Should You Test for Mold?
Recently, we discussed mold that can be found in unlikely places, such as in the bedroom, bathroom, and the kitchen. After all, most report mold in basements or crawlspaces, but mold can actually grow virtually anywhere.
There is one thing we can all agree on. You do not want hidden mold growing in your home. If there is mold somewhere, anywhere, with the potential of causing health issues with your family, you want to know about it so you can remove it and keep everyone safe.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has much to say about the need for mold testing. “In most cases, if visible mold growth is present, sampling is unnecessary,” according to a statement on the EPA website. And what the EPA says makes sense. If you can see the mold, you do not need to take samples and run tests because you know the mold is there. The professional restoration company that removes the mold will figure out what type it is and proper procedures for your specific case.
But what if you can’t see the mold but you feel something is there?
Then it’s time to engage mold sampling and testing. According to the EPA, surface sampling may be useful to determine if an area has been adequately cleaned or remediated.
Who should do it?
Sampling for mold should be conducted by professionals who have specific experience in designing mold sampling protocols, sampling methods and interpreting results. Sample analysis should follow analytical methods recommended by the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), or other professional organizations, says the EPA.
Regulations and guidelines
Standards or threshold limit values (TLVs) for airborne concentrations of mold, or mold spores, have not been set. Currently, there are no EPA regulations or standards for airborne mold contaminants.
But if you have mold, you no doubt aren’t driven by regulations or guidelines, or lack thereof. You want to know if there is mold and if there is, what you can do to remove it.
One option is to purchase a do-it-yourself mold testing kit, something that you test surfaces with and send in for testing at a laboratory.
Another is to contact an industrial hygienist who is an expert with issues such as this, and have professional testing conducted.
No matter what you do, if you do have mold growth, do the right thing. Turn the work over to your favorite restoration company. After all, it pays to call a pro!
The Often-Forgotten Vacuum Bag
Vacuum cleaners are an integral part of life for any family and a common tool used daily in commercial buildings.
While the vacuum hums along doing its job, picking up dirt, grit, debris, and potential contaminants, there is a part of the vacuum we might not think about that often.
You usually can’t see it… but it’s right there, inside your vacuum cleaner — the bag.
The vacuum bag is the repository of all substances that the vacuum collects through the beater bar or suction assembly and hoses. Unless you use a bagless vacuum, and there are some on the market today, all air goes from the surface being vacuumed and through the vacuum bag. The air you breathe around a vacuum is partly the air that has passed through the unit.
You know you have a problem when you turn on the vacuum cleaner and notice a foul odor. What you are detecting is the result of organic and inorganic matter inside the vacuum bag that has had time grow microorganisms that create odors. A vacuum bag that has sat a long period of time without being changed or cleaned can produce significant bad odors.
While your vacuum cleaner manufacturer will have recommendations on the frequency of changing the bag, those are simply general recommendations. Professional carpet cleaners recommend changing a bag when one-half to two-thirds full.
Is that enough?
The nose knows
In addition to following a schedule, use some common sense. Remember that a vacuum bag in the dark that is stuffed with organic soils will quickly become an odor-causing source. If you vacuum every day, you may not notice it. But give it a week or two, and the odors become evident.
At the first hint of an odor, change the bag. Even if you vacuum once or twice, and put the vacuum away for several days, it may be good to change the bag before using it again.
Bags are cheap. Your health is not.
Professionals cleaners often change the vacuum bag and clean all equipment before going from one home to the next. The do this to avoid cross-contamination. Their basic principles of equipment maintenance keep you and your family safe.
When it comes to the absolute best cleaning of all surfaces, do the right thing. Call your favorite cleaning company. After all, it pays to call a pro!
Water Intrusion Precautions
When water finds its way into your home, in the form of a flood, plugged drain that backs up, or a pipe breaking, it takes just seconds for some serious damage to occur.
Water intrusion, especially over time, affects all types of building materials. It can quickly leave you with a big mess to clean up, and sometimes the damage is more significant than what you originally thought.
Some water intrusions you can handle yourself, such as water on a concrete floor in the basement. Many homeowners have simply pushed that type of water into floor drains or used wet/dry vacuums to suck it up.
But if there is significant flooding, or if it has affected building materials, that’s a different story. You want to first think about the type of water that has caused the damage.
