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Cleaning Mold & Odors Off Your Stuff

Photo of Sharol Tilgner
A photo of a vacuum cleaner with mold growing on it.

Before You Start to Clean

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 belongings again. So, please before reading this, first read another article I wrote at this link.

Basic Things To Consider Before Beginning

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 buildings or moldy items, it is best to have someone else do the cleaning. However, sometimes people still do it themselves due to the job being tiny, or a lack of funds to hire someone, or lack of being able to find a cleaner to do the remediation. However, the best thing to do if possible is to find a qualified cleaner to clean your belongings.

Here are some things they should do on Non-porous surfaces:

  • Detailed cleaning - Currently, the industry standard is HEPA vacuuming which is then followed with wet wiping, then fogging, and microfiber mopping at the end (use to be HEPA vacuuming at the end but now has changed to microfiber mops and cloths which are claimed to work much better to remove VOCs/mycotoxins/endotoxins.)
  • Ventilation - necessary for all involved
  • Neutralization/capture of VOCs and other toxins - example would be oxidizers such as hydrogen peroxide - these may be used as foggers or may be used as part of wiping items down or both. This part of making sure all the VOCs and other toxins are removed, is not always done. So, be careful to make sure this happens if you are sensitive to chemicals and moldy places. Also ozone generators or hydroxyl generators may be used to erradicate the VOCs.

Many people will end up cleaning some or all of their personal items themselves even if a contractor remediates their home. This is not preferable or safe if you are sensitive to mold. However, I realize there are many people who have no choice. Therefore,  I am writing this to help assist you in case that is the situation you find yourself in. You may or may not have a dry fogger or other equipment the professional cleaners might use. Personally, there was not much availabale when I had to deal with mold contaminated areas and I got through it all and you can too. I will warn you though, it can be really hard and you may feel you will never make it, but I and many other people are living proof that you can survive it and come out healthier and happier and the other side.

How To Know Which Moldy Items Are Cleanable And Which Ones Have To Be Thrown Out

The really nasty looking items are easily to identify and usually get tossed easily, but many of your items, or all of them may look okay, but they smell moldy or "musty". (That smell is from volatile organic compounds. They are made by  molds/bacteria/building products or a combination of them and may be toxic. Some of the toxins made by molds, bacteria and the construction materials do not volatize and you do not smell them. Some volatalize from a solid state to a gas state readily and are called volatile organic compounds. If you want to know more about them, read the link I listed above in the first paragraph.)

Those smelly ones that look okay can make some people sick. How do you know if they can be cleaned or not? Will you be able to get that smell out of them? The number one most important way to figure this out, is to divide your tainted belongings up into a pile of "probably cleanable" and a pile of "unlikely to be cleanable" items. You don't have to do this physically, but at least do it mentally in your mind or on a piece of paper to help you organize a plan of "What to do".  Divide your belongings into porous (many won't be cleanable) and non-porous (many will be cleanable) items.  Then remove all the porous items that can be washed in a washing machine over into the pile with the non-porous items. Non-porous items can be more readily cleaned by using a rag and cleaning substance than porous items. Most porous items will hold onto the toxins and you will not be able to remove them by wiping the item down or by vacuuming even with a HEPA vacuum. Sometimes if something has been exposed for a short time, the porous item can be cleaned. The sad thing is that while most non-porous items can be cleaned in one fashion or another, most porous items are almost impossible to clean unless you can wash them as I list for clothing and bedding below.

 

Non-porous items And Washable Items = Probably can be cleaned, but not always.

Porous Items that are not washable = Probably can not be cleaned well enough no matter what you do, although once in a while you get lucky.

 

Examples of porous items

  • Piece of wood with no sealant on it.
  • Clothing - although porous can usually be cleaned - see below
  • Bedding
  • Cloth furniture
  • Wicker basket
  • Books
  • Papers

 

Examples of non-porous item

  • Piece of wood with sealant covering the entire piece of wood.
  • Metal furniture
  • Silverware
  • Glass plates, cups, cookware
  • Enamel coated cookware

 

Once you divide your belongings into these two groups in your mind, you can assume that most of the non-porous items will be able to be cleaned, but there is no guarantee.  Some of the porous items will be cleanable. For instance, most clothing can be cleaned in the wash by using non-bleach hydrogen peroxide products.  Some bedding can be cleaned this way also. However, much of the porous items is just too hard to clean. I might try to clean porous items if they had only briefly been in a moldy room and there is almost no odor on them. I have had success cleaning the outside of books off when they laid next to a moldy book.

Cleaning In General

Currently, the industry standard for cleaning the home is HEPA vacuuming which is then followed with wet wiping, then fogging, and microfiber mopping at the end.

Cleaning your objects is done in a variety of ways. Some people are only using a HEPA Vac(high efficiency particulate air vacuum) but I would personally not hire them.  Some seem to be washing peoples objects with only soap and water and not even changing cloths and soapy water from one item to the next. That is a mistake in my opinion. I suggest using disposable cloths for wiping down all belonging and one cloth for each belonging. I have used paper towels often in the past and actually did fine with them. One paper towel for each wiping. Often multiple wipings with hydrogen peroxide or benzarid (not to kill mold but to remove toxins). Professionals are now using super fine 0.3 micron range  one time use  microfiber cloths now. They are what is used in hospitals. They might do the first wiping of the object with a different cloth but end with this microfiber cloth. It would appear that using this microfiber cloths in conjunction with a cleaner that is able to oxidoze the toxins such as hydrogen peroxide or would have a high positive or negative charge (some VOCs have high pos and some high neg charges) erradicate or to capture the toxins.

