Carpet and Mold – 12 Things You Need to Know
Carpet is never supposed to get wet. Within 24 hours of moisture being introduced mold can begin to grow. Time is NOT on your side! You’ve got to get that carpet dry ASAP. Come read and learn what to do about wet carpet, and how to stop mold. Learn why carpets are not the best flooring for your home, and all about carpet alternatives.
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Wet Carpet = The Mold is Coming!
Carpet is never supposed to get wet. Within 24 to 48 hours of moisture being introduced mold can begin to grow. Time is NOT on your side! Water under carpets, behind baseboards and cabinets and other hard to reach areas are a ticking mold time bomb. Even with fans going and mopping up the water, it may not be enough to prevent mold growth.
How Mold Grows
Why does mold grow so fast anyway? Molds grow from microscopic spores that are universal. You can find molds on every continent, and in almost every type of environment. So, mold is already present, it just won’t grow unless it has what it needs.
Mold needs 4 things to grow: oxygen, moisture, a food source, and warmth. The most unusual thing about mold is that molds grow inside of their food sources. They can penetrate deeply into drywall, carpets, underneath kitchen and bathroom sinks, etc.
There is only one thing you can reasonably control when it comes to mold, and that is the moisture level. When water invades your home, things like drywall, wood, carpet, etc. are an excellent food source for mold.
My carpet is wet! What do I do now?
Step 1 – Turn off the water!
Hopefully you know how to turn off your water. If not, click here quickly!)
If you’re familiar with our blog, you know that the first thing to do when cleaning mold is to fix the moisture problem that led to the mold growth. Until you fix the moisture problem, mold will continue to grow and spread. Call the plumber and stop that leak!
Step 2 – Evaluate the damage
As fast as mold grows, even with fans going and mopping up the water, you will probably still have mold growth. Always assume that after you have had a water leak, that you probably have mold. Then, you won’t be disappointed.
How big is the area? The EPA determines the scale of mold remediation projects based on the size of the affected area.
- Small remediation category refers to mold-infected areas within 10 square feet (you may be able to DIY projects in this category)
- Medium remediation is considered between 10 to 100 square feet
- Large remediation covers more than 100 square feet of mold-infected area
Most medium and all large mold problems are best left to a professional. Even small mold problems in hard-to-reach areas, such as crawlspaces and attics, are best left to professionals. It’s also important to keep in mind that what may appear to be a small mold problem on the surface, may in fact be a large problem that extends into the wall cavity or subfloor.
Mold is great at hiding in hard to detect locations such as in drywall and insulation. There is a good chance the mold problem is more than an isolated issue, IF the area of mold covers more than about 10 square feet. If you smell a musty odor in your home you can’t identify, or have health problems associated with mold, it’s time to call in the professionals.
Step 3 – Call a Professional Mold Remediation Specialist
Carpet cleaning companies will tell you that they can dry and remove mold without taking up your carpets, but they really can’t. You see, mold grows inside of its food sources. Since mold grows inside the food source (in this case your carpets), you have to remove the affected carpet, pads, wood, drywall, etc. Only after you remove the affected materials and thoroughly clean the area will the mold be truly ‘gone’ or remediated.
How Do You Choose A Mold Removal Company?
You’re ready to get some ‘professional help’ but how do you know who to hire? Have you ever had mold removed from your home? Do you know what to ask mold removal companies? What do they really do?
As a mold removal company, we know what you should expect and what the industry standards should be. Some of our competitors offer “free” mold inspections. Which basically means that the inspector shows up and hands over a price to fix a symptom, without truly knowing the nature of the problem. The primary reason that we charge for our mold inspections is the time and resources that go into each one.
If you think you might have a mold problem, you’re far better off with a thorough inspection like ours. Especially if you live outside our service area, check out our post: How to Choose the Best Mold Removal Company. We let you know what you should expect and what the industry standards should be. If the company you interview doesn’t know the answer to the questions in our article, you don’t want to hire them!
Carpets – Allergies and Asthma
Especially for those with allergies or asthma, less fabric and carpet means less places for dust mites and other allergens to build up. Having fabrics that are washable is important to reduce allergy symptoms.
Area rugs are fine as long as they are washable, especially for those of us who hate the idea of a cold floor early in the morning. Natural fabrics such as cotton, wool, jute, and even bamboo can make great washable area rugs.
To learn more about how to remove dust mites from fabrics, see our post titled Dust Mites.
Carpets Trap Pollutants
Now that you know how to deal with wet carpets and mold, let us shed some light on carpets themselves. Carpets are basically fibers that people walk on. In the past, carpets were made of natural fibers, and most of the time they were made of wool. Now, most carpets are made of synthetic materials including nylon, polyester, polypropylene, and acrylic fibers. These synthetic materials can repel stains, moisture, and even mildew. There are many different types of carpet including: berber, shag, pattern, plush, and textured.
