Massive Mold Mishap
January 11, 2013 3:01 PM   Subscribe

My little brother had a jellow wrestling party in his basement with his college friends. It was a great success. However, they (he and his three roommates) left a large kiddie pool full of jello in his warm, wet, dark basement three weeks ago. Now there is giant kiddie pool full of mold in his basement. Much of the floor is also covered in mold. It's....very scary and smelly. How best to clean up?

They've finally decided to deal with this funguspalooza, but I'm concerned this clean up job might be a little our their relm. Is there a possibility that cleaning these mess could be dangerous to their health? Can they handle it? Should they call in a hazmat team? It's really quite a large mess. I have never seen so much mold in my life.
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (19 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Question for clarification: what is the floor made of? Is it a dirt floor, concrete..... shudder.... carpet?
posted by treehorn+bunny at 3:07 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Some good advice here.

Personally, I'd take a shot at cleaning it with some masks and detergent first, then bring in professionals if it returns, depending on how much 'a lot' really is.
posted by empath at 3:08 PM on January 11, 2013

You can probably try to clean it up yourselves. Mold can be irritating and can cause problems for people with allergies or immunosuppressed conditions, but most kinds of mold are not terrifyingly dangerous, especially with limited contact. You can protect yourselves with masks and gloves - and Tyvek body suits if you're really nervous - and that will probably be plenty sufficient. Respirator masks provide more substantial protection than just "N-95" paper masks.

The main method of mold remediation is physical removal of the mold, followed by drying out the area, and sometimes application of chemical treatments (and note that while often recommended, bleach is not a universally good treatment for mold - particularly if the mold is on organic, porous surfaces like wood). The bleach doesn't take care of all the mold spores and the bleach residue can end up attracting more water and promoting further mold growth in the future. Also, just killing the mold spores doesn't take care of the whole problem, since the dead spores can still be allergenic.

Basically your brother will want to clear out all the material that's got mold on it and throw it away. Put it in garbage bags and don't tromp through the house with it. If the floor is made of carpet or another porous surface, you'll have to rip it out and proceed with cleaning the floor underneath. If it's concrete, get a wet/dry vacuum and put a HEPA filter in it. Vacuum thoroughly throughout the basement. If the mold is very attached you may need to get a scrub brush and use that to clean the floor before you do the vacuuming step.

When you're done with that there are various chemical treatments you can use if you want to, including borax/boric acid, which is supposed to be very effective fungicide. You might also want to put a dehumidifier down there when you're done to inhibit future growth. Good luck! Mold is a big pain to clean but it is also kind of amazing...

Oh yeah, and some pretty good guidance here.
posted by aka burlap at 3:27 PM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

Mod note: From the OP:
Question for clarification: what is the floor made of? Is it a dirt floor, concrete..... shudder.... carpet?

Answer: The floor is concrete.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 3:29 PM on January 11, 2013

I don't think they need a hazmat team. First, they need to get rid of the pool of jello. I recommend many buckets and a pitcher. Wear masks and gloves just to be safe and take frequent breaks get as much airflow as possible through the basement. Put anything furry and thick in the garbage and anything liquid and jello can probably go down the sink with lots of hot water.

Scoop and dump the rest of the mess. A few dustpans would probably work.

Next come the cleaners. Simple Green might do very well. I wouldn't go crazy with bleach. It's stinky and messy and is better left for spot cleaning if some of the mold comes back.

Then try to dry it out. They might see if there's a dehumidifier that they can borrow from someone (maybe one of the parents?) or rent.
posted by amanda at 3:36 PM on January 11, 2013

Get a tarp, fold the kiddie pool into the tarp, take it outside and hose it to hell and back. Remove the rest of it off the floor by scraping, using snow shovels if necessary (that, too, can be dumped onto a tarp. Then wash with soap and water and rags. Then wash with soap and water and rags again, then spritz with bleach and take a long shower. Repeat as needed.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:56 PM on January 11, 2013 [5 favorites]

I'm just gonna say wet-dry vac instead of a tarp that may lend itself to spills. Beyond that, I got nuthin' but good wishes to your brother.
posted by vignettist at 4:21 PM on January 11, 2013

If the jello is still solid in the pool, add some pineapple juice (just a little at first and real pineapple juice, not flavored stuff). Once the jello has melted or it is already melted, use a shop vacuum as vignettist suggests to suck up the muck. Get a vac with with an antimicrobial filter suitable for wet pickup or you'll just end up blowing mold everywhere.

Some tips here about mold removal. Personally, I'd skip the bleach and use hydrogen peroxide or hydrogen peroxide/vinegar. Heck, I'd even try sprinkling Oxyclean on floor and then sweeping it up - kind of like sawdust (or maybe Borax - get the generic stuff though cause you'll probably need quite a bit)

If you do opt for bleach, use gloves and masks and ventilate the area.

Also, make sure you double bag all your waste. No need to expose other folks to the mess either.
posted by jaimystery at 4:41 PM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

I kind of want to see a picture.

Check out this more detailed EPA page which recommends that if it's more than 3'x3' in area you should use a professional:

Sounds like it's larger than that.