How To Clean Specific Categories Of Items

 

Clothing, Bedding And Other Washable Items

Most clothing/Bedding is easy to clean. I recommend a product called County Save laundry detergent and add Country Save oxygen Powered bleach (It has hydrogen peroxide in it.) I find very few pieces of clothing that I can't clean as long as they do not have fabric softener on them and they are natural fibers. I don't even try to remove fabric softener as those items should go into a toxic waste dump and synthetics are usually a bit  harder to clean mold off of.

 

Washing In A Washing Machine

I will start by discussing your washer and dryer. First be sure you do not have a moldy washer and dryer. The new washers that open on the side all tend to grow mold due to their physical set up. The doors on them should only be closed when in use. They should be carefully cleaned and maintained. Look on the web for complaints about these washers and you will see that all of the side load washers have issue. I find I can keep them fairly mold free though with some effort. Each brand has varying degrees of ability to grow mold. They can even grow mold in the inner parts of the machine that you can't reach, so if you can't get it to smell right by cleaning up the mold you can see, it may have mold deeper inside the machine. So far, the two I have used, only had mold in areas I was able to clean up. Then I ran hydrogen peroxide cleaners (Country Save) through the machine a few times and it was good as new.

The dryers are usually fine unless you have been drying moldy clothing in them. You can simply wipe them out with your favorite mold wipe substance if they have a been mildly exposed and that may do the trick. If they are really bad off, it will mean that there is probably mold in areas you can't reach. You could either take it apart and clean it or simply get a new dryer.

In an average sized washer with mild to moderate mold you can add the normal amount of laundry detergent suggested, but you will need to add 2-3 scoops of Country Save oxygen Powered bleach. You may need to wash the load twice this way. If the mold smell is strong, add 4 scoops of the oxygen powered bleach and you may need to wash them as many as 4 times if really bad. If your washer has a soak cycle, use the cycle. This way the clothing stays in the solution longer before being rinsed. If you can stop the washer, and leave it for 30 minutes, that can help also. The water needs to be warm to mix the Country Save oxygen powered bleach in it and you could mix the oxygen powered bleach outside of the machine and dump it into a cold wash of colored clothes, BUT it won't work well unless the water is at least a little warm. I have washed a lot of moldy clothing in my day and the process works, but the warmer the water the better it works. If you have something that you don't want to put into hot water, that is fine, but you will need to at least make the water a little warm to work best. You can always try it in cold water and if it does not work wash the items again in warmer water. If you have really moldy clothing and don't even want it in your washer, you can use a tub soak or 5 gallon bucket soak. This is also an alternative for delicate clothing.

 

Soaking Clothing In A Tub or Bucket

You can presoak an item or items in a tub with the Country Save oxygen Powered bleach or for delicates you can soak them this way and gently agitate them in the tub a bit. This works best if the water is warm, but even barely warm will help if you can't make it hotter. Where it might take one or two tub soaks/washes with warm or hot water, it may take 3-4 with cooler water.  The amount of  oxygen Powered bleach needed changes depending on the tub size, but for a 5 gallon bucket with 3 gallons of water, I suggest at least 2 scoops and sometimes 4 for really moldy clothing. Mix it in the water and then add the clothing.  I realize you may be worried about damaging your clothing but if you can't get the smell out of your clothing you will need to give the clothing away or throw them out any way. By the way, just because you are having trouble with the clothing does not mean that others will, so don't throw them out. Give them to a Goodwill or Salvation Army. (Don't go inside these stores, as the mold/VOC smell in them is off the charts.) Remember that not everyone is as sensitive to mold as you are and some people are still denying they have an issue too. Let those folks have your clothing.

If using a tub to soak really smelly items, or to clean delicate clothing, be sure to soak for at least an hour. You can let it soak longer, it won't matter if you forget it. Agitate it with your hands (wear gloves) a few times during the process as that will help. Then you want to dump the liquid, rinse the clothing off and and see how it smells. If you note any moldy smell, soak/wash again. You will also smell the hydrogen peroxide and it might fool you, so you might think it is okay only to dry it and find you need to do it again. Don't fret, you will get it figured out and it will ultimately be okay. It just takes a little time and you are one step closer to being mold free. Just keep taking baby steps towards your goal. You will make it.

 

Additional Notes On Washing Moldy Clothing

There are some items I have not been able to clean. Other people report this too. I find some types of synthetic materials are the hardest to clean. They seem to really hold onto the toxins. I took my elderly Father out of a moldy house and found some of his synthetic ties were really hard to clean. I did get some of them cleaned finally but not all of them. Additionally, I have had people give me clothing that has fabric softener smell and mold together on it. I find that I can't get these articles of clothing cleaned at all and they are the only thing I actually throw out. These super toxic fabric softeners mixed with the mold are the perfect toxic storm waiting to mow you down. If you use fabric softener, stop and if you are given clothing washed and dried with it, say "no thank you".