Because of the way carpet fibers are shaped and placed close together, they naturally attract and hold small particles of dust, allergens, and other pollutants. According to the American Lung Association, “carpets may trap pollutants like dust mites, pet dander, cockroach allergens, particle pollution, lead, mold spores, pesticides, dirt and dust.”15
Carpet Can Damage Air Quality
Carpets trap many different kinds of pollutants. When people, kids, and pets walk on the carpet, they cause many of the pollutants to be released into the air, causing air quality issues. It’s like carpet was designed to collect all the years of dust, all the dirt from every shoe that walks in, and just hold it there for everyone to keep breathing.
In addition, carpets may also be sprayed with chemicals including flame retardants, stain repellents, and other chemicals that can produce volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOC’s are chemicals that are released into the air from products (like carpet) or processes that can pollute indoor air quality. So even when carpets are new, they can have an effect on indoor air quality. You can learn more about how VOC’s affect air quality from the American Lung Association.
Is Mold A Health Problem Beyond Allergies?
In one word … Yes.
We’ve shown that carpet can hold pollutants, but did you know that mold itself is a health hazard?
Mold is an insidious, invisible predator in your home. It hides in places no one ever thinks to look like under cabinets, in crawl spaces, and behind furniture. Mold is most often associated with allergies, but mold is much more menacing than people know. While all molds have the potential to cause irritation and allergy symptoms, molds can also cause much more dangerous health problems including: fungal poisoning and mental health problems.
To learn more about how mold can affect your health check out our post: Water Leaks Contribute to Mold and Health Problems.
Did you know that mold can cause problems for your pets as well? To learn more check out our post: Mold and Pets – 10 Things You Most Likely Didn’t Know.
The bottom line is… carpet will always collect allergens, irritants, and pollutants. Carpets are also impossible to fully clean. Hard surface flooring is always a better option because you can completely sanitize and disinfect it if needed.
What should you choose if you are ready to ditch your carpets? There are many, many options for hard surface flooring. How do you choose the best flooring for you?
For more traditional flooring options and how they measure up, check out ‘Pros and Cons of 5 Popular Bedroom Flooring Materials’ on The Spruce.
Check out ‘Just Floored! 15 Totally Unexpected DIY Flooring Alternatives’ on Bob Vila’s website for some really wild, cheap, and even recycled flooring options.
You know what is best for your family and your budget, so be sure to do your research before changing your flooring.
How to Clean Carpets
As we have shown, carpets and rugs are a haven for dust and dirt and even mold. If you are not quite ready to ditch the carpet, here is our ‘how to’ guide for keeping it clean as it can be.
Not All Vacuums Are Created Equal
Vacuuming often is important, especially for allergy sufferers. A vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter is best when vacuuming. HEPA [High Efficiency Particulate Air] filters are special filters that prevent allergens and dust from reentering the air. Whether you have carpet or hard surface flooring, HEPA filtered vacuums should be used frequently.
At least twice a year, carpets need deep cleaning. You could choose a professional cleaning service, but be aware… the chemicals they use to clean your carpets can also emit VOC’s and even be toxic. There are very few regulations on commercial or consumer carpet cleaning chemicals in the US. It is safer therefore to do it yourself. To learn more about the dangers of carpet cleaning chemicals, go to the EWG’s Guide to Floor Care.
When deep cleaning carpets, vacuum the room twice and move any easily movable furniture to another room. You can use aluminum foil to cover the bottom of furniture legs to keep furniture stain from bleeding into the carpet. Be sure to spot treat stains before steam cleaning. Check out Real Simple’s Guide Homemade Carpet Cleaning Solutions That Really Work for spot cleaning know how.
If you want to learn more about cleaning products and how they are NOT regulated check out our post: Cleaning Products – Homemade vs. Store Bought.
Steam cleaning can be a DIY project. You can rent or buy steam cleaners, and make your own cleaning solutions. The simplest cleaning solution is to simply use hot (not boiling) water in the steam cleaner. Hot water gets most dirt and grime out of carpets without needing any further help. If carpets are very dirty, using white vinegar with hot water at a rate of one cup of vinegar to two and a half gallons of hot water should help remove more grime. Be sure to open the windows and turn on ceiling fans to ventilate the room before beginning, and to help the carpets dry faster.
Most steam cleaners have 2 modes, the first to wet the carpet, and the second to remove the water. Be sure to do three or more passes with the second mode to remove as much water and grime as possible. Once the carpet has been cleaned, use ceiling or box fans to dry the carpet before allowing people and pets to walk on it. Be sure to leave the fans running for at least 3-4 hours after the carpets seem ‘dry.’ During carpet cleaning, you are technically getting the carpet wet, so it could encourage mold growth. To discourage mold everywhere in your home remember to Keep it Dry!
How often should I deep or steam clean?
Twice a year deep cleaning is usually sufficient for a family of 4 in a home without allergies or asthma. However, if you have pets or high traffic areas of carpet such as in a school or business, deep cleaning more frequently is recommended. Check out How Often Should You Clean Your Commercial Carpet? for more information about commercial cleaning frequency.
