Impact of mold on household items?
June 26, 2024 4:54 PM   Subscribe

My sister's apartment underwent a mold inspection and it needs professional remediation. What impact does this have on her furniture, clothing, books, and other household items?

My sister rents a stand-alone carriage house; the landlord lives in the bigger house on the property. She's been feeling sick at home lately, so requested a mold inspection. The inspectors have recommended professional remediation; according to the report, there is "Elevated levels of Penicillium Aspergillus, Stachybotrys, and Chaetomium found in Stairwell cavity, Basement storage, Utility room, Basement Bedroom, and Back door."

She was already thinking of moving out, so will probably just leave. (I think she has a month-to-month lease.) What we're wondering if whether she needs to toss any of her stuff? It sounds like the problem is worst in the basement, where she has some stuff in storage. Should that all go? Her living room is two floors above the basement; does she need to worry about her couch, rugs, etc.?

I'd love to hear from anyone who has experience dealing with finding mold in their homes. We're feeling a bit overwhelmed about what to do.
posted by leftover_scrabble_rack to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I think of mold a bit like smoke - the particles are small and stick to stuff, and re-activate when they get damp. I had a house fire long ago and the company that did my smoke damage claim also did mold claims. My renter's insurance covered it all, comprehensively. They took EVERY SINGLE TEXTILE I OWNED, labelled it, dry cleaned it, and then returned it with no smoke smell! Worth checking if insurance can cover her issue too.

For mold, you can keep anything that can be laundered, or dry cleaned, or wiped - clothing, electronics, glass, metal, plastic that's not for food, etc should all be fine as long as you clean them well. Thin, washable bedding like sheets, even towels - would be fine, just launder on hot a couple times and really dry them bone dry. Even puffy clothing like sweaters and coats should be ok if they're drycleaned.

I think a priority right now would be to assess the basement for papers and photos - they are tough to clean. It's not totally impossible, but very time consuming, esp for books! Anyway, the sooner they're out of the damp area, the better. Start them drying now, so she can figure out if she wants to try to salvage any.

Things that are harder to launder, or more dense, are more tricky. It can be possible to really clean them and dry them out, but it's a big pain in the butt, so you might just want to toss what isn't precious.

Thick comforters, or sleeping bags, I wouldn't bother - They're so big that they're hard to rinse thoroughly, and if all the spores don't come out, I don't want it on my face at night.

Treasured stuffed toys or pillows actually can be saved - have someone unpick a seam, discard the stuffing, launder the outer part, and then re-stuff with new materials. It's time consuming but doable.

Rugs - Toss cheap thick ones. Get treasured ones professionally cleaned and dry them obsessively.

Dense soft things like mattresses, sofas, sleeping pillows, thick / dense bedding - Personally, I would NOT want to keep these - it would be so hard to get the mold out of the stuffing, and since these items get a lot of use, I would feel like the spores would keep puffing out of them into the air. My smoke claim threw all mattresses and armchairs away.

One last thought, if you put stuff out on the street as garbage, you may want to add a label that says MOLD so someone doesn't pick things out of your garbage, take them home & make their kiddos sick too.

Things that are in the upper part of the house are harder to judge. Everything always has mold spores on it- that's what dust is. The issue is just when mold spores meet dampness, so they can grow. If the upper rooms weren't damp, the bedding might be fine. Maybe she could put zip covers on those pieces of furniture, smell things on moving day when she's out of the mold house, and judge then if she feels ok bringing them to her new place - and use zip covers on them there, too, with silica inside to help dry things out.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 6:30 PM on June 26 [7 favorites]

Best answer: As another mold veteran, I agree with everything novelle-personne says, except I don't think books are really savable if they were in the basement. Heck, I had to discard all of my many original 1930s jazz recordings because there was no way to save that paper/cardboard in the middle without overheating the actual records. It still hurts.
If in doubt, throw it out.
posted by mumimor at 1:02 AM on June 27

Best answer: I just went through the same thing in my house: my basement had mold which cost me about $8000 to remediate - a higher than normal price because it included removing all of the unsalvageable moldy storage items in my basement including a couch, a fluffy chair, two big heavy wood dressers, a lot of cardboard boxes filled with stuff I hadn't unpacked after moving in here five years ago PLUS all of the interior drywall.

But the mold inspector also told me that our living areas one level above are fine and don't need any remediation in spite of how extensive the problem was in the basement. So in your sister's case, if the living areas are TWO levels above the basement, that's even more safe. She just needs to get rid of all the junk in her basement which has mold on it.
posted by MiraK at 6:26 AM on June 27 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: These are all super helpful -- thanks, y'all!
posted by leftover_scrabble_rack at 4:21 PM on June 27

Mod note: [This post and nouvelle-personne's answer have been added to the sidebar and Best Of blog!]
posted by taz (staff) at 12:53 AM on June 30

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