When dealing with a problem like mold smell in the walls, it's best to take the advice of an expert. Jeff Maletz has been doing residential fire and flood restoration and recovery for seven years, initially working for contractors as a lead water damage technician. Now working independently, he specializes in the safe removal of water-damaged or mold-infected building materials. In a recent interview, Maletz stated that a mold smell likely means there is still mold present. This adds a level of complication to the process of removing the smell and its source and may require a professional.
Things You'll Need
- Hot water
- Heavy contractor bags
- Tools for removing wood or drywall
- Adequate gloves
- 3 to 4 heavy plastic tarps
Prepare the work area by hanging plastic tarps as an enclosure. This helps prevent the spread of mold spores to other areas of the house.
Put on goggles, respirator and gloves for personal protection. Heavy-gauge rubber gloves can be used for cleaning, but stronger gloves should be used for the removal of drywall, plaster or wood trim.
Begin inspecting the area to determine the extent of the problem. Removing nearby outlet covers is a good start, but it may be necessary to remove sections of drywall or plaster. Remove small sections of wall, placing them immediately into heavy contractor bags for disposal, preventing the spread of mold spores. Continue to remove sections until you find "clean margins," which means that you have reached slightly beyond the mold damage in all directions.
Find and repair the source of the moisture in the wall. This may require a plumber for pipes or a carpenter or brickmason for external leaks.
Clean the area with a disinfectant, scrub brushes and rags. Hot soapy water is an excellent choice, as it removes the mold without puncturing the mold spores. Professionals do not recommend using bleach for this task. If used improperly, bleach can actually promote mold growth. If bleach is the only available option, use a ten percent solution of bleach in hot water.
Allow the cleaned area to dry completely. Dry to the touch is not an indication of complete dryness, particularly with wood. A tape-style thermometer can help determine residual dampness. Damp walls are up to 15 degrees cooler than dry walls. Fans and dehumidifiers can help speed the drying process.
Once clean and dry, it is safe and advisable to patch and restore the wall as soon as possible, to prevent further moisture from penetrating the area. Mold-resistant drywall is available in some areas, as well.
Tips & Warnings
- A professional has many pieces of equipment to help perform the job safely and correctly. These include laser thermometers, fiber optic scopes to examine the insides of walls with minimal destruction, thermal imaging cameras that can pinpoint internal areas of dampness, and air scrubbers and vacuums with HEPA air filters to contain mold.
- Black mold is very dangerous to humans. Inhaled spores are hook-shaped and can remain lodged in the lungs. According to Maletz, black mold does not refer to simply the color of the mold. Most types of mold are black, but only some types are dangerous to handle. Professionals like Maletz take classes and become certified in the safe handling and removal of mold.
- Jeff Maletz