Cleaning A Moldy Home
Things to Consider
I have no expertise in construction or mold removal, but I have been through water damage, mold damage and mold removal, and remediation and can give you some tips. I also can suggest other people or organizations that can be of help to you.
For you to start this process off right, there are some things you should know. If you do not educate yourself on some basic background knowledge, you may find yourself having to clean your home and your belongings again. So, please before reading this article on cleaning, first read another article I wrote at this link.
Who Will Do the Work
Are you going to hire someone or do it yourself? If you are sensitive and have health consequences when exposed to a water-damaged building, it is best to have someone else do it. However, sometimes people still do it themselves due to the job being tiny or lack of funds to hire someone or lack of being able to find a qualified contractor to do the remediation. However, the best thing to do if possible is to find a qualified contractor to remediate your home.
Here are some things they/you should or may do:
- Fix the cause of the mold - leaks etc.
- Remove the source - the mold/bacteria/rotting materials need to be removed in its entirety - but don't stop there as any toxins/VOCs they made are in the air and on your belongings, so you are not done.
- Remove the odors from all affected areas and all areas they are noted.
- Ventilation - necessary for all involved - even open windows can be helpful to exchange air if the air is clean, dry air outside.
- Neutralization/capture of VOCs and other toxins - example would be oxidizers such as H202 or ozone or hydroxyl generators.
- Enzymes for odors from sewage, animal excrement, urine - new enzymes come on the market all the time. Some people are selling them for mold but there are varying reports on their working, not working and making the odors worse. Not sure what to say about it at this point. The enzymes for urine and sewage do work though.
- Possible use of odor encapsulants - not my favorite idea - sealants for keeping odors inside the sealant should be used as a last resort and they have to be applied appropriately and there are usually better options.
- Detailed cleaning - Currently, the industry standard is HEPA vacuuming which is then followed with wet wiping, then fogging, and microfiber mopping at the end. You are not just cleaning up mold, but also cleaning up the toxins and VOCs from the mold/bacteria/building material odors/toxins.
- Using heat can help make building materials and objects give up VOCs into the air so they can be eradicated.
- If you take belongings out of the contaminated space, do not bring them back in uless they have been decontaminated or you are sure they were not contaminated.
- If equipment is being used by a contractor, ask how they clean that equipment between jobs. Will they be bringing mold spores from the last place they worked on? Same goes for rental equipment. Ask how they clean it in-between rentals.
Here are some things you should ask them:
- Is containment required
- If containment is not required, ask why as unless a really small job with little mold, it should have containment
- Will negative pressure be used - it should be used usually
- What level of protective gear will be used for the workers
- How will the water or moisture problem be fixed so the mold does not recur
- If there are moldy building materials, how will they be removed to avoid spreading mold
- Once the cause is fixed and the mold is removed, what is the process they use to clean up various types of surfaces and the air of the contaminants made by the mold/bacteria/building materials rotting
- How will they remove the endotoxins, mycotoxins (other toxins) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) (some toxins are VOCs)
- Who will be doing the testing for mold to make sure it has been cleaned up (It should not be them)
What About Floods
Buildings with heavy damage by flood waters should be assessed for structural integrity and remediated by experienced professionals. Damage with sewage or other contaminated waters brings in a whole new level of problems.
What If You Still Smell Mold Afterward
You should not smell mold afterward. If it smells musty after the job is done, find out why. More needs to be done than just cleaning up the mold. The toxins from the mold, bacteria and building materials can get into the air and move to other areas of the room or building through wafts of air, HVACs, on animals, people etc. They can get on furnishings also. Some of the toxins easily volatalize into the air and can be readsorbed into other materials in the building. They are in the group of toxins called volatile organic compounds. If your nose tells you it is musty, something has not been cleaned well enough. Trust your nose and find out where the smell is coming from.
Do testing after remediation. Testing should not be completed immediately after the job but wait for some dust to settle first. At least a month. This will give you a clearer indication if the clean up worked or not. How you feel may or may not be related to a poor remediation. Unfortunately, new building materials can make some people feel ill due to the toxins emitted from some of them, so you can't always use how you feel as an indicator of a mold free space, but don't ignore feeling ill. Someone other than the remediator should do the follow-up testing.
All bad smells should go away. They should not be hidden by other scents but should actually have the offending toxins altered into other molecules or removed physically. In some cases people use encasement and this may or may not work depending on the situation.
Mold Remediation Procedures
In conducting the mold remediation, every effort should be made to keep dust and mold out of the air.
