Moldy belongings brought into clean home - is home infected?
July 16, 2014 12:24 PM   Subscribe

On moving day, we discovered all of our belongings were covered in mold from water damage. We will have all of our belongings professionally cleaned (or disposed if not recoverable). Do we need to remediate the home, too?

We recently remodeled a home, and basically everything from the drywall out is new.

On moving day, we discovered that our belongings had been sitting in water in the storage facility, and everything is covered in mold (grotesque, multicolored nasties). Unfortunately, we discovered this as it was being moved into our house.

One company is telling us that we need to clean the entire house now to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars.

Is this true? If the source of the mold came from outside the home, and ALL of our belongings are cleaned and treated for mold professionally, does the home itself need to be cleaned?
posted by slipthought to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The house itself doesn't have standing water, right? And the belongings didn't linger in a damp closet there for weeks? If nasty mold was just brought in to the house briefly, it seems really unlikely that it would have spread if these things are true.

Possible caveats: the answer might change if you live below sea level or it's otherwise very humid in your home.
posted by ldthomps at 12:52 PM on July 16, 2014

No. You are fine. Just make sure you don't have any sources of water/moisture in the home, and that you've cleaned normally (sweep/vacuum, dust, and wet mop. Anything more is probably overkill).

I not only wouldn't pay 10K+ to have them "remediate" a house that only held moldy items, I also wouldn't trust anything else that particular mold company is telling you. It's a tell that the company is out to get money at the expense of being truthful about the actual risks involved in microbial growth. (And there are risks, don't get me wrong. But this situation almost certainly isn't one of them.)

The two exceptions are if your home has a moisture problem or maybe if one of your family members is unusually mold-sensitive, but I'm guessing that's not the case here. And even then I'd probably start with normal household cleaning, which I'm guessing you'd be doing anyway in a remodeled home.

Also, not sure if insurance is covering anything here, but: your non-porous belongings (e.g. plates, kitchenware, etc.) will be fine getting "remediated" with soap and water and in a dishwasher. And in your situation, I'd probably try washing the clothing and linens at the laundromat with bleach before going the professional cleaning route.
posted by pie ninja at 12:59 PM on July 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

- How long were the belongings sitting in the home before they were removed/cleaned?
- Were you running the air-conditioning during this time, and is it possible that some spores got into your air ducts?

If those answers are "five minutes" and "no," I agree with the above. As for the stuff itself, which it sounds like you've already cleaned, but still?: bleach bleach bleach bleach bleach, and (I am an archivist, and this is literally our "best practice") if there's an item that can't be bleached but would hold up to a vaccuuming, take it outside and run an attachment on it. Then empty the canister outside, and bleach it.

In the most realistic worst-case scenario: if your home is permeated with mold from behind the drywall (unlikely, unless the contractors didn't properly seal against moisture) (in which case, get out your warranty), that will become apparent within a year and it will probably cost much less than tens of thousands of dollars, provided your contractor honors the warranty.

But it doesn't seem like your belongings could have infected the house to such a degree as to take a bet on this $$,$$$ remediation job. I think bleaching everything and letting it be is the better bet.
posted by magdalemon at 1:42 PM on July 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

My possessions were stored in a leaky storage unit for a year and everything that could go mouldy, did. Some things that I ultimately threw away - boxes of clothes, for instance - or ended up treating very aggressively to kill the mould, came into my new apartment with me. I did not treat the apartment itself for mould in any way (it didn't even occur to me!) and no harm resulted.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 2:44 PM on July 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Mold spores are everywhere in the environment, including the air in your remodeled home. As long as the home is dry, you are 100% fine.
posted by bennett being thrown at 3:31 PM on July 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks so far everyone. Makes me feel somewhat better.

To answer a few questions... There are no known leaks or damp areas in the house. (We checked this thoroughly before move in).

However - the items have been there over a week - waiting on aforementioned company to get on with it.

HVAC has been active throughout. Set on 73 degrees. A HEPA air filter has been running, and we have DampRid containers throughout the house.
posted by slipthought at 6:16 PM on July 16, 2014

Just so you know… the "mold remediation" field is full of scams… you can spend as much as you want (as much as you have!) on "mold remediation" and it's mostly nonsense. Mold spores exist in the world. They will flourish where there is dampness. They will do nothing without dampness. It's true that bringing in an extra helping of spores isn't ideal, but as long as your house is dry, there's nowhere for those spores to grow.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:42 PM on July 16, 2014 [4 favorites]

I worked construction in post-Katrina New Orleans and people salvaged all kinds of moldy things and brought them into their rebuilt homes and it was not a problem.

The mold remediation company has a great deal going; remediation in homes that don't need it.
posted by vapidave at 10:34 PM on July 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

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