My Tips and Techniques for Cleaning the Dust and Mold Out of Your Beloved Take-Along Device
One of the questions I get most often via email or through the blog is whether or not you can clean laptop for mold after an exposure. This is a difficult topic to address, since laptops pose the unique situation of being both non-porous (smooth, hard surfaces) and semi-porous (they allow air to circulate through them, and some have many contours such as carvings). To some, a laptop computer seems like it should be easy to clean. Unfortunately, laptops and desktop computers with inner fans and air flow, cooling mechanisms make them particularly difficult to remediate successfully. (Note: Desktops are one of the hardest electronics to clean, because the dust inside can be overwhelming even when mold exposure isn’t a factor. It is best to adopt a practice of using your HEPA vacuum with a soft brush attachment to clean the outside of the computer casing and the fan vents once a week to thwart dust build-up from a mold prevention standpoint.) As a matter of fact, none of our computers were not able to be saved after our mold ordeal. I must have cleaned each one at least four different times before I finally gave up and threw them out. It was definitely a sad and expensive loss.
Now that I have more knowledge and experience with mold, I know that the biggest hinderance to my success was not what I was using to clean the computers, but, rather, the way that I was attempting to clean them. I was not fully addressing all of the mold and dust trapped inside within the fan. Thus, I was never able to get them to a place where I could turn them on and not have an almost immediate reaction—sneezing, headaches, skin rashes, and itchy, watery eyes. It was as if the mold spores were still actively circulating inside the computers no matter what I did. At the time, I definitely did not know as much as I know now about mold and cleaning for mold, so my “tool belt” wasn’t as stocked with options and ideas of other ways to clean them besides continuously wiping them down, blowing out the fans with an air compressor, and trying to allow them to run in outdoor environments to essentially blow the mold spores out from continual use. Admittedly, not the best strategy.
Let’s be honest, even when unhealthy levels of mold and mold illness are involved, a computer is a large expense. Computers are also very personal items, and if you can avoid having to replace or repurchase one, most people want to—regardless of the mold danger. I am here to tell you, though, that of all potentially contaminated items that you should try to not introduce to a “safe,” mold-free space, a computer is a big one, for the very same reason that it is hard to clean—its inner fan. This fan, and cooling system, if full of mold spores can swiftly deposit mold all over your things and home in a manner of minutes. Thus, it is never a good idea to remove computers or electronics from a mold-contaminated home and to continue to use them without proper and targeted cleaning, as well as testing when the cleaning is complete to make sure that it actually worked.