Is Bleach Enough to Remove Mold?

One of the most common wisdoms when it comes to cleaning up mold damage is that a bleach solution will take care of it.  Perhaps in smaller cases, such as those encountered regularly around showers and tubs, this may be the case, but in cases of larger infestations, not only will bleach not solve your problem, it may actually serve to make it worse.  It is always important to act quickly when you discover the presence of mold in your home, but it is even more important to act intelligently so as not to aggravate an already serious problem.

 

removal mold with bleach

Bleach and mold dont mix well

Bleach tends to work on shower stalls, tubs or countertops because you are dealing with a non-porous surface.  When used on porous surfaces, such as walls, floors, ceilings, or cabinets, bleach may not reach all the mold that needs to be eliminated, and in some cases, may even feed the mold that is overlooked.  If this sounds like a contradiction, read on.

Chlorine bleach is mostly water.  Chlorine itself does not always soak down into a porous surface such as wood.  If the only thing that soaks down far enough to reach the mold is the water, then all you have done is feed the beast.  Just killing one area of the mold infestation will not solve the problem; it will simply grow back over time and continue to spread.  Being inadvertently fed by a household cleaner may actually cause it to come back stronger.

Using bleach on a significant mold growth can be tantamount to cutting a few leaves off of a tree while carefully feeding the root system.  It will not stop the tree from growing.  Leaves will regrow, and the tree will be even stronger because it was well fed.

Clorox, along with industry leaders such as OSHA and the EPA, have determined that bleach should not be used in mold remediation and and is ineffective in mold removal.  All it does is knock the growth back for a little while, but then, like Jason or Freddy in a bad slasher movie, it pops right back up and continues to cause problems.

Remember, bleach only affects surface mold.  If the area you are working on is the slightest bit porous, then you should never assume that you have eliminated the infestation completely.

Another reason not to use chlorine bleach: chlorine gives off vapors that may be harmful to humans.  Unleashing a chlorine barrage in an enclosed area may make for a problem that makes you forget all about the mold. 

Remember, even though bleach may knock back the mold, that is never going to be enough.  The affected area must be properly treated in order to prevent the mold from returning.  The damaged area will need to be cleaned, disinfected, sanitized, and most importantly, well ventilated.  Humidity levels should be brought down lower than 50%.  Mold loves humidity.

Your local water damage restoration professional will offer mold removal as a part of their service.  Call today for a consultation.

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Water Damage Equipment and Tools of the Trade

Repairing water damage can be a Herculean effort, and requires some rather specialized tools of the trade.  Your local Clean Trust (previously IICRC) certified water restoration professional will be both trained and experienced with the various types of tools required to get your home or business back to its pre-loss condition.

Water damage equipment:

Water damage equipment and tools of the trade

PuroClean uses the best Water Damage Equipment

Water Extraction – of course the primary goal is to get the excess water out of the structure.  For a do-it-yourself water job the water extraction process is accomplished through the use of wet-dry or shop vac units or gas powered submersible pumps.  The tool used depends on the depth and severity of the spill.  Electric pumps are out of the question for obvious reasons. For a professional water damage restoration company there is no other choice than a ride-on water extractor connected to either a portable pump/extraction unit or a van mounted unit. These units are expensive are not available to a homeowner wanting to handle the extraction process themselves.

Dehumidifiers – these are units designed to filter humidity from the air and reduce humidity levels back to within normal parameters.  Typically, humidity levels should be kept below 40-50%.  One unit per large room or area is usually all that is required, however in severe damage cases, more than one unit may be utilized to speed up the drying process. Dehumidification is important to dry and heat up the air, making it “thirsty” so more evaporation can take place from wet materials.

Air mover to dry water damage

Air movers form part of a drying blueprint

Wall Cavity Drying – water left behind walls and in cabinet cavities can cause serious long term problems.  Specialized units designed for use within wall cavities serve to dry out these hard to reach areas through the use of a pressurized drying system which supplies a steady stream of circulated warm air through the affected area.  Some of these units are stackable and are typically used to dry out cabinets as well as wall cavities where air movers (high velocity fans) can’t reach.

Moisture Meters – these units are designed to measure the percentage of water in a given material from drywall to stone masonry.  Physical properties are strongly affected by moisture content, and even dimensions may be altered if not properly detected and treated.  They are relatively easy to use, although training is recommended in order to better understand given readings and determine a proper course of action. Most materials can appear dry to the touch but can be “wet” enough to support mold growth. Moisture meters will alert water technicians to these wet materials allowing a more thorough dryout.

Thermal Hygrometers – these meters are used to measure the humidity levels in the surrounding air.  This is especially important in the final stages of water damage restoration, as you want to make sure that the humidity level is sufficiently decreased in order to avoid long term problems such as mold.  These readings are also used to determine or justify the number of dehumidifiers to be used when drying out a structure.

