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Five Principles of Mold Cleanup

There are five general principles of cleaning up - or remediating - mold. These guidelines will help you deal effectively with small areas of mold contamination (e.g., less than 10 square feet). Leave larger areas (e.g., more than 10 square feet) to professionals with special training and who will apply these same principles in performing their work (for help in finding a certified professional, visit [Note: Ad or content links featured on this page are not necessarily affiliated with The Clean Trust and should not be considered a recommendation or endorsement by The Clean Trust.]


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#1 Be Safe

Moldy houses and contents are a health hazard. Mold has been associated with allergic rhinitis, asthma, and hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and infections such as histoplasmosis and cryptococcosis. Mold mycotoxins can also produce toxin-related illnesses.

Wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as an N-95 respirator (available from home improvement stores), gloves, and goggles, to reduce your exposure to mold spores and fragments.

Major contamination - best handled by professionals - requires special steps. These may include extra-protective garments and respirators, “full containment” such as sealing off the mold zones with polyethylene sheeting, running HEPA filtered fans to create negative pressure and airflow so no contaminated air escapes from the moldy area or affects clean areas, and sealing off HVAC ducts to prevent spreading mold spores throughout your home.

#2 Document Details

An effective mold cleanup starts with knowing the extent of contamination. This means inspecting the area thoroughly, and knowing your home and the materials involved. In addition to a visual and “sniff” inspection (mold often has a distinct accompanying odor), questions to answer include: What materials are contaminated? How large an area - visible or hidden - is affected? Have all the sources of moisture been identified and corrected?

For larger jobs, an indoor environmental professional (IEP) such as an independent Clean Trust-Certified technician can use this basic information as well as data gathered by moisture, mold and other detection tools to perform an initial assessment, on-going assessment, and to verify afterwards that the cleanup has been thorough and effective.

Thorough documentation will help you when it comes time to file an insurance claim, and should be performed and maintained throughout a major cleanup project.

#3 Contain Mold

Mold contamination should be controlled and contained. When mold spores from infestations become airborne they are harder to capture, unhealthy to breathe, and can spread mold to other areas. 

Start by covering moldy areas awaiting cleanup with polyethylene or clear plastic sheeting to prevent airborne dispersal of spores. Other source containment methods including keeping surfaces wet during initial cleanup to minimize dust, using vacuums equipped with HEPA filtration to capture spores and fragments, and running HEPA air purifiers close to the work areas. If an entire area can be ventilated or continually flushed with fresh air without moving contaminated air into clean areas - then this is also appropriate. More elaborate containment for large and complex cleanups is best left to professionals.

#4 Remove Mold

Mold contamination should be physically removed from your home and never just “killed” and covered up. In some cases - for example, deeply mold-infested carpet, upholstery or drywall - complete removal and disposal of the affected material is necessary. On non-porous washable surfaces, homeowners may use a borax and water solution for cleaning up small areas (test first to be sure it is compatible with the surface). Hydrogen peroxide or bleach (with good ventilation) properly diluted with water can also be used (test first since bleach can damage some materials).

After cleaning and drying, surfaces should be visibly free of dust. Running a clean, dry white or black cloth over cleaned surfaces will help determine whether or not residual mold dust remains. Mold-related odors should also be gone once the mold has been removed.

#5 Keep Your Home Dry

Since mold spores are always present at background levels under normal conditions, mold growth is virtually inevitable if moisture is not controlled. To prevent this, moisture problems should be identified, located and corrected or controlled as soon as possible. In other words, keep your home dry to prevent mold growth or recurrence.

Reference: Chapter 1: “Principles of Mold Remediation”, The Clean Trust Guide for Professional Mold Remediation (The Clean Trust S520)


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HHI is committed to accuracy of content and correcting information that is incomplete or inaccurate. With our broad scope of coverage of healthful indoor environments, and desire to rapidly publish info to benefit the community, mistakes are inevitable. HHI has established an error correction policy to welcome corrections or enhancements to our information. Please help us improve the quality of our content by contacting with corrections or suggestions for improvement. Each contact will receive a respectful reply.

The Healthy House Institute (HHI), a for-profit educational LLC, provides the information on as a free service to the public. The intent is to disseminate accurate, verified and science-based information on creating healthy home environments.


While an effort is made to ensure the quality of the content and credibility of sources listed on this site, HHI provides no warranty - expressed or implied - and assumes no legal liability for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, product or process disclosed on or in conjunction with the site. The views and opinions of the authors or originators expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of HHI: its principals, executives, Board members, advisors or affiliates.

Five Principles of Mold Cleanup:  Created on June 6th, 2011.  Last Modified on January 30th, 2012


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About The Clean Trust

The Clean Trust

The Clean Trust, formerly known as The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC), is an ANSI-accredited standards setting body for the flooring inspection, floor covering and specialized fabric cleaning and disaster restoration industries. Organized in 1972, The Clean Trust currently represents more than 5,700 Certified Firms and 54,000 Certified Technicians in 22 countries. The Clean Trust, with participation from the entire industry, sets standards for inspection, cleaning and disaster restoration. The Clean Trust does not own schools, employ instructors, produce training materials, or promote specific product brands, cleaning methods or systems. It approves schools and instructors that meet the criteria established by The Clean Trust. The Clean Trust also serves as a consumer referral source for Certified Firms and Inspectors. Visit



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