Last week we discussed the importance of mold remediation, or identifying and getting rid of mold. You may have thought, “Okay, I get the importance of mold remediation, but surely I can take care of it myself.” We want to stop you there and let you know that getting rid of mold isn’t something to take lightly. In this article, we’ll share some mold mitigation DIY dangers that can kill you and what you should do instead.
Health and safety risks of mold
From mild sneezing to more serious fungal infections, mold can cause a variety of health problems. If you notice that family members or visitors have respiratory issues that are only present in your home, then you may have a mold problem. Mold can also damage your home by accelerating rot and weakening your drywall. As we discussed in our previous article, regardless of where it is or how much mold you have, you’ll want to remove any mold in your home as quickly as possible.
To DIY or not to DIY, that is the question
There are certainly instances where getting rid of mold in your home can be done by yourself. Don’t be afraid to tackle that pink mildew in the corners of your shower with the right bathroom cleaner and some hand protection. And cleaning up the mold that builds up around condensated windows won’t usually cause serious health concerns.
However, there are cases of mold that you don’t want to deal with yourself. If you’re not convinced, here are five scenarios where DIY mold mitigation had severe consequences.
Five mold mitigation DIY dangers that can kill you
We are about to share five stories where DIY mold removal went sadly awry. Be warned! These are not for the faint of heart. (Okay, okay, they are all fictitious characters, but for our purposes, we hope you’ll realize the seriousness of improper mold mitigation.)
#1 Lack of proper equipment and air filtration systems
Handy Danny was an expert at almost everything. If he wasn’t, then he taught himself how to do it. He could tackle just about any project, but one sad day, he chose the wrong job. Handy Danny grabbed his bucket, bleach and rubber gloves. He’d found a place in his basement that was covered in mold. He set to work scrubbing the entire surface with bleach. It took a lot of work, but Handy Danny was soon satisfied that the mold was gone. Handy Danny isn’t here to finish the story, but we can tell you what went wrong.
– The problem
Mold mitigation must be done with proper equipment. This includes high-end vacuums and air ventilators. When we say high-end, we’re referring to the kind that costs $14,000, which you probably don’t want to include in your DIY budget. Professional companies have this equipment and know how to keep mold contained during the mold remediation process. Mold produces airborne spores, so if you are not using the proper equipment to contain and remove the mold, you will make your mold problem worse. In Handy Danny’s case, those spores traveled throughout his house and contaminated other areas.
Professionals also keep contaminants from spreading by using negative air pressure. This requires specialized equipment which keeps the air in the contaminated area and stops it from flowing into other parts of your home. Negative air pressure is created by reducing the air pressure in the controlled room.
#2 Medical issues related to mold
Saver Sally loved to tackle projects herself and then count up all the money she saved from not calling in an outside service. Instead of reading up on the dangers of DIY mold mitigation, she spent her time doing some calculations and decided not to call in the professionals. Months later, after she’d completed her own mold remediation, Saver Sally ended up in the hospital with difficulty breathing … and never went home. All those pennies and dimes she saved were useless to her now.
– The problem
So what happened? Well, many people have allergic reactions to mold. These create symptoms that mimic sinus infections, and in some cases can cause asthma-like symptoms. Some other signs for those with allergies to mold are a runny nose, coughing, sore throat, wheezing, eye irritation, and skin irritation if the allergy is quite sensitive. Mold produces not only new symptoms but also exacerbates previous medical conditions. According to the CDC, this includes serious lung infections, especially in those with low immune systems.
So what exactly is the mold mitigation DIY danger that could kill you? The mold spores. We have already mentioned those pesky invaders of the air, but here are some numbers you should know. During the mold removal process, the number of airborne mold spores can increase 10 to 10,000 times! This means that during a DIY mold mitigation, the chances of mold infestation increase exponentially. Which also means that your chances of being exposed to serious health risks increase exponentially.
#3 Mold is growing on a surface that is difficult to clean or remove, creating a worse problem
Problem-solving Pete was great at analyzing a situation and figuring out the most effective solution. We say that he “was” good at this because poor Pete is with us no longer. He decided to complete a DIY mold mitigation project and got in over his head.
– The problem
When mold grows on hard-to-clean surfaces, then the only way to get rid of it is to replace whatever it’s on. Professionals will safely sand (remember those mold spores!) contaminated wood and remove any soiled materials like carpet, drywall, etc.
Unfortunately, Problem-solving Pete thought he could take care of this himself. One thing led to another, and before he knew it, Problem-solving Pete had removed the support beam in his living room. He held up the partition himself for a few days but eventually succumbed to hunger and physical weakness.
