Q. I moved into a duplex three months ago and found mold in the basement. I told my landlord about it, and he used white vinegar and bleach on the walls. I asked him to have a company take care of it, but he came over and tried cleaning it himself. Do you think that will get rid of it?
A. You are right to be concerned. Mold can be one of the most destructive forces inside a home. Not only can it cause significant damage to walls, ceilings and floors, but it also can be dangerous to your health if you inhale mold spores, especially if you have a weakened immune system, asthma or allergies.
Top-rated contractors told our consumer-research team that either bleach or white vinegar – but not both at the same time – can eliminate surface mold, but it’s not the recommended method. Other sources, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, recommend scrubbing mold from a surface with water and detergent or a multipurpose cleaner. When finished, dry as thoroughly and quickly as possible.
Our team found that the size of the problem should determine whether you hire a professional or remove the mold yourself. Experts say that if mold covers more than 10 square feet, it’s best to contact a remediation company. They will use several methods to eliminate the mold, including removing the materials and items in the affected area and applying a microbial agent. However, if someone has no prior experience cleaning even a small area of mold, it’s wise to call an expert who can determine the cause and whether mold has spread to areas you may not be able to see.
Mold can grow in the crevices and empty spaces of porous materials, such as wood, ceiling tiles and carpet, making it hard or impossible to completely remove. Toxins remain in living and dead mold spores, which is why professional testing and remediation is recommended. In most cases, removing any affected porous material is the best line of defense against additional mold. If moldy materials are not removed completely, mold can spread throughout a home, especially in damp areas with high humidity.
To avoid a potential conflict of interest with a contractor, hire a separate tester and mold-removal contractor. A tester can confirm that the substance is mold and determine the extent of necessary remediation.
Before hiring a company, ask for and check credentials and references. Ask also what kind of warranty the business offers. Get a written estimate before agreeing to any repairs, and request a detailed invoice. Before paying, check the invoice to make sure there are no surprises. The cost of mold remediation can range from $500 for a 10-square-foot area to $30,000 for a severe problem.
After treatment, make sure the once-moldy area remains dry and clean so mold doesn’t spread or re-form. Check the area frequently to make sure there is no additional damage or mold growth.
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