Going “Green” with Mold Remediation: With and Without Chemicals
From media blasting to environmentally-friendly chemicals.
Years ago, Bill Weber was called to a home to take care of a mold infestation. He used bleach to treat the situation. Later, he learned that the family dog had died following the job and that the customer was blaming him and his company for it. In fact, the family even conducted an autopsy on the dog so they could prove it. Or so they thought…
Long story short - it was determined that the bleach used to treat the mold wasn’t responsible for the dog’s death. But the experience was enough to make Weber rethink his ways of working mold jobs.
“It was really just a nightmare thing,” says Weber, now the regional manager and vice president of Anderson Group International, a DKI firm. “Even though we weren’t responsible and had no ramifications, it was just one more thing…”
Today, you could say Weber works mold jobs naturally, using either sanding or wire brushing to physically remove mold or deploying dry ice blasting – two green alternatives that don’t require the use of any chemicals and are comparable in price to the more conventional means of treating mold.
“My job is not to kill the mold, my job is to remove the mold and that’s the way I’m going to do it,” he says. “I’m going to do it all natural, so you won’t have any lingering chemicals, no encapsulants, no sealers, no bleach, no hydrogen peroxide – nothing is going to be in your home. The product I use, I don’t have to dispose of it anywhere. The only thing we’re cleaning up is the saw dust and mold spores, which are really all natural.”
Weber’s territory is California’s Bay Area, and a large part of his clientele is high-end customers who have embraced green cleaning methods. But another sector of his clientele are those who have to make sure that there’s no chemicals involved in such cleaning jobs. This demographic includes people who have been chemically injured and those who are chemically sensitive.
“It’s more than just using green practices for the sake of the environment, it’s using green practices for the sake of a healthy living,” says Weber, who began “going green” in the late 90s. “I started doing these types of projects for that type of clientele and I saw that we could be really successful not using chemicals. That’s when I really expanded my repertoire.”
Weber says that while green methods are popular among the wealthy and chemically sensitive, it’s still largely a niche market that must be initiated by the remediator because, in most cases, the homeowner doesn’t know any different.
But aside from benefits to homeowners – especially those that are chemically sensitive - and the environment, green practices are also beneficial to the professional. Take, for example, the incident with the dog that led Weber down the eco-friendly path he’s on now. He could have dismissed any responsibility immediately had he not deployed any chemicals on that particular job.
“There’s no recourse for the remediator or the contractor when you’re using natural methods to clean by,” he says.
Scott Maltby is the VP of Operations and Sales for Mold Doctor, which is located in central New Jersey. He’s on the road traveling to mold jobs six days a week. At least four of these six days he spends on the Jersey Shore, helping with the Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts.
But it’s not so much the location and the natural disaster that’s interesting (let’s face it, there are plenty of other contractors and companies out there that are making their living working in Sandy’s hard-hit areas), but how Mold Doctor is remediating mold from infested areas: they’re doing it with green products – specifically botanical cleaning chemicals.
“Do we use it every single job? No. Do we use it on most of the jobs currently? Yes,” Maltby says, adding that he uses the green chemical on about nine of every 10 mold jobs. “It’s great for the end user and client – it really is about being safe.”
Specifically in Hurricane Sandy-hit homes, the demand is there for green remediation. Why? It circles back to another disaster, albeit of a different type – the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. As you may recall, many of the first responders, volunteers and cleanup crews that helped on the scene were told that the air was safe to breathe at the time. Now we know that wasn’t the case. That’s not to say that traditional mold killing chemicals are going to lead to the same complications that the polluted air did, but Hurricane Sandy has heightened people’s awareness of staying as safe as possible in impacted areas.
“It’s the thing now,” Maltby says. “Everybody’s talking on it – how the houses on the shore are getting hit. It’s not just mold, but bacteria. More so when I’m on the shore, I’m getting questions that I’m excited and happy about. (People are) just asking the right questions.”
But the Jersey Shore isn’t the only place Maltby is deploying green mold chemicals. When he’s called to mold jobs, he starts by always asking the customer questions about whether they have health issues, like asthma. Or if they have sensitivities to the odors that traditional mold chemicals might emit. He estimates that 70-80% of people fall into the latter category. “When that case comes in, automatically I’m looking for that green product.”
Other ideal jobs for green products are public settings and businesses with high foot traffic because you never know who might walk in with a sensitivity.
While Maltby says that he’s a big proponent of green remediation, he’s also not afraid to admit that he’s not opposed to using other products – when the situation calls for it. For instance, if he’s treating an environment where there are no occupants, like an abandoned home, crawlspace or basement, traditional chemicals will do just fine. He says, “Every situation really entails a whole specific type of remediation to it.”
And while green products are a benefit to home and business occupants, which Maltby says are his No. 1 priority, they’re also a benefit to the remediator. For instance, in the case of a company being blamed for an illness. If the case proceeds to court, a large focus will unquestionably be on the products that were used on the mold job.
“Great. Move on. Next question. You don’t have to defend it,” Maltby says.