 

Dry Cleaning

One mention of dry cleaning.  I don't know if they can get your clothing clean. Some people say they can and some people have spent money to get their clothing dry cleaned only to find out that their clothing still smells like mold and now has new chemicals on it. Just in case you do not know, dry cleaners usually use very toxic chemicals.

 

Cleaning The Exterior Of Personal Non-porous Belongings

Cleaning the exterior of these non-porous items is best done with a known mold/mycotoxin removing substance. Get something known to remove the mold/spores/mycotoxins by wiping them down with the substance on a cloth or paper towel. Oftentimes you must wipe them down, then wipe down again. I use my sense of smell to tell me when I have cleaned enough, but if your sense of smell is masked by the toxins or you have a gas mask on, it is hard to know when the object is clean. I find most things are clean by the third wipe down. Some are clean on the first, but if you can't smell the item being cleaned, I suggest wiping it down 3 times as a precautionary method. The can be done as follows: Put some of the cleaning substance on your paper towel, wipe the item down and throw the towel away into a receptacle that will be closed and taken outside as soon as you are through. (Better yet, take it all outside and clean it there. In fact you might have had to remove the items to remediate the home.) Every cloth you use to wipe down a belonging with toxins on it is considered to now be toxic and should be treated as such. Therefore, do not use a rag and keep reusing it. If you have old pieces of cloth that you are going to throw away, you can use them and throw each one away after a wipe down. Otherwise, use paper towels and throw them away after each wipe down. It is important that you realize that each of these wipes is pulling toxins onto the cloth and if you reuse them, you will simply be moving toxins around on the object rather than removing them permanently. There are a variety of cleaning substances people use to wipe belongings down. I will list those I use or have used and have personal experience with.

The professional cleaners are now turning to using very tiny microfiber cloths as a cleaning cloth. Professional cleaners say the best cloths to use are microfibers. I have used these and they were super expensive but I hear the price has come down. The microfibers shown to be best are those the hospitals use which are very small at 0.3 micron size. Do not reuse them. Do not wash them. Use and throw them away. One way to do this to save money is to clean things with a paper towel or other item first and then use the microfiber cloths as the last wipe down. These same types of cloths are also being used after fogging a building. The fogging is done with super fine droplets (with surfactant and other additives to make droplets tiny and carry a chosen negative or positive charge) that are able to grab both the tiny negatively and positively charged  tiny fragments of mycotoxins,  endotoxins and VOCs from the air and drop them to surfaces where they will cling with what are called van der waals forces (very strong forces). This strong force can not always be broken by a HEPA vacumm and therefore professionals have moved to using microfiber cloths as a mop or as a hand held cleaning cloth as a last time through clean-up method rather than a HEPA Vac.

 

Cleaning Substances Used to Remove Mold/Spores/Mycotoxins

With all cleaning substances used for removing mold/spores/mycotoxins you should wear gloves and eye protection. If spraying these items you should also wear a respirator or something that will protect your respiratory tract.

Chemically sensitive individuals can react to very small amounts of chemicals in their environment. There may have been chemicals used to kill mold or the toxins from the moldy house that they are reacting to. There are a variety of ways to eradicate or clean these toxins/chemicals off of things.

Neutralization Of Chemicals/Toxins

Using acids to neutralize alkaline products or vice versa can be beneficial. This both neutralizes the ph of the product and helps draw it out of the material it is on. Michael Pinto of Wonder Makers Environmental, Inc claims using foaming agents to foam and wipe during  cleaning is better than using spray and wipe materials. He uses a company that makes a foaming machine. I have only used liquids in the past and they worked fine, but I have not doubt that the foam probably does work better. You have to know the ph of the toxin/chemical you are dealing with to neutralize them with ph. Many times people do not know what it is in a water-damaged environment.

 

Hydrogen peroxide

hydrogen peroxide will act as an oxidizing agent. It will neutralize some VOCs and toxins through this mechanism. I have to say, I like hydrogen peroxide as a cleaning agent for both clothing and on non-porous objects. This has been a good cleaner, but it can damage items just as bleach can (I don't use bleach very often for anything). So, be very careful what you spray or wipe down with it. Also be aware that if you spray hydrogen peroxide (H202) in any strength, you do not want to breath it into your lungs. It will damage your lungs also. I have mostly used it to spray down counter tops, and in bathrooms as a substitue for bleach. I like it better than bleach. You can use as low as 3% H202 with light clean ups, but most people use around 5-10% and professional remediators sometimes use even more. The higher strengths can definitely start to damage your home and objects in your home, so be careful. Test a small area first. I started with 8% and have used about that much as a general rule for most clean ups. I usually put it on a paper towel and wipe the object or if it is a serious mold situation, spray and let it sit for 5-10 minutes and wipe up. Remember that it may bleach the area you spray or wipe it on, and the stronger it is, the more likely that this bleaching action will take place. You should always used gloves with hydrogen peroxide unless you want to burn your skin. You will see people claim hydrogen peroxide can work on porous surfaces due to the "effervescent nature" of the product. However, I have not found this to be true in actual use. Indeed it does seem to clean a little better on porous surfaces than other things, but it does not really get in deep enough, and if it did I am sure it would cause more damage to the item if I used it on a porous wall covering or some such thing. You really don't want to pour H202 on your moldy sheet rocked wall and soak it in. This will not be beneficial. That wall needs to be removed. No ifs ands or buts. Take that baby out and get rid of it.