A variety of methods are available to remediate damage to buildings and furnishings caused by moisture- control problems and mold. The procedures selected depend on the size of the moldy area and the type of contaminated materials. Budget may also be a concern. The methods presented in this section outline approaches that some professionals are using; other professionals may prefer to use different methods. Be aware that mechanical disturbance such as the agitation of moldy materials during demolition or cleaning can cause an extreme increase in the level of airborne spores and other fungal materials. People who are sensitive to mold should never be in the building when it is remediated and if they have to continue living there as they have no where else they can go, then a clean area should be created for them that can be contained away from the work. No one should be in the area being remediated except the workers and if someone does go in there, they should wear protective gear.
One thing to keep in mind as you think about remediating an area is the following. Vacuuming and using wet or dry sprays of biocides and letting them set is not an effecting manner to clean a surface for a person who is sensitive to molds and other toxins in a water-damaged building. We are not just talking about killing mold. We need to remove all mold, spores, mycotoxins, biotoxins, inflammagens and volatile organic compounds that are resting on surfaces. This means it involves actual wiping of all wipable areas with something that will not just kill but will pick up these tiny particles such as a 95% alcohol or hydrogen peroxide.
The three most common used agents are 95% alcohol, Hydrogen Peroxide and quaternary ammonium compounds. Quaternary ammonium compounds are cationic detergents, as well as disinfectants, and as such can be used to remove organic material. Quaternary ammonium compounds are deactivated by anionic detergents (including common soaps).
Quaternary ammonium compounds are often used but may not be safe: BenzaRid, MoldSTAT Barrier, Mold Armor has a few: One named MS-501. I have used quaternary ammonium products such as Benzarid in the past and although it is the best product I have used and does not harm any items I have used it on, it has recently been found to cause neural tube defects in a rodent study. So, I am concerned about using this product. The quaternary ammonium products may also persist in the environemt.
List of Cleaning Agents Used On Stains
This is a list of agents used in the order of easier to harder to clean mold stains and what many professionals will use to remove these stains.
- Wipes off with cloth and water or soap and water
- Scrubs off with mild cleanser
- Enzyme-based products
- hydrogen peroxide based products
- Peracetic acid-based mold stain remover sodium hypochlorite (bleach)
- deep sanding or heavy media blasting
General Cleanup Methods
Wet vacuum (in the case of porous materials, some mold spores/fragments will remain in the material but will not grow if the material is completely dried). Although this may be fine for someone who is not sensitive, people who are sensitive to mold, spores and mycotoxins should throw many of the porous items out if they can not be completely cleaned.
Wet, or water-extraction, vacuums are designed to collect water. They can be used to remove water that has accumulated on floors, carpets, and hard surfaces. Wet vacuums should be used only when materials are still wet, otherwise they may spread mold spores. Wet vacuums alone will not dry carpets. Wet carpets must be pulled up and dried, then reinstalled. The carpet padding also must be dried. I personally would throw all wall to wall carpet out and put something else in. This will likely be a source of contamination for you in the future otherwise. The tanks, hoses, and attachments of wet vacuums should be thoroughly cleaned and dried after use because mold and mold spores may stick to their surfaces. Ask your remediator how they cleaned their equipment after the last job they used it on
Damp-wipe surfaces that may have invisible mold/spores/myctoxins with 95% alcohol. (I have used quaternary ammonium products such as Benzarid in the past and although it is the best product to use, it has recently been found to cause neural tube defects in a rodent study. So, I am concerned about using this product. The quaternary ammonium products may also persist in the environemt.) Hydrogen peroxide is usually used at 3%-10% and it can damage your belongings, so be careful. It can also damage your lungs. It has many similarities to bleach except that bleach is much more toxic. Both of them can eat your skin off, just as they both can destroy things you put them on if you use too strong of a dilution. Test what you use first on a spot that is not noticeable if there is concern about the product damaging your personal belong. You can read further details on using it or hydrogen peroxide for personal belongings.
Mold can generally be removed from hard non-porous surfaces by wiping or scrubbing with water and detergent. Always follow the cleaning instructions on product labels. This should be followed by use of a specific mold cleaning product such as 95% alcohol. Surfaces cleaned by damp wiping should be dried quickly and thoroughly to discourage further mold growth. Porous materials that are wet and have mold growing on them often have to be discarded. Because mold will infiltrate porous substances and grow on or fill in empty spaces or crevices, completely removing mold can be difficult, if not impossible. Mold can also cause staining and other cosmetic damage.