Infrared Cameras – can help identify areas of water damage which may not be readily apparent to the naked eye or may take too long to measure with moisture meters.  These devices detect infrared energy (heat) and convert it into an electric signal which is then processed into a thermal image. The image displays the differences in heat coming off the object you are looking at which in turn can provide an indication of any excess water that may have been overlooked.  Typically resembling a camcorder, and produces a live picture (not a snapshot) of the affected area. 

Air Scrubbers – removes particles, gases, or chemicals from the surrounding air, creating a cleaner and healthier environment.  Most scrubbers are only designed to handle one kind of element; however, most industrial strength units can handle all three types of contaminants.  On water damage jobs air scrubbers can ensure that anything kicked up by the air movers and dehumidifiers is removed immediately. They are also very handy when there is any mold present as they can filter out mold spores too. If just placed in a room these units will circulate the air and scrub it. If the return clean air is ducted out of the room then it will result in negative pressure inside that room which is also handy on mold jobs because it prevents contaminated air from escaping any containment.

Your local water damage PuroClean professionals will make use of these and all other tools at their disposal to successfully remediate the water damage problem in your home

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Water Damage Insurance Claim Guide

Anybody who has owned a home for any length of time will end up having to deal with water damage. This alone is bad enough, but having to file a water damage claim with your insurance company may leave you wishing you had stayed in bed that day if you don’t know how to do it correctly.

Water damage claim form image

Water damage insurance claim form

First off, it is important to know what to avoid doing.  Namely, try not to use the word “flood”.  Flood damage is almost never covered under homeowners’ policies, unless of course you had the presence of mind and forethought to get covered under the National Flood Insurance Program. So if your pipes fail and overrun your living room, be sure to refer to it as “water damage”, not “flood damage”.

Prevent more damage from occurring.  Whatever the problem was that caused the damage, fix it.  Claims will often be denied if it can be proven that the damage was in any way caused by negligence on the part of the homeowner. As a homeowner and policy holder, you have an obligation to mitigate the damages. That means to do whatever is necessary to prevent the damage from getting any worse (if it’s in your power). That could range from turning the water mains off to calling an emergency water damage company right away instead of waiting a day or two.

Get familiar with your policy.  Never assume (because we all know what that does) that water damage or mold damage is automatically covered.  It may very well not be.  Take the time now to sit down with your agent and go through your policy line by line.  Knowing what is covered is half the battle, and you can add additional coverage as necessary. Mold coverage is a perfect example of this – most homeowners policies either exclude mold removal altogether or have a cap on it.

mold removal home insurance

Are you covered for mold removal?

Document everything.  Take photographs of the damage, and video if available.  This may go a long way towards helping you plead your case with the claims adjuster or getting everything covered. Most adjuster wont fight you over something small, but if you tossed out a $15k water damaged oriental rug then you’d better have some sort of proof.

When it is time to file, contact your insurance company claim department, and provide all necessary information including your policy number, contact information, and details of the water damage involved.

Do not throw away any damaged items unless they present some kind of health risk such as mold growth, and even then if you can keep them outside your home until an adjuster has had time to examine them it can only help your cause.  Having them on hand will help you in your attempt to get them replaced.

As mentioned, mitigate the damage, but save all receipts.  This will help you get properly reimbursed for money you had to spend to stabilize the situation.

The insurance company will most likely send out a claims adjuster to assess the problem on behalf of the insurance provider. They will provide you with instruction on how to proceed.  If you haven’t already chosen a mitigation company or construction company, your adjuster can help you with that. You should always request a copy of the adjuster’s assessment report. If the damage is extensive and you are having problems either eating, bathing or sleeping most homeowner’s insurance policies will have additional living expenses (AL&E) included which will cover a stay in a hotel and any food. Just keep all your receipts.

Fill out a proof of loss form with your provider.  This will act as a sworn statement that will back up your insurance claim.  It is usually required in cases of water damage.

Follow up on your water damage claim as many times as it takes.  In some cases, the insurance provider will be diligent in keeping you updated as things progress, but if they operate the way many insurers do and drag their feet, don’t be afraid to make a pest of yourself.  You paid into this policy and you have a right to know where they are in the claims process at any given time. 

Of course, your local Clean Trust (formally IICRC) certified water damaged restoration professional can act as a liaison with your insurance company, making sure everything is covered and properly compensated.

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Water Damage Photos, Books and Paper

When water damage or flooding strikes a property, the structure may be severely damaged, and that in itself is bad enough.  The headaches that come along with the repairs can be major, but often times some of the smaller items that are damaged may be just as devastating.  I’m speaking of course of water damaged contents such as water damaged  photos, documents, or water damaged books which may have some sentimental value.  Can such pieces be saved?