The professionals are using vaporized hydrogen peroxide. The two most often used vaporized H202 systems are Steramist by TOMI Environmental Solutions and Halo disinfeciton system by Halosil Internation.

The Steramist ionizes their H202 and the droplets supposedly wrap around various surfaces. Halo uses a dry mist. Both are tolerated well by chemically sensitive people. These  can be used and then a microfiber mop and cloth wipe down might be helpful to remove it all afterward in case there is any residuals left.

 

Alcohol

I have not used alcohol as a cleaning agent, however in other countries it turns out alcohol is used quite a bit and some professionals in this country use it also. They use a high proof grain alcohol such as Everclear and mix it with water as a cleaning agent in the final step in the cleaning process. Some people spray it onto surfaces as is also done with hydrogen peroxide sometimes. There is a concern of flammability of course. Michael Pinto of Wonder Makers Environmental, Inc uses Biomist which utilizes a system where highly concentrated alcohol can be sprayed safely because it is atomized and propelled with carbon dioxide rather than compressed air and it has the added advantage of vaporizing quickly.

It appears some people are using the Everclear or other type of 95% alcohol and mixing 1 part of the grain alcohol with 8.5 parts water to yield 10% grain alcohol. They seem to be getting good results with it. It might be a hydroxyl reaction taking place. I am just guessing though.

 

Quaternary Ammonium Products

Benzarid

This is the only quaternary ammonium product I have tried using so it is the one I am telling you about. I find hydrogen peroxide to be quite useful but sometimes I want to clean something that I am worried will be damaged by the hydrogen peroxide. So, I tried Benzarid years ago when I started remediating moldy buildings and belongings of mine, family and friends. It is made by Nature's Innovation and their material safety data sheet claims it has no toxic chemicals in it (this is by the standards of the United States government - so depends on how much faith you have in that system). Many hospitals use this product and it has absolutely no smell. A great feature for anyone that has chemical sensitivity with smells. I use it with gloves and tell others to do the same, but have had it on my skin for varying amounts of time with absolutely no reaction to it. It cleans wonderfully and has never damaged anything I have used it on at full strength. What I mean by cleans wonderfully, is that I have had items with obvious stinky, musty, VOC smells on them and used it on them a few times by pouring some of it on a paper towel and wiping the item down, repeat as needed and the smell is gone for good. Examples of things I have cleaned with it are leather furniture, books (it cleaned up lightly exposed books that had an obvious smell after about 3-5 wipe downs, painted walls, sealed wood, plastic that had not been fully impregnated with the toxins, metal, glass, computer keyboards, computers and much more. I have so far not had it damage anything, but no promises there. All of these cleaning substances might do damage when wiping things down. This has been the safest item to use so far when it comes to physically causing damage to an object.

 

Bleach

I don't usually use bleach for cleaning up mold, but some people like it, so if you use it, 5-10% bleach is usually used for cleaning up mold. Always use gloves when handling bleach.  Some people react very negatively to the smell of bleach, so be careful and stop using it if you are one of them. Like hydrogen peroxide (H202), bleach can damage surfaces it is used to clean.  in fact it is more likely to damage objects than H202 in my opinion. Unlike hydrogen peroxide it gives off noxious fumes. It is even more likely than hydrogen peroxide to damage objects. It is only going to be useful on non-porous surfaces as with all these substances we are examining here. Remember that bleach can not be mixed with ammonia as it causes a toxic gas to be formed. I would mention that I think hydrogen peroxide is better in my opinion in dealing with mold related clean up in many instances where someone might consider bleach.

Concerns about bleach

  • short shelf-life
  • Bleach has neutral pH. To neturalize an acid ph type of toxin want alkaline and to neutralize an alkaline ph toxin want an acid. Another choice to neutralize a toxin is to oxidize it such as with ozone or hydroxyls or to adsorb it into a medium such as charcoal or zeolite.
  • It is corrosive and will erode and corrode surfaces and makes them more porous, thus making these surfaces more vulnerable to further penetration of fungal growth.
  • It does not penetrate or soak into porous surfaces.
  • The color of the mold is removed (bleached) making it appear invisible so you will have a hard time telling if the mold is still there or not. You need to remove it, not just kill it. Bits of mold can cause toxic responses in people.

 

Ozone And Hyroxyl Generators

Both of these machines are used to create reactive or radical species that are powerful oxidants that are important in keeping the air clean on this planet.  They both are generated naturally by nature as well as by human made machines. The machines are used to generate these reactive species to help break down volatile organic compounds in indoor environments.  One difference between ozone generators and hydroxyl generators is that the hydroxyl generators appear to be safer to use in occupied rooms. One company has a hydroxyl generator that has been approved by the FDA as a Class II medical device for use  in occupied areas. In contrast all ozone generators are considered unsafe to use in an occupied area. People must wait a minimum of one hour before entering a room where an ozone generator has been in use.