High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) vacuum (not hepa- like, it must be a real HEPA vacuum) all surfaces in the building after general remediation. I would not suggest you use vacuuming as a method to clean up pillows, carpets or other porous items that have had mold/spores and mycotoxins on them. If you know they are damaged and you can not wash the item with hydrogen peroxide bleach in the washer or a tub, I suggest you dispose of it. Some remediators claim they can clean up these items with a hepavac but the people who are mold sensitive usually have an issue with any pillows, cloth furniture, mattresses or other porous items that are cleaned this way. This is because you can't pull all those mold spores/mycotoxins/other toxins out from inside the pillow, mattress, etc.
High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) vacuums are recommended for the final clean up of remediation areas after materials have been thoroughly dried and contaminated materials have been removed. HEPA vacuums are also recommended for cleaning up dust that has settled outside the remediation area. When changing the vacuum filter, workers should wear PPE to prevent exposure to mold that has been captured in the vacuum. The filter and contents of the HEPA vacuum must be disposed of in well-sealed plastic bags. Care must be taken to ensure that the new filter is properly seated on the vacuum so there are no leaks.
Are HEPA Vacuums And Hepa Filtration Devices Reliable
It turns out that HEPA filtration is not always what we might want it to be. If the HEPA vacuum leaks particles you will be spraying them all over in the air. It turns out that some of the vacuums indeed are leaking. It has been suggested that those of use remediating our homes, should ask the contractor how they test their hepa vaccums and filtration equipment in the field to be sure they are still working correctly.
Both vacuums and filtration units brought in by a contractor are suspect to me. I want to know how they clean and decontaminate their equipment between jobs? Make sure they have a procedure in place that is sound. Otherwise they are bringing the last jobs toxins to your home. You can learn more about this subject here.
Ultra Low Volume (ULV) Cold fogging/misting
There are a variety of liquid products that may be added to ULV fogging depending on the situation.
Advantages of Cold fogging
- Low amount of liquid and carrier
- Gets atomized iwth air pressure into very small particles
- They can use a very small amount of carrier or no carrier substance at all which means
- they are cheaper to use
- more environmentally safe
- practically odorless
- Can be used with water and oil based solutions
- No traffic hazards like with thermal fog
- More simple to operate than thermal fogger
- Quiet electric ULV foggers
- Almost invisible fog
- You don't know where it is
- Harder to control it when unseen
- More difficult maintenance and repairs
- Larger droplet size than thermal foggers - usually 10-50 microns in diameter
- Higher purchase cost
- Need longer amoutn of time to fog than thermal fogger
Products added to thermal fogging are burnt to create a smoke, so only special products can be used in the thermal fogger.
Advantages of thermal fogging
- thick, visible fog - can control and monitor it better
- you know where it is and is not
- easier to escape contact with the fog particles if you see them
- can get very small uniform droplets down to 0.5 micron and it stays afloat longer so that it is more likely to contact the contaminants in the air
- use lower concntration of active ingredients than cold fogger
- less expensive than ULV foggers
- Use petrol (usually propane) to heat the fogger and carry the solution.
- Carrier substances may have strong odors
- Carrier substance can leave oil stains
- The dense fog can be a traffic hazard for people in the area
- There is a fire risk due to high temperatures
- It is loud when operated
Throw Away Damaged Materials
Discard and remove water-damaged materials. Seal them in plastic bags while inside of containment, if present. Dispose of as normal waste. HEPA vacuum the area after it is dried.
Mold-contaminated building materials that cannot be salvaged should be double-bagged in 6-mil or thicker polyethylene bags. The bagged materials usually can be discarded as ordinary construction waste. Packaging mold-contaminated materials in sealed bags before removing them from the containment area is important to minimize the spread of mold spores throughout the building. Large items that have heavy mold growth should be covered with polyethylene sheeting and sealed with duct tape before being removed from the containment area.
Specific Types of Mold Damaged Materials
- Books/Papers: The best thing to do is toss them. However, you can photocopy them before you throw them out. You do have to decontaminate the copier with 95% alcohol or some similar product afterward though.
- Carpet and pad: I suggest throwing them all away. People who are sensitive to mold are usually not happy with the cleaning jobs on their wall to wall carpeting after mold remediation.
- Ceiling Tiles: Discard and replace.
- Cellulose Insulation: Discard and replace.
