One of the most conflicting arguments in the mold industry is what to do with your contents. Some will tell you mold is no big deal and having mold on your contents is not a problem. Others will tell you that if you don’t throw everything in your house away and burn your house down to the ground, you will never get better. The truth of the matter is, no one will know for sure with 100% certainty that certain things will or will not make you feel worse when you’re exposed to them. I have had cases that shocked me too, where the client was adamant on leaving the carpets and we were effectively able to remove the mycotoxins from them and the clients felt amazing doing all of the work that we did, despite our recommendations to remove the carpets. On the Flipside, we have had a client adamant about keeping a fabric couch and when we did, she felt amazing except for when she would sit on her couch. As a professional in an industry where we are still learning every single day. We learn by extrapolating data in our experiences and come to a conclusion. Our conclusion on contents is that every individual is different and what one person may be fine with another person may be not. Furthermore, the contents are going to depend on the condition they’re in and how contaminated they are in the first place (which for the most part is unknown due to the costs and inefficiency associated with testing every item). For that reason, we are going to give you our opinion based upon helping 500+ families move back into their home on what to do with their contents.
- Identifying porous contents versus non-porous contents is going to be the first step to this. The best analogy that I can give you for determining that is to look at an object and ask yourself this question. “If this object got wet, would water pool on the surface or would some water be absorbed into this object?” Now some items such as wood are semi-porous meaning that water pools on top of it however, some water is also absorbed into it. If you ask yourself “If I then wiped away the pool of water, would the object still remain somewhat wet” that would help you answer that. So when we think of porous items we think of stuffed animals, certain materials of lamp shades, certain materials of blinds, drapes and curtains, carpets, clothing, cardboard, etc.
- Porous items are the most ineffective to clean, period. Mold spores can become imbedded into the fibers, making it hard to clean but also if it was damp, wet, or moist, when mold was present it’s possible mold started to plant its hyphae into the porous material making it virtually impossible to clean. For this reason, we always want to err on the side of caution when it comes to porous contents. There are products such as EC3 Laundry Additive which you can buy on Amazon, that are 99.97% effective at removing molds and mycotoxins from anything that is machine washable. Those are great odds and we highly recommend it. But what about contents that are not machine washable such a fabric couch. Now, I will tell you that we can and will utilize technology to HEPA vacuum and use a fog application to attempt to eradicate the contamination. But, the only way to know for sure if that was 100% effective would be to test it afterwards. This makes the process very inefficient. For that reason, my recommendation is the following:
Discard as many porous contents as you are willing to let go of, not because it’s absolutely necessary but because it’s the most likely chance of success if you’re extremely sensitive that you won’t have adverse reactions being exposed to these items.
- Clean the porous contents you absolutely want. Whether it’s items with sentimental value or items that were extremely expensive and not financially feasible to replace. Upon cleaning these items, re-test them OR re-introduce them one by one to ensure you don’t have any relapses in your health when around those specific items.
- Semi-porous items are the next topic of conversation. Think unfinished wood furniture or leather. What happens with these items is mold can partially grow into them making the process of remediation a concern at damaging these items. If you’d like to clean these items, I recommend cleaning and sealing them (unfinished wood) or cleaning them and testing them (leather furniture). If you’re okay with replacing these items, it may be more cost effective in some scenarios where the semi-porous item is rather inexpensive to replace.
- Non-porous items are the least worrisome since they can be effectively vacuumed and cleaned to ensure they’re 100% free of contamination. Metal, glass, finished wood, sealed countertops, etc can all be cleaned safely and effectively without the need to replace.
This is the starting point of how you should observe and determine which contents you’d like cleaned and which contents you’d like replaced. If you’re a person who stores items in storage primarily in cardboard boxes, our recommendation would be to switch to storing things in plastic storage containers from here on out. This will provide better protection for your belongings you’re storing by keeping them in a container that isn’t prone to mold growth.
Let’s assume you have a massive mold problem and there is a lot of contamination in the house. A plan might look differently to tackle that as opposed to an isolated incident that happened in one bedroom. Because of the difference in logistics, each contents plan is going to be different. I do want to talk about larger scale projects for a moment to dig into what I find to be the most efficient ways to handling contents on a large scale project.
If the entirety of the home is greatly contaminated and one assumes that due to the high amounts of mold in the air and dust, the contents are likely to be contaminated as well. In this scenario we recommend taking the following steps:
- Going through the first stage of deciding what you want to keep and discard (based on the information in this article).
- Begin to clean out and discard the items you are going to discard (you can call your sanitation company to schedule a bulk pickup or hire an all inclusive service like 1-800-got-junk).
- With the rest of the items in place it is now possible to identify how much is left that will need to be cleaned. If you still have a lot of contents and furniture that take up space that would make it inefficient to remediate, clean, and reconstruct, you may want to consider some storage options.
- If you have a driveway that can accommodate both a dumpster (needed for remediation and removal of contaminated building materials) and a POD (which you can use to store contents to declutter the home) a storage POD is a good option. From there on move-in day, we would setup a staging area to clean your contents for you before you move them back inside.
- The second option is to hire a moving company to wrap, protect, and pack your contents for the remainder of the project into a climate controlled space and deliver them upon move-in day. At which point we would setup a staging area to clean your contents before they are moved back inside. While this is the more costly of the two options it’s also the most efficient in terms of your time to move the items in and out of storage.
- With a proper plan in place on how to deal with the contents you can now begin to move forward with your project. It’s important to note that if you do have porous contents you’d like to clean, it may be wise to schedule those items to be cleaned and brought back inside in limited quantities to help you determine if any contents at all, are causing any adverse health reactions when exposed to them. Moving everything in at one time may make it more difficult to determine
If you have any further questions regarding contents, please contact us today and ask us to speak to someone about your contents.
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