I don’t have experience with hydroxyl generators, but I have used ozone generators, and I know ozone generators work quite well at removing noxious odors most of the time. The times it does not work may be due to either not being able to oxidize the particular VOCs or it may be simply making the VOCs into another toxin, that is simply different than the one it oxidized. This is always a possiblitity  when oxiding a  molecular compound. For reasons why these generators may work only briefly, please read further below.

 

Ozone Generators

The symbol for an oxygen atom is (O). Two atoms of oxygen are what we call oxygen in the air and are denoted as (02). (03) is the symbol for ozone and is made up of 3 atoms of oxygen.

Ultraviolet bulbs are mounted inside ozone generators that emit particular wavelengths of UV light which separate the  oxygen molecule into 2 atoms of oxygen. The two oxygen atoms (O)s now join up with oxygen molecules (O2s) to make a couple ozones or (O3)s. (Similar to how the sun creates the ozone layer.) Besides using UV  light, humans also create ozone through another process called corona discharge which produces higher concentrations of ozone than UVC ultraviolet light.

 

How Ozone eradicates the smelly Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Ozone works through oxidation. The third (O) atom in the molecule is only loosely bound to the other two (O)s. The ozone transfers one of it's oxygen  atoms to a receptive odiferous molecule (the VOC) which changes the compostion of that odiferous molecule so that it is now a new type of molecule and not that nasty smelling one previously bothering you. Although this is often a good thing, I must point out that the new molecule may be less or more toxic according to research I have read. Although most people will claim they are greatly helped by using ozone machines, there is the chance the ozone can interact with a molecule that becomes more toxic or as toxic when it is oxidzed. Ozone is quicker than hydroxyls (see below about hydroxyls) at removing these odors but it can not be used in occupied rooms.

Often people find if the source of mold has been removed that ozone machines can clean up the residual odors if they keep using them repetatively for a while. The machines are also used in spaces where a person has no control to remove the source of odor such as a rented apartment. People have used ozone machines to remove smells associated with smoke, VOCs, mycotoxins, endotoxins and other maloderous situations. I would warn you though that sometimes oxidation of VOCs can make them more toxic as I mentioned previously and people will find themselves in a room that bothers them more than prior to ozonating it. In my experience using ozone machines has been incredibly helpful. I have used these machines in houses and cars and found them to be very valuable in removing toxic smells related to water-damage. More research needs to be completed to see how ozone affects specific VOCs. There is little research around VOCs currently.

I was reading an old research article on the use of ozone, hydroxyl and nitrate radicals to oxidze VOCs and it was claimed that ozone was able to remove some VOCs that were adsorbed into objects.

WARNING: Ozone is toxic and ozone machines should never be ran inside an occupied space. No one should ever be in any enclosed space with an ozone machine running. All pets, houseplants, any living critters should be removed from the area before turning an ozone machine on. A warning should be put on the door that ozone is running inside and the time it will be safe again. Since ozone has a short half-life of about 30 minutes, it disappears quickly. Do not go back inside an ozonated room for a minimum of one hour after it has stopped. Make sure you know how to safely use an ozone machine before actually running it. It will not work appropriately without an open window and it must be sized appropriately for the space it is used in.

 

Hydroxyl Generators

Hydroxyls are made by using UV light again but UVA light in the presence of a catalyst such as titanium dioxide. This mix of UV light and the catalyst causes a hydrogen (H) to split off of water (H2O) which leaves (OH) or a hydroxyl behind.

This process produces hydroxyl radicals that exit the chamber of the machine to eliminate odors not just in the air, but also odors that have been adsorbed by contents and structures. This is done by using multiple high energy ultraviolet lights inside the chamber of the hydroxyl machines. It converts water naturally found in the air to hydroxyl molecules, as well as oxy and peroxy- molecules that exit the machine. The hydroxyl radicals that exit the machine are able to eliminate odors similar to the ozone molecules by interacting with and disassembling all of the odor molecules including those found deep inside porous materials.

Supposedly, hydroxyls are a million times more reactive than ozone and break down a broader range of odors and pathogens compared to ozone. The company that makes the machine "Odorox" claims they have not found an odor that it cannot break apart.

 

Some Things Claimed For Hydroxyl Generators
  • Some of these generators have been shown to be safe in occupied spaces
  • there are patented hydroxyl generators that can work in as little as 5% humidity
  • The UV optics should be replaced after 4,000 hours of usage.
  • As a general rule of thumb, one machine will cover over 1,000 to 1,500 square feet, although one manufacturer suggests you also need to take into account ceiling height, type of VOCs and severity of the odor.
  • Hydroxyls will eliminate more types of odors and VOCs than any other option.
  • Hydroxyls are thought to be safe for people, animals, plants and sensitive materials such as rubber, plastic, vinyl, electronics, and most household items. Ozone machines have damaged many of these named items in one way or another.
  • The Odorox manufacturer claims, "When used properly they can be run during the entire restoration process, while workers and other occupants are in the space. "
  • Hydroxyl generators will not get rid of odors as fast as ozone generators, but the necessity to remove people, pets and some objects that could  be harmed by ozone also takes time.
  • Workers can clean in the environment while the hydroxyl generators are working.