- Fiberglass insulation: Discard and replace
- Hard surface flooring ( linoleum, ceramic tile, vinyl): If the damage is only on the top and you can wipe it up easily, you might be able to clean it up, but if you need to scrub and have any trouble getting it off that means it has penetrated the material and you should throw it out.
- Nonporous, hard surfaces (plastics, metals): Clean with 95% alcohol or hydrogen peroxide as you choose and as you feel is safe. Some things will be damaged by hydrogen peroxide as mentioned previously.
- Upholstered furniture: Most upholstered furniture that has been in a moldy room will be contaminated even if it did not have mold on it. The mold spores and mycotoxins will be on and in it. They are very small and can go through the material on the furniture. It is really hard to clean these in a manner that most mold sensitive people will be able to live with.
- Wallboard (drywall & Gypsum board): If it is moldy, remove it. You can't get it out.
- Window Drapes: If they can be washed with hydrogen peroxide bleach as described in my suggestions on cleaning personal belongings I suggest this method of either using the washing machine or a tub. If they can't be washed in this manner, they may need to be thrown away. A hepavac can't pull mold and mycotoxins fully out of the material usually.
- Wood Surfaces: If the wood is sealed and the mold is easily wiped off, it is likely you can clean it up and wipe with 95% alcohol or a similar cleaner. However, if it is the tiniest bit difficult to get the mold off, it has penetrated the surface and the material should be remove. For sealed wood with no visible mold, it still needs to be wiped down with 95% alcohol or other cleaner to remove spores and mycotoxins you may not notice. If the wood is unsealed, it is best to remove it. When cleaning up cavities of a wall the bare studs that have mold on them are generally removed and the ones that look clean are sprayed with something such as white wash or with a magnesium/clay mix to keep any spores that might be on them from getting moisture on them in the future. The spraying of the mixture is usually done prior to closing the wall cavities up and they are of course dried well before closing the wall cavity.
What Should A Remediator Wear
- At a minimum if there is very minimal mold a person should at least wear Gloves, N-95 respirator or half-face respirator with HEPA filter, disposable overalls, goggles/eye protection
- What is safest is Gloves, disposable full body clothing, head gear, foot coverings, full-face respirator with HEPA filter
The goal of containment is to limit the spread of mold throughout the building in order to minimize the exposure of remediators and building occupants to mold.
Limited containment is generally recommended for areas involving 10 to 100 square feet of mold contamination. At minimum with a small job where there is little mold growth a remediator should use polyethylene sheeting from ceiling to floor around the affected area with a slit entry and covering flap. The area should be maintained under negative pressure with a HEPA filtered fan unit. The air supply and return air vents should be blocked within the containment area.
In small areas, the polyethylene sheeting can be secured to the floor and ceiling with duct tape. In larger areas, a frame of steel or wooden studs can be built to hold the polyethylene sheeting. Epoxy can also be used to fasten the sheeting to the floor or ceiling.
All supply and air vents, doors, and pipe chases in the containment area must be sealed with polyethylene sheeting to minimize the spread of mold and mold spores to other areas of the building.
Full containment is recommended for the clean up of mold-contaminated surface areas of more than 100 square feet and when intense or long-term exposures are expected. It is also recommended if it appears likely that the occupant's space would be further contaminated if full containment were not used because high levels of airborne dust or mold spores are likely. In this situation you use two layers of fire-retardant polyethylene sheeting with one airlock chamber. A decontamination chamber or airlock should be used to separate the clean areas from the contaminated areas during entry into and exit from the remediation area. The entryways to the airlock from the outside and from the airlock to the main containment area should consist of a slit with covering flaps on the outside surface of each entry. Maintain the area under negative pressure with a HEPA filtered fan exhausted outside of building. The air supply and return air vents should be blocked within the containment area.
Maintaining the containment area under negative pressure will keep contaminated air from flowing into adjacent, uncontaminated areas and possibly spreading mold. A fan exhausted to the outside of the building can be used to maintain negative air pressure. If the containment is working, the polyethylene sheeting of the containment area should billow inward on all surfaces. If it flutters or billows outward, containment has been lost, and the problem should be found and corrected before remediation continues.
The chamber should be large enough to hold a waste container and allow a worker to put on and remove Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). All contaminated PPE, except respirators, should be placed in a sealed bag while in this chamber.
Respirators should be worn until remediation workers are outside the decontamination chamber.