Water damaged document recovery

Water damaged document recovery

Well, the answer is yes, provided that they weren’t just completely destroyed by the water, and that you take immediate action to properly treat them.

Salvaging Water Damaged Photos:

  • Photos with negatives can be replaced, which is the easiest course.  Photos with no negative backup should receive priority treatment.
  • Photos may sometimes be successfully re-photographed just in case the original cannot be saved.
  • Handle wet photos around the edges.  Fingers can damage the surface.
  • Photos that are stuck together may be soaked in warm water.  After about an hour they should be loose enough to pull apart without causing further damage.  Work slowly to prevent harming the photos.
  • Rinse the photos and seal them in a plastic bag.
  • You can also dry wet photos in a freezer, allowing them to dry face up.
  • Do not dry photos in direct sunlight.  This may cause them to dry too quickly and warp, harden, or crack.
  • Add weights to the tip of each photo to prevent them from curling.
  • Having a digital back up of each photo in your collection provides insurance against a treasured picture being lost forever.

Salvaging Water Damaged Books:

  • Do not open books, or fan the pages, or remove bindings
  • Stand the book on end and allow the water to drain.
  • Use fans to circulate air around the books you are drying.  Do not aim the fans directly at the books.
  • You can also freeze wet books or any type of wet paper.  This will prevent the growth of mold until such time as you can have the books professionally treated.
  • It is important to treat water damaged books with care.  Once print has smudged or begins to run, there is no hope of getting it to look normal again.  As with most water restoration chores, it is important to do the job right the first time.
  • Do not attempt to air-dry vellum or leather bound books without first consulting a qualified conservator.  Remember that wet paper tears even more easily than normal.
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Water Damaged Insulation Dry Or Replace?

It only takes a little water to do a lot of damage to your home or business.  As little as one inch of water can cause damage totaling in the thousands of dollars.  What’s worse, when water gets within the walls of the structure, there sets the stage for all kinds of new problems, namely with air conditioning, heating systems, electrical, as well as the insulation in the home.

cellulose insulation image

Wet cellulose insulation in ceiling

It is vital to inspect the type of insulation present in order to determine whether it can be dried or will need to be replaced. Of course this is assuming we aren’t talking about category 2 or 3 water damage as that should always be replaced. Attic insulation and insulation under a floor in a crawl space can easily be evaluated to determine whether it can be saved or not. Insulation in the wall can pose more of a problem as it’s not immediately visible. Small holes should be drilled into the wall to determine the type of insulation as well as its moisture content. In most cases, the insulation should be removed and replaced, since repairing or restoring it is all but impossible, and leaving it in your home will only cause further problems.

Water damage is usually very evident, but in cases where it is not immediately visible, it is usually indicated by staining, discoloration, sagging, or warping of wall coverings, sheet rock, and drywall.  Wet cellulose insulation can absorb some water with no ill effects, but once it has become saturated, replacement is the only viable option.

Cellulose insulation may also sag under the weight of excess water, effectively compromising the structure’s R-value ratings.  Sagging creates gaps and holes and allows heat to escape, rendering the insulation pretty much useless.

Water damaged insulation may also contribute to a higher fire risk for the home.  As odd as that sounds, consider, cellulose insulation contains boric acid as a fire retardant.  Water damage rinses this solution away, leaving it vulnerable to fire damage.

In addition, many of the chemicals used to treat cellulose insulation may become corrosive when wet, able to eat through wiring and other delicate materials.  It may even compromise the integrity of support structures such as nails and fasteners.

types of insulation image

Types of insulation

Some insulation types can be saved. Glass fiber batt insulation can be dried depending on the level of water damage and amount of water damaged materials surrounding it and the length of time it’s been wet. Polystyrene pellets are another type of insulation that can be dried since they absorb very little water when wet. Drying insulation within walls can be achieved by using structural cavity drying systems (SCDS), but that be expensive if it takes a while to dry. Other options include partial demolition and then dehumidification and drying or full demolition.

There is also of course the age old water damage problem of mold and mildew, either of which may occur within 48 hours of water damage and completely destroy insulation of any type.

In most cases, drywall will need to be removed in order to access all of your damaged insulation.  Damaged insulation will need to be bagged and properly disposed of in a facility designed to accept such material.

Before installing any new insulation, the water damaged area will have to be thoroughly dried out, cleaned, disinfected, and sanitized.  Installing new insulation and skipping this step will only serve to cause additional long term problems.  Remember that the operative term in any water restoration process is “dry”.

Allow all wall and ceiling cavities to dry thoroughly….in some cases it may take as long as 1-2 weeks for everything to dry out.  Resist the urge to rush the project.  Rushing will only mean additional expense and headaches down the road.

If your home is located in an area that is prone to flooding, Styrofoam rigid insulation may be your best choice in order to avoid expensive insulation repairs and replacement.

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