Types of water
It could be “clean” water, such as from rain or leaky pipes, which is a type of water you can sometimes clean up yourself. It could be “gray” water, which might come from a dishwasher, a washing machine, or an overflowing sink, and may require professional cleanup. Or — worst case situation — it could be “black” water, which you should not attempt cleaning because that means it came from a sewer, a flood, or some other situation that could have heavily contamination and health hazards. With most gray and with all black water flooding situations, it’s best to call a disaster restoration company.
But no matter what, be sure to be safe. With any type of flooding, turn off the power to affected areas and unplug electronics and appliances, in that order. Never step into standing water if there is any danger of electricity being on. Nothing is worth a trip to the hospital — or worse.
Working in a structure with black water also can be a safety issue — to your health. The reason you should always call a pro with black water is because of the bacteria and contamination that can make you sick, really sick. Cleaning and restoration professionals have the personal protective equipment needed to do the job right and do it safety. We aren’t talking about gloves and goggles, but about complete body protection, respirators, and more.
Water damage is a stressful situation, for anyone affected, in any situation. But it can all be fixed. Do the right thing and reach out to your favorite restoration company when anything happens to your home. After all, it pays to call a pro!
Computer Cleaning Made Simple
When people discuss “cleaning the computer” they often refer to running a disk check, removing old files, deleting applications that just take up space, and all the tasks that help it to run faster.
But cleaning can be an old-fashioned task and add value to that electronic device you rely on each and every day. Everything works better when it is cleaned and maintained.
Whether you have a computer with a “tower” and separate monitor, keyboard, etc., or a laptop, or a tablet, even a smartphone, they all need attention from time to time.
Keep it safe and organized
The first step is to turn off the device, no matter what. Electric shock can occur during cleaning, especially since you will use moisture to some degree.
Take apart the tower (if you have one), remove it, and keep all the screws and tiny parts organized. There’s nothing more frustrating than taking something apart and either losing a small part or having extra when the job is done.
Getting to work
Using compressed air, such as from a small can, blow out the dust that has accumulated inside. There may even be some spider webs. If you need to wipe out the interior, use a very soft cloth and be careful with the wires and connections. You don’t want a cleaning to turn into a repair.
Most likely, the computer or device you have is a laptop or tablet. For those, using compressed air is smart on openings and vented areas, you want to keep dust out of the device. A close examination of ports often shows accumulation of soil and grime.
With any device, wiping down the outside keeps oils from building up and especially helps with any buttons and keys. Using a solution such as for eyeglasses, and a soft microfiber cloth, apply the solution to surfaces and quickly (before it penetrates) wipe it off. Screens can be stubborn, as they show streaks. Microfiber cloths are the best tool for minimizing streaks.
For keyboards, use compressed air and cotton swabs to remove the dust and buildup in crevices. For stubborn soils, a little more effort will be required and maybe some careful cleaning with sharp objects, such as a wooden toothpick, might be warranted. But always be very careful not to cause damage to the keys.
And don’t forget, for all your cleaning needs and questions, contact your favorite cleaning company. After all, it pays to call a pro!
Inspections that Prevent Restoration Efforts
As we look at spring in the rear-view mirror of life, it’s time to think about what a tough winter and spring season may have had on our home.
Now is the perfect time of year to take a stroll around your home and see how things look. Yes, you may have already put in a few plants and run the lawn mower a time or two, but have you really looked closely at the exterior of your home? What you may discover — and subsequently repair — will keep the weather elements outside and your home safe and snug inside.
Go ahead, put on your shoes and head outside. Scroll around the house. Here’s what you should look for.
Stand back and really look, even with a pair of binoculars. Do you see any shingles or other roof materials popping up a bit? Look at transition areas. Any damage you see just might be covered by insurance, especially if there was a recent windstorm. Any damage should be repaired immediately before you suffer from water intrusion. Roof damage is really serious business.
Freezing temperatures, age of the gutters, and the elements can take their toll. Get underneath the gutters and look up. Do they pull away from the home? Look for daylight between the gutters and the roof. You don’t want to see that. And the next time it rains, grab an umbrella and take another tour outside — except when there is lightning! If any water is spilling out the side of the gutter, it’s time for a closer look.