Air Filtration During Remediation
Air filters may be used with activated carbon in them or zeolite or other types of adsorbing materials that can latch onto VOCs similar to how they latch onto the mycotoxins in a persons guts. They will only clean certain types of VOCs and they will only work on the actual air that goes through the filter. Zeolites appear to be able to bind a wider range of molecules in the air than the activated charcola.
Personal Protective Equipment
The primary function of personal protective equipment (PPE) is to limit mold exposure.
If a remediation job disturbs mold, and mold spores then become airborne, the risk of respiratory and skin exposure increases. Actions likely to stir up mold include breaking moldy porous materials such as wallboard, using invasive procedures to examine or remediate mold growth in wall cavities, pulling moldy flooring up, stripping or peeling wallpaper to remove it, and using fans to dry items.
Gloves protect the skin from contact with mold. They also protect the skin from irritating cleaning solutions such as hydrogen peroxide or bleach. Long gloves that extend to the middle of the forearm are best.
The material from which gloves are made should be suited to the type of materials being handled. If you choose to use a product, such as quaternary ammonium chloride, chlorine bleach, hydrogen peroxide, or other strong cleaning solution, gloves should be made from natural rubber, neoprene, nitrile, polyurethane, or polyvinylchloride (PVC). (I am not a fan of PVC for environmental toxic reasons, but include it here as they are used.) If a mild detergent is being used, ordinary household rubber gloves are suitable. The routine use of the above three products is not recommended, but mild detergents do not always clean up all the unseen mycotoxins/spores/mold that bothers sensitive people. Bleach is my least favorite item to use for cleaning as it is so caustic and smells so strong. I would use hydrogen peroxide all the time, but find it can damage many items, so when worried about damage, I suggest 95% alcohol. It too may damage certain items, so use it on a small spot and check it first to be sure it will not damage the product. I want to additionally add that although I used quaternary ammonium products such as Benzarid in the past and although it is the best product I have used and does not harm any items I have used it on, it has recently been found to cause neural tube defects in a rodent study. So, I am concerned about using this product. The quaternary ammonium products may also persist in the environemt.
Properly fitted goggles or full-face respirators provide eye protection. Goggles must be designed to keep out dust and small particles. Safety glasses or goggles that have open vent holes will let spores and toxins through as well as general debris.
This is what the government recommends:
Respirators protect remediation workers from inhaling airborne mold, mold spores, and dust. Three types of respiratory protection are described: minimum, limited, and full. Only respirators approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) should be worn during mold remediation. These respirators must be used according to any applicable Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations.
Use minimum PPE when cleaning up a small area affected by mold (less than 10 square feet total). Minimum PPE includes gloves, goggles/eye protection and an N-95 respirator. An N-95 respirator covers the nose and mouth, filters out 95 percent of airborne particulates, and is available in most hardware stores. It does not provide eye protection.
Limited PPE includes the use of half-face or full-face air purifying respirators (APRs) equipped with P100 filter cartridges. These respirators have inhalation and exhalation valves that filter the air and ensure it is free of mold particles. The P100 filters do not remove vapors or gases, and the half-face APRs do not protect the wearer's eyes. Limited PPE may be warranted when the total surface area affected by mold is between 10 and 100 square feet. Professional judgment should be used to make the final determination about whether to wear limited PPE.
Full PPE includes a full-face, powered air purifying respirator (PAPR). It is recommended when more than 100 square feet of mold is found, when high levels of airborne dust or mold spores are likely, or when intense or long-term exposures are expected. A powered air purifying respirator uses a blower to force air through a P100 filter. The filtered air is supplied to a mask that covers the wearer's face or a hood that covers the entire head. Positive pressure within the hood prevents unfiltered air from entering through penetrations or gaps. Individuals must be trained to use their respirators before they begin remediation.
My warnings about reusable respirators: I have found that the material used to make 1/2 face and full face respirators tends to suck in volatile organic compounds from water-damged buildings. I have also found it impossible to clean them to my liking. It is possible though that if you use one and quickly clean it with a cleaning product that you may be able to get it clean enough to use again. There is nothing as disgusting as putting on a moldy smelling respirator to protect you from contaminated air. Just does not work.
Disposable clothing is recommended for medium and large remediation projects. It prevents the transfer and spread of mold to clothing and eliminates skin contact with mold. When limited protection is warranted, disposable paper coveralls can be used. When full protection is required, a body suit of breathable material such as TYVEK and mold impervious disposable head and foot coverings should be used. All gaps, such as those around ankles and wrists, should be sealed. (Many remediators use duct tape to seal clothing.)