For more details on hydroxyl generators and to check out a website with one that many people feel is a good brand, go here: https://www.odoroxhg.com/home

 

Why Would a Person Need to Use the Ozone or Hydroxyl Generator Repetitively

Some people use the ozone generator once or twice and don't need it again. Others need to use it over and over again. The smell goes away and then comes back. What is up with that?

1. The original source of the leak or smell may still exist or you might have missed a source or there may be a new source. Look for areas where water damage may be taking place. Look for mold or signs of mold such as discoloration in all the usual suspect places.

2. The remediation may not have been done well enough and there may be areas where building material has some type of lingering VOCs coming out of it over time or personal belongings may be emitting VOCs.

3. There may have been toxic materials used during remediation that are releasing VOCs over time that  are bothering a person.

4. Look for other sources of noxious smells too. For instance, did a mouse jump into your HVAC system ducting that is in the crawl space and it (they) died down there and now the HVAC is wafting over its body (bodies). They are highly allergenic to humans.

Here is an example of what might take place: Consider that a floor may have had mold growing on it. The carpet was removed, the padding removed and all but the subflooring was removed. The subflooring looked okay, but it turned out that it had mycotoxins/VOCs/endotoxins there and although minute in concentration, they are bothering you. If the remediator had removed the subfloor that would have taken care of it. If it looked perfectly clean and the contractor and owner thought it was over-kill to remove the subfloor, perhaps using some type of containment mechanism such as spraying a magnesium oxide/clay wash or a white wash mix on the entire subflooring might have kept any residual unknown VOCs from being released into the air.  Since, neither of these approaches were taken that would have cleaned the area up better, VOCs are being released and as long as there is no active bacteria or mold making new VOCs/toxins, you might eventually get it out of the air over time. You would however, have to continue cleaning the air until no VOCs are being released. The maker of hydroxyl machines do claim hydroxyls can pull VOCs out of the material that has adsorbed them and I have seen research that says the same for som VOCs that ozone can remove from objects. Perhaps this might work if it was done when the subflooring was exposed. I doubt it would work if you layed flooring material over the subflooring already. The hydroxyls and ozone need to get to the actual surface area to be able to work.

 

When Would You Use One Of These Generators

I have used ozone generators for furniture I could not clean otherwise as well as rooms, that were remediated but still smelled and cars.  I have to admit that The ozone generator did not work well for items that were well ingrained with VOC smells from mold. I had an old antique sewing machine and a very old fur coat that had been in multiple moldy spaces over the years and they were well ingrained with multiple VOCs adsorbed into their fibers. Neither of them ever got clean enough for me. I ran the ozone machine overnight (12 hours each night) for a week. They had those VOCs well adsorbed into them and just would not let go of them. I found that for many hard to treat items or rooms that using it repetatively with breaks in-between helps a lot. I would run it for the time necessary for the room or item and then stop for 12-48 hours and then run it again. This allowed time to wait while I believe more VOCs came to the surfuce.  I would run the machine again after a waiting period of a day or even a week. Over time the item or room continued to loose more and more smell and less smell would reappear. As long as the source of the issue has been remediated this seems to be a useful method. I would warn you to be careful not to generate ozone in a room too much or it can damage some types of materials such as in drapes or other furnishings.  The oxidation will happen to other items in the room than the VOCs you are after. It will oxidize the drapes, the paint on the wall, etc. Over time, this will become noticeable as deterioration of your belongings. I did not see this happen, but other people have reported this.

Some professionals will use heat to increas the volatilization of the VOCs. I have not tried this, but I see many professionals do this and it makes sense.

Professionals who use hydroxyl chambers to clean odiferous belongings from fires claim it takes 6-12 hours in their hydroxyl chambers to get most items clean. I would add that they are first cleaning them down with something that removes odor also. When that does not work or to be sure all odor is gone they put them in the hydroxyl chamber or a room with a hydroxyl generators going. They claim the items will take 24-48 hours to clean completely.

 

Cleaning Categorized By Rooms In Your Home

Kitchen/Dining Area

Eating Utensils and Cookware: Many of the items in your kitchen can be cleaned fairly easily and can simply be washed as usual in the sink or in the dishwasher if the dishwasher is not moldy. I have to admit I have put Country Save's Hydrogen Peroxide product into my dish washer which easily cleans up dishes that won't get cleaned up of VOCs with soap and water. However, I can't tell you if that is actually safe for a dishwasher. I simply did it and found it worked great and continued to do it. It also cleans the dishwasher. Many kitchen items are non-porous and won't cling onto the toxins as much as some items in your house. Use your nose to decide if regular washing will work or not. Things that need extra help to be cleaned can be cleaned in various ways depending on what it is and how big it is.  If made from glass or enamel cooking ware they are usually easy to clean, and can be given a good washing with Country Save oxygen Powered bleach (this is a type of dry hydrogen peroxide that is easy to mix in water-see the data on using it to clean clothing for details on strengths) or they can be wiped off with 3-5% hydrogen peroxide or benzarid. I have never had benzarid damage anything I have used it on, but hydrogen peroxide has, so be careful and test anything you feel might be delicate and get bleached by the hydrogen peroxide. Once cleaned of toxins, these items can go through the dish washer as long as the dish washer is not moldy. Metal pots and silverware should not be cleaned with hydrogen peroxide if you have any concern about damaging it, benzarid is a better choice if you have newer, nice silverware and pots. Then finish with a good dish washer cleansing.  If you have porous wooden items in your kitchen I suggest getting rid of them. If they are sealed, you can usually clean them with benzarid. Plastic that has flat, non damaged surfaces can sometimes be cleaned with either hydrogen peroxide or benzarid. If it is damage, the mangled surfaces will be more likely to hold onto mold/spores/mycotoxins and you may not be able to clean it. You will run into this issue with any open surface on an object.