Standing at each corner of the house, look along the side. There are many types of siding materials but what you want to look for is anything wavy, not flat like it should be, and perhaps pulling away. This might mean a repair job is in order, and you should do it before the next storm.
Around windows, doors, and ventilation pipes, the caulking should be in good condition, not cracked and damaged. Caulking can easily be replaced but be sure to purchase a caulking product intended for your purpose, such as one that can withstand outdoor elements and wind/rain. The experts at a home improvement store can point out what’s best for your situation.
But no matter what happens to your home during any type of storm, you have professionals ready to help. Do the right thing and reach out to your favorite disaster restoration company. After all, it pays to call a pro!
A Time for Reflection
Cleaning windows is a common chore, and many people will schedule an entire day or more to it during spring or annual cleaning. It involves removing screens, climbing up on ladders, stepping over shrubbery, a little huffing and puffing, among other challenges.
When cleaning your windows, don’t forget the interior glass that can get neglected. That’s right, the mirrors in your home. If you keep your mirrors clean, you might even look better when you gaze at yourself!
Cleaning mirrors may seem like a simple task… but like with all household tasks, there are proper, best-practice steps that make the job easier, better, and save you time as well.
As with window washing, you can use a scrub tool and squeegee on mirrors, but that’s not very effective on smaller surfaces and especially those not perfectly flat.
Most will opt for a quality glass cleaner, one that limits streaking. You can find plenty of options at your grocery or department store.
If you are the do-it-yourself type of person, you can also make your own. Most cleaning products are, after all, water based. In a trigger sprayer, mixing up a few cups of water with a few drops of dishwashing detergent and about a cup of rubbing alcohol makes a great homemade alternative as a glass cleaner. The rubbing alcohol helps with evaporation. Some recipes call for a few drops of vinegar as well. Can’t hurt!
You also need lint-free towels. Many use disposable paper towels but make sure they are higher quality as you don’t want them falling apart when you use them. Wiping off edges and streaks is essential to a good glass cleaning job.
The actual cleaning is pretty simple, but you must be thorough. Apply/mist on a small amount of solution, wetting out the entire surface. Using your towels, work over the surface until all the moisture is evaporated and then keep wiping. Use a zig-zag pattern, turning over the towel and using the dryer side when you can. A final wiping with a clean, unused towel should finish off the job.
Make sure the room is well-lit. Look at the glass from all angles. What might look fine from one side of the room may look terrible from the other side.
For all your best cleaning tips, and to get some help with all your cleaning tasks, call your favorite cleaning company. After all, it pays to call a pro!
What the EPA Says About MOLD
When the United States Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, speaks… most of us listen.
And the EPA has much to say about mold, which can affect health in minor, irritating ways (slight respiratory issues) to severe life-threatening reactions, resulting in medical care and the unthinkable.
Here are the edited highlights from the EPA.gov site, along with our own thoughts, that all households should consider. Of course, the EPA recommends that everyone should fix plumbing leaks, water intrusion issues, and keep all interior surfaces clean and dry at all times. If you do this, mold should not be an issue. But if it happens, here are some tips.
Who should do the cleanup? There are a number of factors. First, consider the size of the mold problem. If less than 10 square feet, you may be able to handle the cleanup yourself. However, with water damage and mold growth more than 10 feet, consult an expert. And there is no way to know 100% if even a small amount of mold could have an adverse health effect on you or those you care about.
HVAC and air conveyance systems
Don’t minimize the impact that mold can have in your ductwork or other air conveyance areas. Hidden mold may be out of sight, but it should be taken seriously. Slight musty odors should trigger an investigation. Get your duct work inspected immediately and have the work done by a professional.
Restrooms, shower stalls and more
Mold is normal in some areas, like in the corner of a shower stall. Don’t panic. Just clean it up. But if you need help, hire a pro. A very small amount of mold is no doubt fresh and can be easily removed.
Hiring a pro
If you decide to contact and use a disaster restoration company or a mold removal service, be a smart consumer and check their references and credentials. There are many “companies” that claim to be experts in mold removal, but they are far from qualified.
Do the right thing with mold. When you know you have it, you should know how to get rid of it. The easiest, best, and safest way is to let a disaster restoration, water damage, or mold remediation company do the work. After all, it pays to call a pro!