Remediating Large Areas of Mold Contamination
An HVAC system found to be contaminated with mold should be turned off and not used until the system has been remediated. Using a mold-contaminated HVAC system may spread mold throughout the building. If the HVAC duct work is metal, it may be remediated in a manner that will work for the person living in the home. However, if it is a porous material, I suggest you throw the duct work out and put a cleanable, metal duct work in its place.
Effective containment of the area served by the ventilation system is important to avoid the spread of mold and mold-contaminated materials. All intakes and supply vents should be sealed with plastic and tape, and negative air pressure should be maintained in work areas. (A fan can be used.) Contaminated porous materials in the HVAC system should be bagged and removed.
Cleaning both the inside and outside of duct work is a big job and an easy one to do wrong. Just killing mold is not enough. All mold, spores and mycotoxins need to actually be removed from all surfaces. This means you have to wipe it up somehow. Ask your remediator how they are going to do this. In my opinion, vacuuming and using wet or dry sprays of biocides is not an effecting manner to clean HVACs for sensitive people.
Completing Mold Remediation
You fixed the water problem and cleaned up the mold. How do you know when you have finished remediation that it is truly clean? Ultimately, it is a judgment call unless you retest it. People should be able to occupy or live or work in the building without health complaints or physical symptoms. The most important action, if mold growth is to be controlled in a building, is to eliminate the source of moisture that caused the mold problem. No matter how good the mold cleanup is, if the water problem is not solved, mold will return. Therefore, determining whether moisture in the building is being controlled is key in assessing the effectiveness of the remediation effort. If moisture is not being controlled, even removing all the mold growing in the building will be a temporary solution.
A visual inspection of the area that has been remediated should show no evidence of present or past mold growth. There should be no moldy or musty odors associated with the building, because these odors suggest that mold continues to grow. If mold or moldy odors are present in the building, the remediation has not been effective.
Keep in mind that remodeling, cleaning, and construction may have introduced new building materials or chemicals capable of causing upper respiratory irritation as well as systemic effects that, in some individuals, may mimic the symptoms caused by exposure to mold.
Check out this site for very good assistance: survivingremediation.com
Keeping It Clean
Once it is remediated, you want to keep the mold down. Here are some ideas.
A passive filter does not involve ozone or ionization or any creation of electric fields and for this reason some people feel more comfortable with them. They also will only clean the particles out of the air that happen to float through them. They will not clean surfaces in the room. There needs to be air movement in the room to get all the air to move through the filter or you will need to move the filter around to get best use out of them. Smaller areas will be best cleaned by a passive filter usually because of this limitation.
HEPA filters remove at most 99.97% of 0.3-micrometer particles, and are usually more effective for particles which are larger. HEPA purifiers which filter all the air going into a clean room must be arranged so that no air bypasses the HEPA filter. They will catch mold spores and they will be on the filter. The filter can grow mold spores on the actual filters if there is enough humidity in the air and they are not changed often. They work effectively to filter particles of 0.03 microns or larger such as allergens from pets, dust, and larger smoke particles. They only clean the air and only in the amount of space they are designed to serve. They are designed for a small space usually. They do not clean the surfaces in your home. They are not effective at removing odors, gases, and chemicals due to their small particle size.
Precipitate out charged particles and don't expose very much air to the process. Like the hepa filter they do not clean surfaces, they clean air. They can trap very small particles (0.01 microns) using charged plates. They have trouble moving enough air for effective indoor coverage and pollutant absorption.
Activated carbon is a porous material that can adsorb volatile chemicals on a molecular basis, but does not remove larger particles. These are able to use a very large surface area to attract and neutralize odors and pollutants. Rarely used by itself and when the filter gets full, it stops absorbing and needs to be replaced. These can be very safe for sensitive individuals to use. This is one I purchased upon the recommendation of a very sensitive person who said this filter was fantastic. It cleaned up the air of a friends brand new apartment they moved into that had smelled like a cacophony of chemicals prior to his using this filter. The thing that my friend who suggested this filter to me pointed out about it and sold me on the product is that about it is easier to clean the machine if it gets contaminated with mold or some other material. My friend had just moved out of a mold contaminated house and she could not clean the brand new hepa filters she had purchased and was therefore unable to take them with her. So if this is an issue for you, you might examine using this as a possible air filtration unit. This is an air filter I like.