In the dining area you are dealing with furniture. Generally a wooden or metal or plastic table. If the wood is sealed you can easily clean it with benzarid. I would choose this so as not to damage a nice wooden table. If the wood is not sealed, you may not be able to clean it unless it has little VOC adsorbed contamination. Metal is fairly easily cleaned unless it is old and oxidzed and then is more porous and will hold onto VOCs/toxins. Hydrogen peroxide may damage it too, so I would again suggest benzarid. For plastic, you can use either hydrogen peroxide or benzarid but if it has any damaged areas, you probably won't be able to clean them up very well. If it has a servere mold issue, the plastic is usually impregnated deeply with it and you simply can't clean it. If the plastic appears to have a coating on it or be a really smooth surface, there is more liklihood of being able to clean it. It all has to do with how porous of an item it is.

Kitchen cabinets/shelves/walls: Here you take the chance of damaging the wood or shelves. I have used 8% hydrogen peroxide on painted sheetrock walls and on some shelving without issue, but often I suggest benzarid if you want to be less likely to cause permanant damage. If there is shelf paper on the shelves it has to come off and throw it away. Same for wall paper. Wall paper loves to grow mold. It needs to go.

You can always try one of the generators for cabinets and furniture, but make sure they will not damage any of your items in the room first. (Look up on the internet how ozone affects the material in your furniture.) Of course if you will have to throw them away any way, it is worth trying. If you have furniture you can not clean and you put it in a room with an ozonator or a hydroxyl generator and you find  after a couple hours of oxidizing, it smells better but not gone, I suggest trying it again in another 24 or 48 hours after letting the air from ouside go through the room a bit in the mean time. If you continue to get a better smell, you are getting somewhere, but if not, it will probably not work. The research is a little absent but what I have read so far makes me think that the hydroyl generators may not only be safer but will probably alter more VOCs than the ozone generators I have used. So if an ozone generator does not work, a hydroxyl generator might be worth a try. Also realize that all ozone generators and hydroxyl generators are not equal. Check what is available carefully when you go to purchase one.

 

Living Room

Here we have a variety of furniture. The ability to clean the furniture will depend on how  exposed it was and what it is made of. If you have well sealed wooden furniture you will probably do well cleaning it with benzarid. If the furniture is cloth, it is going to be an issue and the more VOCS/toxins on it, the more liklihood you will need to get rid of it. Smooth washable leather will clean up well, but don't forget there is a bottom to that sofa. You may be able to clean the sealed leather on top, but what about the cloth covering the bottom of the sofa. Might not work out, sorry. You can try a wipe down and/or hepa vacuum on it, but if it is more than a mild musty smell going on, you will probably have to say goodbye to the furniture. Lamps are a mixed bag. Parts that are made out of metal, glass, painted ceramic or other painted materials can usually be washed down with benzarid, but the lamp shade is usually made out of something that can not be cleaned and will need to go. Additionally there is usually an area in the bottom of the lamp where the cord goes into the lamp and that area is hard to clean. On some lamps impossible to clean and it may have to go. The cord itself if heavily contaminated can not be cleaned as the material they are made adsorbs the toxins and does not let them go. Your only chance with some of these items it once again to try an ozone or hydroxyl generator. See above or more details in the "kitchen".

If there is a carpet, it needs to go. If a wall to wall, I suggest simply removing it and not putting another in there. Carpets are horrible breeding grounds for mold, bacteria and all sorts of crud. Additionally, they are generally off gassing toxins themselves. The pad under it will probably need to go also.  If it is an area carpet, only keep it if it can be completely cleaned with Country Save oxygen Powered bleach or some similar cleaning agent. It will take some work if it is a big carpet and it has to be done outside.

 

Bedroom

Luckily a lot of bedroom furniture is made from sealed wood or cleanable metal. Yipee if that is what you have and get out that benzarid. The bedding can be cleaned in the washer or in tubs with Country Save oxygen Powered bleach as described in the section on cleaning clothing and bedding. Some pillows can be washed and dried although it is usually necessary to wash them multiple times and a good tub soaking will help. Some will never get clean enough. Often it is easier to simply buy new ones. See living rooms for lamp cleaning and dining room for table cleaning. Mattresses are really hard to clean. Now if the mattress was encased in a mattress protector, it might be okay. The fact is that with the encasement and being surrounding by sheets and such, some of them are okay. However, you sleep on this for 8 hours a night and your body is healing during this time. So be absolutely sure that your mattress is toxin free. Don't keep a mattress if you have any doubts about it being clean or moldy. If you can't smell musty items, have someone who can smell it for you. Never sleep in a musty room or on a musty mattress. If you are forced to, keep your window open at least.

