Does humidity increase after doing certain activities? You may be able to pinpoint problems that otherwise may not be noticeable.
Once you have stopped the moisture problem, removed any visible mold, thoroughly ventilated the area and have humidity levels under control the musty smell should be gone. If it persists, then you most likely have a hidden mold growth problem you’ll need to locate.