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The California Department of Health Services does not recommend testing as a first step to determine if you have a mold problem. Reliable air sampling for mold can be expensive. Moreover, there are few available standards for judging what is an acceptable quantity of mold. It is normal to have some level of airborne mold both indoors and outdoors. For more information see publications by the California Department of Health Services


The following guidelines are from the April 2002 California Department of Health Services website. Check their website for any changes in California's recommendations.

Elements of the Clean-up Procedures Are:

  • Identify and eliminate sources of moisture.
  • Identify and assess the magnitude and area of mold contamination.
  • Clean and dry moldy areas - use containment of affected areas.
  • Bag and dispose of all material that may have moldy residues, such as rags, paper, leaves, and debris.

Assessing the Size of a Mold Contamination Problem. There will be a significant difference in the approach used for a small mold problem - total area affected is less than 10 square feet - and a large contamination problem - more than 100 square feet. In the case of a relatively small area, the clean-up can be handled by the homeowner or maintenance staff, using personal protective equipment (see below). However, for cases of much larger areas, it is advisable that an experienced, professional contractor be used. For in-between sized cases, the type of containment and personal protection equipment to be used will be a matter of judgment.

Can Cleaning Up Mold be Hazardous to My Health? Yes. During the cleaning process, you may be exposed to mold, strong detergents, and disinfectants. Spore counts may be 10 to 1000 times higher than background levels when mold-contaminated materials are disturbed. Take steps to protect you and your family's health during cleanup:

  • When handling or cleaning moldy materials, it is important to use a respirator to protect yourself from inhaling airborne spores. Respirators can be purchased from hardware stores; select one that is effective for particle removal (sometimes referred to as an N-95 particulate respirator). However, respirators that remove particles will not protect you from fumes (such as bleach). Minimize exposure when using bleach or other disinfectants by ensuring good ventilation of the area.
  • Wear protective clothing that is easily cleaned or discarded.
  • Use rubber gloves.
  • Try cleaning a test area first. If you feel that this activity adversely affected your health, you should consider paying a licensed contractor or other experienced professional to carry out the work.
  • Ask family members or bystanders to leave areas that are being cleaned.
  • Work for short time periods and rest in a location with fresh air.
  • Air out your house well during and after the work.

Removal of Moldy Materials. Clean up should begin after the moisture source is fixed and excess water has been removed. Wear gloves when handling moldy materials.

  • Discard porous materials (for example, ceiling tiles, sheetrock, carpeting, and wood products).
  • Bag and discard moldy items; if properly enclosed, items can be disposed with household trash.
  • Dry affected areas for 2 or 3 days.

Spores are more easily released when moldy materials dry out, hence it is advisable to remove moldy items as soon as possible. If there was flooding, sheetrock should be removed to a level above the high-water mark. Visually inspect the wall interior and remove any mold-contaminated materials.

What can I save? What should I toss? You should discard moldy items that are porous and from which it will be difficult to remove mold completely: paper, rags, wallboard, rotten wood, carpet, drapes, and upholstered furniture. Contaminated carpet is often difficult to thoroughly clean, especially when the backing and/or padding can become moldy. Solid materials - glass, plastic, and metal - can generally be kept after they are thoroughly cleaned.

Clean-Up. When attempting to clean less porous items (i.e., solid items such as floors, cabinets, solid furniture), the first step is to remove as much mold as possible. A cleaning detergent is effective for this purpose. Wear gloves, mask and eye protection when doing this cleanup.

  • Use non-ammonia soap or detergent, or a commercial cleaner, in hot water, and scrub the entire area that is affected by the mold.
  • Use a stiff brush or cleaning pad on cement-block walls or other uneven surfaces.
  • Rinse cleaned items with water and dry thoroughly. A wet/dry vacuum cleaner is helpful for removing water and cleaning items.
Disinfection of Contaminated Materials. Disinfecting agents can be toxic for humans, not just molds. They should be used only when necessary and should be handled with caution. Disinfectants are intended to be applied to thoroughly cleaned materials and are used to ensure that most microorganisms have been killed. Therefore, do not use disinfectants instead of, or before, cleaning materials with soap or detergent. Removal of mold growth from nonporous materials usually is sufficient. Wear gloves, mask and eye protection when using disinfectants.
  • After thoroughly cleaning and rinsing contaminated materials, a solution of 10% household bleach (for example, 1½ cup household bleach per gallon of water) can be used as a disinfectant.
  • Using bleach straight from the bottle is actually LESS effective than diluted bleach.
  • Keep the disinfectant on the treated material for the prescribed time before rinsing or drying; typically 10 minutes is recommended for a bleach solution
  • Bleach fumes can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat, and damage clothing and shoes. Make sure working areas are well ventilated.
  • When disinfecting a large structure, make sure that the entire surface is wetted (for example, the floors, joists, and posts).
  • Properly collect and dispose extra disinfectant and runoff.
  • Never mix bleach with ammonia; toxic fumes may be produced.
Recommendation: Whenever mold issues are raised, boards, managers and residents should seek professional guidance.

ASSISTANCE: Associations needing legal assistance can contact us. To stay current with issues affecting community associations, subscribe to the Davis-Stirling Newsletter.

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