Active Air Filtration/Cleaning
Uses proven element found in nature that effectively cleans outside air. Need to be able to control generation level to keep output within EPA guidelines.
Ozone or O3, or "trioxygen" is a molecule made of three oxygen atoms. In this form, and referred to as an "allotrope" of oxygen, ozone is an unstable gas - that means it breaks down into oxygen molecules. Lightening generates ozone. Whenever an electrical spark or corona occurs in air, some ozone is formed. This is the characteristic odor noted near an operating electric motor such as a printer. Most people can detect ozone at a concentration of from 0.02 to 0.05 ppm. (parts ozone per million parts air)
While ozone is helpful in the upper atmosphere (filtering out UV light rays), in lower atmosphere, or in buildings, it is an air pollutant that is harmful to humans and other animals, and a gas that can oxidize or burn plants or various materials found indoors. So although it can be helpful if used appropriately. If used without proper education, you can hurt yourself, your animals or your belongings. Do not expose yourself, others, or any living things to ozone. Ozone can cause a variety of respiratory problems if it is above 0.05ppm and it is suggested that people should not be exposed to more than 0.1 ppm over an 8-hr day. Ozone is an oxidzier which is the opposite of an antioxidant. Just remember even low levels can damage your respiratory system, including your lungs. Exposure can be minor with a sore throat or cause issues from chest pains to asthma.
Additionally, you need to be aware that although ozone can clear up a variety of odors in buildings, when used in excess it can create new ones. When high levels of ozone have been produced in an enclosed space, people have found that other materials in the space become partly oxidized. This can give off chemical-like odors. It appears that oxidation of furniture, curtains, paint, carpeting, carpet pad and other types of materials causes a new odor problem in this case. So, over use of ozone can create additional air quality problems and can destroy your belongings. These odors seem to be especially problematic with synthetic objects. However, too much ozone can oxidize all objects, so just because your organic cotton drapes are not putting off bad odors into the air, it does not mean they can't get damaged. So, again you have to know what you are doing and be careful.
Ozone is really useful for cleaning up nasty smelling rooms, killing viruses, and bacteria, but not for killing mold. That being said, I have used ozone machines in homes and cars where there were terrible mold smells and neither could be remediated at the time. In both cases the ozone machine was amazingly helpful. I found it had to be run multiple times to really be effective though. These can also be useful after you have done all the cleaning and remediating of mold properly and you want to get the last little bit of residual mold spores etc that are still bothering you. It can be useful for sensitive individuals living in a home that has supposedly been properly remediated but still bothers them. They then use ozone and it can help immensely. The machines can also be used to clean smells out of your car and even possibly your HVAC system depending on how big it is. Do not think it will remove physical damage. You need to first do the physical remediation. However, this can be helpful after that has been done with residual smells.
Know how much space you need to ozonate and then to pick a generator that can put out enough ozone to get up to 10 parts per million of ozone as that is the amount necessary clean up your room. You want to think about the amount of ozone that is being pumped out being adequate for the area as well as the fan being adequate to move the ozone around the area. If not you will need to add an outside fan to move the ozone around. It won't do you any good if it is not moved into the whole area. Also be aware that ozone is heavy and will fall towards the floor. Additionally be aware that the levels of ozone that are active to reduced smells are not safe for you to be around. However, you will need to start the machine and may need to move the device before it turns off. Protect yourself when you do this. If you are temporarily in a room with a machine running, be sure to wear an adequate mask as ozone is hazardous to your health. Wait for the ozone smell to leave a room before entering it. If you need to use a room quickly, open the windows to air the room out before use.
Be aware that some of the sellers are saying their machines cover larger areas than they really do.
How To Use An Ozone Machine
Get all animals and people out of the building to be ozoned. Put it up high if possible as ozone is heavier than the air around it and will tend to go down. Some machines come with a hook to hang it. Sometimes people use furniture or a ladder to put it up high. What ever you do, make sure it is safe. There are some machines that come with attachments that allow you to use them directly into carpeting, upholstery or to put the arm attachment down your cool air return of the HVAC system. The one that I decided to go with is a small machine with a powerful capacity from New Age Living on Ebay.
