Today, I am excited to bring you a new sort of post—well, it’s actually more of a Q&A exchange, where a reader of the blog wrote in to ask me a specific “how to clean for mold” question, and I wrote back to impart my best advice. I actually hope that this exchange will spur more of you on to write to me with this sort of inquiry. If I have learned anything in this time of starting and maintaining this blog, it’s that my passion really lies in helping people, and feeling like I am bringing some positive everyday wisdom to the beast that is mold—especially for those of us who are allergic to it. Maybe this sort of exchange can become a regular feature on the blog, if there is enough interest.
So, back to the Q&A:
The lovely Erin Porter, you may remember her from my previous post How to Eat, Pray, and Get Well, wrote to me to ask about a pesky mold problem underneath some wood floorboards in her home. Erin, as you may recall, has had her own share of mold-related sinusitis and struggled for years and years, even undergoing multiple sinus surgeries and countless rounds of antibiotics, before finally finding a doctor who focused on the environmental piece of her illness. (She has her own blog full of beautiful food and photographs about her wellness journey and newfound passion for nutrition and cooking at EatPrayGetWell.com).
The conversation that follows is our email exchange and some photos that Erin took to “show” me the issue:
(Note: Like I have said before, I am not a mold remediation professional or a medical doctor, so any advice I give is just that, advice. I always, always suggest contacting a professional or a doctor, if a mold issue in your home is making you or your loved ones sick. It is never worth compromising your health for an easy fix.)
We keep having problems under these two floorboards. It’s actually not coming from outside, where you see the drain, but from underneath. My husband wants to clean the mold with bleach before sealing over that concrete…do you think this is the correct way to clean this mold? We have been spraying MicroBalance anti-fungal on the area (she is referring to the EC3 Spray) until we can get a better understanding of what’s happening… thank you and hope you are well!
Here are the 2 photographs that Erin attached to her email:
First and foremost, you need to find the source of the moisture. Without the moisture, the mold cannot grow. Is it currently wet? Do you know what is making it wet under the floor boards. In my limited construction experience, it looks as if the water is entering underneath your door frame from the outside and seeping onto your concrete sub-floor. That, most likely, needs to be sealed and treated as well. I would get a professional or someone with a moisture meter out there to find where the water is. Once you find and stop the moisture source, then you can treat, seal and fix the floor. (FYI, there are foundation specialists who deal with moisture coming through the concrete. These folks tend to be very expensive, but, if all else fails in finding the moisture source, it will be worth it, because the mold will continue to recur, if the area keeps getting wet.) Assuming that there is no more water or moisture entering the area, here is how I would proceed with cleaning up the mold.
- Get yourself some disposable gloves, old clothes, a 3M particulate face mask–they sell them at Walmart, Home Depot and on Amazon. Since you are mold sensitive, you cannot skip this step. The minute you disturb the mold to clean it up, the spores can be released into the air.
- If you can leave that door to the outside open while you clean, that would be great. I would also get a box fan and point it so that that air is blowing to the outside and the “sucking side” of the fan is pointing towards the interior of your home. Air circulation and movement will help to dry everything. You also need to move a dehumidifier into the area to completely dry it out after you treat and clean the mold it. (You definitely do not want to lay new wood flooring onto an area that is not totally dry.)
- Put on your safety gear. Pull up any floorboards around the area too, to make sure you are getting ALL of the affected areas clean. I would not be afraid to get after it. Any mold left behind will eventually give you sinus issues and will rot your floors eventually.
- Once all the mold is exposed, get your EC3 Spray and add 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide to the bottle. DO NOT USE BLEACH. Bleach does NOT kill mold. (Here is a great article from survivingtoxicmold.com about bleach and why it is not ideal to use for cleaning up mold. “Bleach is made of 99% water. The chlorine stays on the surface and the rest of the 99% of the water goes into the porous holes and “waters” the toxic mold. THIS is what “fuels” the mold to return with a rage. The toxic mold will grow at a much faster rate now that you have essentially “watered” it. Remember, toxic molds love moisture”–couldn’t have stated it any better myself.). It only removes the color from it. It also does not inhibit future growth either. The EC3 will. Anyway, the peroxide will provide that desired bleaching effect. Spray the entire area–fully saturate it with the EC3/ peroxide mixture. Let it sit for 5 minutes. Get a sponge or brush that you can throw away and wipe or scrub any areas clean that need extra cleaning. Bag and throw the sponges and brush away outside your home. Do you have a steam mop with changeable cloth covers? If so, fill it with distilled water, then spray the area again with the EC3 Spray. After 5 minutes, steam the heck out of the concrete sub-floor wherever you sprayed the EC3. The heat will kill anything left behind. If you don’t have a steam mop, repeat the spraying, cleaning process, until no visible mold is left behind. Finally, spray just plain EC3 Spray–without the peroxide in it, on the area at the end and let it air dry. Place the fans and dehumidifier in the area for at least 24 hours to dry everything completely. DO NOT SEAL OR REPLACE ANY FLOORING UNTIL AREAS TREATED ARE BONE DRY.
- Throw your gloves, mask, and everything used to clean the area in plastic bags and throw them away outside of your home.
- Burn a few EC3 Candles in the area for 3 hours at a time to purify the air of any mold spores released in the cleaning process.
I hope that helps. It seems extreme, I know, but you have to do it right to take care of yourself and your health. I would love it if you would take more pictures and send them to me after and during cleaning. Let me know how you are doing with this. I can send more advice and tips if any of this seems daunting or like it’s not working.
Wow, thank you Catherine. You would THINK it’s coming in from the door or where the drain is outside, but we have tested it by saturating the door with the hose, and no water is coming in. We are thinking it’s coming from under the concrete. Just not sure what kind of specialist to call? We had a contractor come in last year to take a look at the drain right outside that door, because the patio was sometimes flooding when it rained. That didn’t fix it. We had a floor guy come in and fix the floor, only for it to happen again within months.
Thanks for all the steps – once we figure out who to call to fix the water intrusion problem, we are going to do every step you suggested.
We are in the process of getting rid of ALL carpets. We test with the EC3 Test Plates, already. Our master bedroom went from a spore count of 9-10, down to 0, once we ripped up the rug, fogged with the EC3 Mold Solution Concentrate (see this link for a previous post on fogging on this blog), and put a HEPA filter in our room. That will be a post on my blog (EatPrayGetWell.com) soon. 🙂
Keep up the good work with your blog. This is where it gets tricky for people. It’s one thing to ask people to change their diet, (which is hard enough), but it’s another when it comes to our homes. It takes A LOT of work and knowledge …so let’s share it! 🙂
As soon as I hear back from Erin about her progress, I’ll share it on the blog. I look forward to hearing from you soon, if there is any way I can help you to solve a “How To Clean For Mold” problem in your home!