Knowing how to get rid of mold in the basement is serious work. Before you do it yourself, determine the size of the affected area to know whether it’s better to seek the services of a professional.
Inspect the size of the mold problem
The first thing you need is protective gear before you inspect or clean mold.
Protective gear could be as simple as long rubber gloves (extending to the forearms) and old clothing.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), wearing goggles (without ventilation holes) and an N-95 respirator is vital as mold inspection can disturb dangerous airborne spores. See my article on a Full Face Respirator Mask here.
The EPA also recommends checking your basement’s HVAC (heating-ventilation-air-conditioning) system for mold infection.
Inspect the intake of your HVAC system as well as the air ducts for moldy odor and contamination. If your HVAC system is dusty but free of mold, use a vacuum to clean the air ducts. In the event of suspected contamination, turn off your HVAC system until and don’t use it until it is cleaned.
Do you need professional service?
Professional mold removal services are necessary if the scope of the contamination is beyond what you can clean.
Or if there is a large pool of standing water in your basement or a strong musty smell that points toward hidden mold growth under baseboards and flooring, and behind walls.
Dealing with the mold yourself
To get started, create a proper working condition in your basement.
This means ventilating the space by opening windows or using fans.
Remember that you should be wearing your goggles, old clothes, an N-95 respirator, and long gloves while doing this.
Next, start taking out contaminated moveable items from your basement for inspection. Discard disposable items, especially cardboard boxes.
Note that cellulose-based items like paper, cardboard or firewood shouldn’t be kept in your basement
Clean every salvageable contaminated item—and only return them to the basement when the basement is mold-free.
For contaminated clothes, washing and drying are necessary.
For plastic/metal furniture, wood or leather, deep cleaning is recommended.
You will have to dispose of or reupholster contaminated upholstered furniture.
Replacing or cleaning the carpet is important. For contaminated carpet surfaces, use a broom to sweep and loosen the mold. Next, clean with a vacuum (with a HEPA filter).
Lastly, apply a cleaning solution, scrub the carpet surface, and allow it to dry.
For removable carpets, sundry outside.
For non-removable carpets, air-dry with fans. If the mold growth has soaked beyond the carpet surface, disposal is recommended.
To prepare a cleaning solution, you need to pick a cleaning agent. Note that your selected cleaning agent should not be damaging to your basement area. Recommended cleaning agents include 3% hydrogen peroxide, baking soda solution, undiluted vinegar, diluted borax, or diluted bleach. A spray bottle or bucket can then be used to carry the solution.
Hard surfaces may require a mixture of one cup of bleach with one gallon of water.
Recommended for porous surfaces is a cup of liquid dish detergent (non-ammonia), plus ten cups of bleach and twenty cups of water.
A baking soda cleaning solution is prepared with half a teaspoon of baking soda added into a spray bottle filled with water.
Borax is recommended for both nonporous and porous surfaces. Simply mix one cup of borax with a gallon of water.
After applying the cleaning solution on the affected area with a rag, sponge or spray bottle, wait for 5 to 15 minutes before scrubbing. A cloth or scrub brush is effective for scrubbing, especially hard-to-reach crevices and cracks.
Of course, you will have to wash and clean the cloth or brush after use to prevent distributing mold residue.
Next, apply clean water to the scrubbed area to rinse it.
With a clean rag or sponge, clean the wet area.
Keep changing the rinse water often while doing this.
After the area dries, inspect for missed mold spots, and repeat the scrub and rinse process if spot mold signs.
Stop moisture in your basement
Examine every major appliance in your basement and ensure they have good drainage and venting and Large appliances, like dryer or washer, should be properly vented.
The washing machine requires a secure hose connection and a floor drain. A pan can be installed beneath the washing machine in case of overflow.
Examine the pipes and gutters in your house and make sure water is being discharged at least seven feet away from your exterior walls.
Your sump pump, however, should be discharging water at least twenty feet from your house.
For gutters too close to the wall, gutter extenders can be installed.
Remember to repair your leaky pipes as well.
Inspect your home’s perimeter. Make sure the ground is sloping away from the building to prevent water from pooling up against the foundation.
Check your exterior walls for wet leaves stuck against them and clean. Never allow the accumulation of debris.
For your air conditioning pan (condensation pan) in the basement, clean the pan with a 0.5% bleach solution—always clean before warm seasons.
For leaky duct joints, consider sealing them with flexible mastic.
Your basement should have good waterproofing and insulation to be mold-free.
Waterproofing involves applying sealant (or waterproofing filler) to your basement floors, walls, and their cracks, or seeking professional help.
Insulate your ceiling and fix leaks there.
To reduce condensation, consider insulating your basement windows with caulk.
Another preventive method is removing and replacing your vinyl wall covering in the basement.
Then clean the bare walls. These wall coverings often trap humid air and fester mold growth.
It is recommended you paint your walls after removing these wall coverings or use permeable wallpapers instead.
Lastly, uncompleted crawlspaces or basement with bare earth flooring conducts a lot of vapor.
Add flooring to bare earth or cover with 6 mm poly sheeting.
Remember: A mold-free basement should be properly humified, cooled, heated, and ventilated like the rest of your home.