 

Bathroom

The items in a bathroom are so varied that I would simply tell you to pay attention to the porous and non-porous rule. Metal things like nail files and clippers can be cleaned. Cotton balls and  toilet unwrapped toilet paper should be tossed out. Ace bandages can be washed wtih Country Save oxygen Powered bleach , as can the towels and wash clothes. Hair brushes should be tossed while plastic combs may be washed in Country Save oxygen Powered bleach  or cleaned with a hydrogen peroxide wipe down. However, it is really dependant on each item and how it is  made. Sorry to be so vague.

 

Office

Here we have some expensive items like computers, printers, phones. I suggest you wipe then down as well as you can with benzarid and after wiping them down a few times, see how they smell. They are made with a variety of materials and you may or may not be able to clean them up. As for other furniture in the office, use the same advice as for living room and bedroom furniture. Office chairs made out of leather and metal might be cleanable with benzarid while those made out of fabric are going to be less likely to clean.

Books and papers are hard to clean. 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 Benzarid or some similar product afterward though. I have done this and it works fine, but takes a long time.

I would not suggest ozone generators in an office. There are just too many things that might get damaged by the ozone. Proffessional cleaners using the hydroxyl generators have sone experiementation and it appears that these machines are safe to use in rooms for most items. One company claims there machine is safe with electronics. I would get a written guaruntee from a company before I used it in a room with sensitive machinery. If they will do that, I would certainly use one in my office if I had a moldy office.

 

Garage

This is an area that can have some really moldy (when I say moldy, I am meaning stinky with VOCs related to a water-damaged building) items even when the rest of the house is not moldy. People put all sorts of things in the garage. Additionally, most of them are not heated. Some of them have concrete that is sucking moisture up through it to make matters worse. A garage can have almost anything in it. The biggest item and often a stinky one is the car. Sorry to tell you this, but if your house is moldy, so is your car. People throw their personal moldy items into the car. They pick up other peoples moldy items and throw them in the car, leave the windows down when it rains, spill their water bottle etc. Many cars end up moldy, it is just a matter of time. If you have a mold car, it needs to be remediated if possible or better yet, get a new one if you are able to. At least put it outside and get it out of the garage. Give it protection from the rain outside if possible though, to keep it from getting worse.

 

The Car

What I find the most useful in a car once you have wiped everything down you can with benzarid or hydrogen peroxide is to ozone it. A hydroxyl generator would probably also be great.  I open one of the windows half way, set an ozone machine in there and turn it on for an hour and then take it out and do it again the next day. You will find it gets better each time. Now, the downside to using ozone is that it is toxic to breath while the machine is churning it out. Stay away from it. Additionally, ozone can damage the materials in your car or your house if you leave it on too long. Remember oxygen rusts metal and turns pages of books brown as they oxidize. Well, the ozone machine will oxidze your curtains, your carpet and all sorts of things if it is strong enough or on long enough. So, just be really careful for both your respiratory tract and your belongings. Both can be damaged. That being said, I have ozoned cars and rooms or houses as well as whole houses and it does help. However, it does not last permanently for many items since the VOCs were adsorbed into them (At least this is the conclusion I have come up with since it is proven they do adsorb into items). Also ozone is not a replacement for remediation. It does however allow some people to use their car or live in their house while they are making other plans. One last time, I will tell you do not use ozone on in a room, a car or any enclosed space that you are currently in. Only run it in an unoccupied room/car etc.  It will damage your respiratory tract at a minimum.

 

Renting Equipment

I realize some of these machines are expensive. For instance  a hydroxyl generator will cost an arm and a leg to buy. So,  you might decide to rent some of these items. I would warn you to be careful. Consider that these machines have been used on other moldy houses or buildings that may have had more toxic molds than you currently have. How are these machines cleaned in-between use. Are you bringing new spores of some other mold into your home. Sorry, to be a spoil sport but this needs to be considered.

 

Other Odd Ball Amazing Things

I don't know much about these, but they sound interesting.

There is titanium paint that you put on the wall, especially in attics or basements with UV light or in a room that gets sunlight, you don't need the UV light and can just open the shades . The sun or generated UV light causes the titanium paint to make a continuous stream of hydoxyl molecules so they will constantly oxidize the VOCs/toxins. Same as if constant ozone except they don’t hurt people, animals or products. (At least that is the current though.)

There is also a special gypsum board such as "Air renew" made by certaineed, which traps volatile organic compounds and breaks them down. They can continue trapping and breaking down VOCs for up to 75 years after installation. You have to use water-based acrylic or breathable paints or breathable wallpaper so the drywall will be able to suck in the vocs from the surrounding area.

Then there is a LED lightbulb made by Biovitae that surrounded by glass shell with a thin titanium dioxide coating. As the lights are operated they produce hydroxyl radicals which the lightbulb manufacturer claims kills microbes and reduces VOCs. The studies are mixed as to whether they produce enough hydroxyl radicals to actually do anything

 

Websites You Should Know About For Up To Date Data On Cleaning

A great website for people to go to for additional dataon 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/

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