Our readers are obviously much smarter than Pete, but we can’t stress enough the complications that can come with mold remediation. You may think you only have a small mold problem, but after you remove a little bit of wallpaper, and then some drywall, you might discover that a whole wall is contaminated. If you’ve already made it this far in a DIY mold project, please stop and call a professional. As we’ve already mentioned above, mold causes significant health problems, and when a large area is affected, you need the right equipment to get rid of it safely.
#4 Mold isn’t identified correctly, or source isn’t targeted
Mistaken Molly thought she’d taken care of the problem. She wiped up the water that had accumulated behind the toilet and inspected the new seals she’d finally installed after noticing her leaking toilet. Mistakenly, Molly didn’t check the flooring very carefully. Otherwise, she would’ve seen that the water had gone under the tile and into the subflooring. Whether it was the rotten flooring or the toxic mold that finally got her, we’ll never know. But here’s what you need to know to make sure this doesn’t happen to you.
– The problem: Missing the source
Mold removal is like beauty, it’s not only surface deep (of course no one is saying that mold is pretty). This means that during a mold remediation, it’s vital to take care of the mold problem beneath the surface. An inexperienced DIY’er can easily miss the root of the problem. Most molds need moisture to grow and thrive, and if the source of the moisture isn’t corrected, mold will just keep coming back. The source can be a leaky roof, wall, sewage back-flow, and faulty seals around windows, doors, etc. If you fail to locate the source and take care of it, any work you put into your DIY project will be meaningless, and you may end up worse off than when you started.
– The problem: Mistaken identity
A related problem is failing to identify the type of mold in the home. Not all molds are equal. There are four types of toxic mold you could be dealing with: Stachybotrys, Chaetomium, Aspergillus, Penicillium.
Stachybotrys is also referred to as “black mold,” and it can’t be eliminated with bleach. It usually hides out in places that are hard to see and get to. You’ll find this mold on some of the most common materials in your home including drywall, insulation, carpet, wood, and wallpaper. This strain is dangerous for young children, so don’t treat it lightly.
Chaetomium is known to cause auto-immune problems, neurological impairment, and DNA damage. This mold has a musty smell and thrives in water-damaged areas, like wet drywall.
Molds aren’t easily identified visually but an air test can tell you what kind of mold you’re dealing with. If you fail to identify the type of mold correctly, your mold remediation might end up making your mold problem worse.
#5 Mold occurred after flooding
Hurry Harry was in a rush to clean things up after his home had been flooded. He’d nearly dried out everything when he noticed that mold had started to grow in the corner of his living room. On further examination, he discovered that the carpet was still wet. Hurry Harry knew that he’d need to replace the carpet, so he started cutting it up and removing it. Not too long after, Hurry Harry was in the hospital with a nasty rash and upset stomach. In the end, they think it was probably some sort of chemical poisoning that ended his life.
– The problem
So how did Hurry Harry get chemical poisoning from mold remediation? Well, if your DIY mold mitigation involves cleaning out backed up water or flooding, you need to be extremely careful. As floodwater travels, it gathers whatever liquids are in its path, including toxins, sewage, and chemicals. Unprotected contact with contaminated water may result in boils, rashes, and burning of the eyes and skin. You can also contract diseases from exposure to backed up water, such as malaria, typhoid or dysentery.
What to do instead
Hopefully, you’ve realized that mold mitigation isn’t something to trifle with. If you have a serious mold problem or have any medical issues related to mold, then you need to let the professionals handle it. The five cases mentioned above may have gone down in the annals of “mold” mysteries, but thankfully for us (sadly for Danny, Sally, Pete, Molly, and Harry), there’s really nothing mysterious once we understand the problems with mold mitigation.
For a mold remediation to be successful and safe, these things must happen:
- Molds must be correctly identified and treated by their type.
- The source of mold must be found and mitigated. If the source is contaminated water, then steps should be taken so that more health problems aren’t created.
- Proper equipment must be used so that the mold spores don’t contaminate other areas or infect house occupants.
- Mold must be removed entirely. This means that any infected surfaces or materials that can not be cleaned must be replaced.
Too often, DIY mold removal misses some or all of the components mentioned above. Meaning, it’s more likely that you will spread harmful mold spores and contaminates when you’re trying to get rid of them. It’s safer to get an inspection so that you know what you’re dealing with.
You should also ask a doctor to test your allergies for mold. Remember, mold spores in the air increase during removal, which means your symptoms will worsen. If you’re already at risk for health issues related to mold, then don’t compound your problems by trying to tackle the mold yourself. If the mold is toxic, it’s better to hire a professional.
So, are there mold mitigation DIY dangers that can kill you?
YES! While our stories about Pete, Sally, etc. may have seemed a bit far-fetched, the health risks involved with mold mitigation are not. Consider the risks to your safety, family, and home before you complete a DIY mold removal. In the end, calling a professional might be the very best decision you ever made.