The necessary concentrations to kill bacteria, viruses and remove musty odors are toxic enough to humans and animals that the FDA declared that ozone has no place in medical treatment and has taken action against businesses that violate this regulation by offering therapeutic ozone generators or ozone therapy. Ozone is a highly toxic and extremely reactive gas. A higher daily average than 0.1 ppm (0.2 mg/m³) is not recommended and can damage the lungs and olfactory bulb cells directly. This is why you should never be in an area with ozone being generated and must wait until the ozone is gone before entering such an area. There are masks that can be used to turn ozone machines on or if you are using them. Only use masks that are made specifically to protect you from ozone. My advise is simply to stay away from any and all ozone if you are using it to clean up a car, or indoor area.
An air ionizer (or negative ion generator or "Chizhevsky's chandelier") is a device that uses high voltage to ionize (electrically charge) air molecules. Negative ions, or anions, are particles with one or more extra electrons, conferring a net negative charge to the particle. Ionization removes particles using negatively charged or both negatively and positively charged ions. Particles tend to fall out of the air and stick to walls and other items in a room. Particles are not always taken cleanly out of the air. Airborne particles are attracted to the electrode in an effect similar to static electricity. These ions are demonized by seeking earthed conductors, such as walls and ceilings. To increase the efficiency of this process, some commercial products provide such surfaces within the device. The frequency of nosocomial infections in British hospitals prompted the National Health Service (NHS) to research the effectiveness of anions for air purification, finding that repeated airborne acinetobacter infections in a ward were eliminated by the installation of a negative air ionizer—the infection rate fell to zero. There are no specific standards for these devices.
Ionizers should not be confused with ozone generators, even though both devices operate in a similar way. Ionizers use electrostatically charged plates to produce positively or negatively charged gas ions (for instance N2− or O2−) that particulate matter sticks to in an effect similar to static electricity. Sometimes ozone generators are optimized to attract an extra oxygen ion to an O2 molecule, using either a corona discharge tube or UV light. Even the best ionizers will produce a small amount of ozone. However, current belief is that it is a small enough amount that it is not harmful. I can't promise you that though. I find ozone even in small amounts to be harmful to the respiratory tract.
Polarized-Media Electronic Air Cleaners
These use an active electronically-enhanced media to combine elements of both electronic air cleaners and passive mechanical filters. Most Polarized-Media Electronic Air Cleaners convert 24 volt current to safe DC voltage to establish the polarized electric field. Airborne particles become polarized as they pass through the electric field and adhere to a disposable fiber media pad. Ultra-fine particles (UFPs) that are not collected on their initial pass through the media pad are polarized and agglomerate to other particles, odor and VOC molecules and are collected on subsequent passes. The efficiency of Polarized-Media Electronic Air Cleaners increases as they load, providing high efficiency filtration with air resistance typically equal to or less than passive filters. Polarized-media technology is non-ionizing which means no ozone is produced.
Photocatalytic oxidation systems (PCO)
PCO's are able to completely oxidize and degrade organic contaminants. For example, Volatile Organic Compounds found low concentrations within a few hundred ppmv or less are the most likely to be completely oxidized. PCO uses short-wave ultraviolet light (UVC), commonly used for sterilization, to energize the catalyst (usually titanium dioxide (TiO2) and oxidize bacteria and viruses. Photo Catalytic Oxidation - uv light shines on a titanium oxide plate and that interaction with light and the plate produces hydroxyl radicals, hydroperoxide ions, and super oxide ions that interact with the environment to purify it similar to how nature does.
Various Resources For Cleaning Up Mold and Mycotoxins
A great website for people to go to for additional data on remediation and cleaning is https://www.randrmagonline.com/infocenter/odor-removal
Here is an additional place to get valid information on remediation and cleaning. https://www.wondermakers.com/
A place that has non-toxic cleaning supplies: https://artemisbiosolutions.com/
A great resource for remediating your building is survivingremediation.com
Mold in Your Home Video- This is a good introduction to mold issues in the house. Their methods of cleaning, may not be enough for people with extreme mold susceptible haplotypes.
George Swanson - construction consultant
GreenGuard Building Certification for Apartments and Buisnesses: A mold certification.
Magnesiacore to replace gypsum and more.
Mold Free Construction Projects: PATH Project,
Replacement for exterior sheathing, gypsum board,backer board and plywood: JetBoard and other Jet Products
SafeStart http://www.safestartiaq.com/aboutus.html Variety of testing for buildings
Cleaning Up Mold Data: Some good data at this site, but they sell it. They are called WonderMakers.
Healthy Buildings Europe 2015 Conference Keynote speaker Miia Pitkaranta on Molecular Studies. A video presentation on bacteria and fungi in healthy buildings.
You might check out this link here about air purifiers that Dr. Mercola provides.
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