This page says that one major problem may be if they are running the heating system and if there are intake vents in the basements - could be spreading spores throughout the house already. Have them clean it up ASAP.
posted by amaire at 4:41 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's warped of me, but I gotta agree with amaire: I wanna see a picture.

*Wear long rubber gloves, respirator masks, goggles, and either old clothes they'd be willing to throw out or Tyvek body suits. Ditto old shoes or maybe waterproof rain boots.
*If at all possible, if there's a door from the basement to the yard, slide the kiddie pool as is onto a tarp and then haul the whole thing straight outside. Something tells me that disturbing the primal ooze as little as possible will be best, and will limit the miasma released. While working, close the door from the basement to the upstairs for the same reason.
*Scrap up as much mold as possible (snow shovels and dustpans are a good suggestion for this); dump it into buckets/trashcans than can be emptied outside. I'd use a basement laundry tub as the last choice for disposal: partly you'll want to avoid clogging the drain and partly it's to simply get that stuff OUTside.
posted by easily confused at 5:14 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

add some pineapple juice

The canning process destroys the enzyme which prevents gelatin from turning to gel; you'd have to juice a fresh pineapple.

According to this page, unripe fruits work best? Which is not to agree that turning the goo to liquid sounds like a great idea. Unless there is a drain in the floor and it's a rental property

A Google for "sweeping compound" may be of interest; such a thing may reduce teh gross. If somebody can borrow a steam cleaner that might be nicer than scrubbing with a brush. I have this which is not particularly industrial or anything and I'm pretty sure it would blast mould off concrete.
posted by kmennie at 7:07 PM on January 11, 2013

This might be a really extreme suggestion, but frozen molded food is so much easier to deal with than fresh stuff (esp because frozen doesn't stink). So... do you know anyone with a liquid nitrogen tank? I'm thinking you might be able to somehow freeze the jello into a big blob and then clean it up while frozen.

Ignore if this is impractical or dangerous. (I hang out with physicists who think nothing of breaking into the lab to make ice cream when they are drunk, so my idea of normal might be a bit skewed.)
posted by lollusc at 7:50 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Rent a shop vac?
posted by amandabee at 8:02 PM on January 11, 2013

I'd call Servpro. They have all the equipment and know-how already.

If they absolutely can't afford it, A Terrible Llama and easily confused have solid suggestions.

Definitely get some breath-filtering appliances for anyone helping, and wear clothes & shoes that can stand up to bleach or can be tossed.
posted by batmonkey at 8:38 PM on January 11, 2013

Is this a rental? If this is a rental, there is no other option besides calling in a professional, for moral as well as practical reasons.
posted by davejay at 9:01 PM on January 11, 2013

Bleach does not kill mold. This has been a public service announcement. You can use it for post-mold-removal staining, but to kill the mold you need a real fungicide. There are plenty of products on the market found at big box and local hardware retailers.
posted by dhartung at 12:45 AM on January 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

That EPA document linked above plus much of this advice is good.

You want to keep the mold out of their lungs, eyes, and skin, particularly the first two. If it's going airborne, misting it lightly might help keep people from breathing it. They can wear goggles and a respirator or mask. Home Depot sells respirators specifically marked for mold (though you may be able to get away with something cheaper than $25 per person; consult that EPA guide). Tell them not to rub their eyes.

One place where I think mold professionals would exceed your ability to go it alone is in reducing the spread of spores. The theory is, if this is some awful type of mold that occurs nowhere else in the house, you don't want to spread the mold spores to other locations. Mold professionals even use these one-time wipes for every wipe of a surface so that they aren't smearing the spores from one part of the counter to everywhere else, from what I've heard.

Me, I might ignore that to a certain extent and assume that wherever those spores came from originally (the air?) is already raining them down on other surfaces in the house. In other words, I wouldn't use a disposable mop for each square foot of concrete floor. My logic may be flawed, but still, we don't live in a sterile world, so it would depend on the context, but there's a reason none of us have advised you to wall off the basement with plastic sheeting and a negative air pressure system.

What I would do, though, is avoid contaminating entirely new zones. Do they have to walk through the living room to go from basement to dumpster? Avoid that. Bag that junk up in the basement, then create some relay system so that whoever is wading in the mold and bagging trash isn't the person tromping across the bedroom carpet. And consider taping off any nearby air vents to keep the mold out of the hvac system.
posted by slidell at 1:35 AM on January 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

So... do you know anyone with a liquid nitrogen tank? I'm thinking you might be able to somehow freeze the jello into a big blob and then clean it up while frozen.

Please, please don't dicky around with liquid nitrogen in an enclosed basement. If it gets out of the tank in serious quantities it is likely to vapourise and asphyxiate you, and of course if any contacts your skin it will burn you horribly. I can't think of a way to 'freeze' the jello safely here (I really hope you didn't think you could just pour it into the pool...), and even if there were a way to do it you would want the tank in a ventilated above-ground room with an oxygen monitor.
posted by Acheman at 5:20 AM on January 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

You need a professional. I work in cleanrooms and we use harsh chemicals like Spor-Klenz to kill mold spores. This stuff will literally peel your skin off (don't ask me how I know...). With this amount of mold, your brother is in way over his head.
posted by kamikazegopher at 1:17 PM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

« Older Which way past this impasse?   |   What's this I hear about Oakland's hipster... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.