Mold Remediation – Know the Basics First

May 7, 2014

Mold remediation can be a lucrative add-on business for restoration companies, but the inherent hazards and requirements warrant careful adherence to industry standards for both the process and products used.

Following official industry guidelines is always the best approach to ensure a first-run pass of post-job tests by hygienists. When removing mold, that means referring to the BSR-IICRC S520: Mold Remediation, Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Mold Remediation.

After resolving the problem that caused the moisture issue in the first place, follow these guidelines as prescribed in Section 12.2.6 for the removal of mold residue and treatment:


  1. Initial HEPA vacuuming: A thorough vacuuming with a HEPA-rated vacuum cleaner helps to remove any loose mold and other materials while protecting the indoor air environment.
  2. Abrasive cleaning: Remove contaminates with sanding, a wire brush or other abrasive method to remove as much residue as possible. Many instructors recommend following this step with a second HEPA vacuuming. This helps to remove any additional residues that the abrasive cleaning has dislodged.
  3. The S520 then stipulates a damp wipe down with a biocide application and following the prescribed dwell time according to the EPA-registered product label. Appropriate antimicrobial choices would include “phenol” or “quat” disinfectants or an EPA-registered Category IV fungicide. It’s critical to ensure the disinfectant product contacts all source residue.

As a final step, many instructors recommend follow-up treatment of surfaces with a product that has significant residual antimicrobial properties – one that coats structural materials to reduce the recurrence of microbial activity.

Antimicrobials work in a couple of different ways, either by damaging cell membranes or by “denaturing” proteins that the microbes need in order to grow and multiply. Without functioning cell walls or properly working proteins, mold cells cannot grow and multiply. (Heat can also kill microbes, but it is generally not practical or safe to apply sufficient heat in a structure to control microbial activity.)

But there’s another important point to be made here: The chemical treatment must be placed in direct contact with the mold residue. On porous materials, this is especially important. Molds have hyphae, which are tiny, root-like structures that can extend deep into wallboard, wood or other porous or semi-porous material and create an entire network of hyphae called the mycelium. This fungal network cannot be deactivated unless it is into direct contact with the antimicrobial treatment. Merely applying treatments on the surfaces of affected materials will only have a temporary effect.

This means that if direct contact cannot be achieved with all mold sources, the affected materials must be removed. If the source residue is behind a wall or surface, then technicians must remove that wall or surface while under containment, prior to dealing with the mold on the structural framing surfaces.

 Following these steps carefully can help avoid callbacks or worse. The best approach? Sign up for a microbial remediation class that offers a comprehensive approach to gaining the knowledge and skills to become a qualified mold restoration professional. 

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