Hard surfaces can be much more easily sanitized or disinfected, and they hold much lower levels of allergens and pollutants. We highly recommend that you remove as much carpet as possible and replace the carpet with hard surface flooring.
Know When to Clean and When to Call
As you can see, carpets can be a source of allergens, chemical toxins (VOC’s), and toxins from mold. It’s not hard to take care of mold as a homeowner, but it’s a good idea to know when to call in the pros. If a carpet becomes moldy, or there is an area of mold that covers more than around 10 square feet, there is a good chance the mold problem is more than an isolated issue.
Especially if you don’t live in our service area, check out our post: How to Choose the ‘Best’ Black Mold Removal Company. We help you know all the questions to ask a mold removal company and all the correct answers!
The Branch Difference
At Branch Environmental, we see each mold inspection as an in-depth investigation, not an opportunity to hand over a guess-based estimate of work. If you think you may need a mold inspection, get in touch with us, and we’ll get down to the source.
Call Branch Environmental. We’re experts not only at mold removal, but at determining and remediating the underlying causes. From hidden mold sources to major contaminants, we can identify exactly what is going on in your home and rid it of environmental toxins, often for good.
Branch Environmental – Because nobody should live or work in a building that makes them sick.
Branch’s Recommended Mold and Mildew Removal Products
We highly recommend these products and protective equipment as safe and effective in removing mold and mildew. All products are safe to use around kids and pets, except for essential oils. Some essential oils can irritate lungs and eyes, so please use with caution.
Before cleaning be sure to check out our article: Black Mold vs Mildew – 7 Common Misconceptions and When to DIY before cleaning. We give you all the details on how to clean mold safely.
Never mix cleansing products! Remember to read all directions before beginning. Always wear appropriate personal protective equipment when cleaning, and be sure to properly ventilate the room.
All links are to Amazon listings for purchase. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
Your purchase helps support our mission of education through our blog. Thank you for purchasing through Branch Environmental!
- Hydrogen Peroxide
- White Vinegar
- Baking Soda
- Tea Tree Essential Oil
- Concrobium Mold Control Cleaner
- Bioesque Botanical Disinfectant Solution
- N-95 Respirator
- Goggles Or Eye Protection
- Protective Gloves With Long Cuffs
- Kitchen Sink Strainers – Pack of 2
Please note that vacuum and steam cleaners are not designed to remove mold. We have included our picks below for vacuum and steam carpet cleaners for regular cleaning NOT mold removal purposes. Thank you.
For More Information Go To:
- Do You Know How To Shut Your Water Off? – Branch Environmental
- What’s Hiding in your Carpets? – Branch Environmental
- Education Center – Branch Environmental Blog
- Mold Cleanup in Your Home | US EPA
- Master the Skills and Knowledge Needed for DIY Black Mold Removal – Branch Environmental
- What’s that musty smell? MVOC’s – Branch Environmental
- Mold Exposure Symptoms – Branch Environmental
- How to Choose the ‘Best Mold Removal Company Near Me’ – Branch Environmental
- Beyond Mold Inspections, Branch Delivers Mold Investigations
- How Your Home Can Affect Your Allergies – Branch Environmental
- When Mold Is Worse Than Allergies – Mycotoxins – Branch Environmental
- Mold and Mycotoxins: Effects on the Brain and Nervous System in Adults – Branch Environmental
- Water Leaks Contribute to Mold and Health Problems – Branch Environmental
- Black Mold vs Mildew – 7 Common Misconceptions and When to DIY – Branch Environmental
- Carpets – American Lung Association
- Volatile Organic Compounds Impact on Indoor Air Quality – EPA
- Volatile Organic Compounds – American Lung Association
- Just Floored! 15 Totally Unexpected DIY Flooring Alternatives – by By Larry Bilotti for Bob Vila
- Pros and Cons of 5 Popular Bedroom Flooring Materials – The Spruce
- Dust Mites – Branch Environmental
- EWG’ s Guide to Healthy Cleaning
- EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning | Cleaner Ratings | Floor Care
- Cleaning Products – Homemade vs. Store Bought – Branch Environmental
- Homemade Carpet Cleaning Solutions That Really Work – Real Simple
- How to Disinfect Properly – Branch Environmental
- Branch’s Non-Toxic Spring Cleaning Guide – Branch Environmental
- How To Deep Clean Your Carpets – Apartment Therapy
- How Often Should You Clean Your Commercial Carpet? – DPM Floor and Upholstery Care by Pam Peters
- Cleaning Mold: DIY v. Professional – Branch Environmental
- How to Choose the ‘Best’ Black Mold Removal Company – Branch Environmental
- Mold from a Water Leak? – Everything You Need to Know – Branch Environmental
- Black Mold and Pets – 10 Things You Need to Know – Branch Environmental