What Items You Should Toss (and What Can Be Saved) After Mold Removal

Ben Kissam
Written by Ben Kissam
Updated June 28, 2021
carpet thrown out by trash on driveway
aoldman / iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

When mold damages your belongings, it's usually better to be safe than sorry

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Mold growth in your home is a serious issue that can damage your belongings and compromise your health. Typically, you wouldn’t hesitate to toss anything that’s been damaged by green stuff… but what about that box of old family photos? 

For more sentimental items that have fallen victim, it’s important to know what is salvageable. This guide will help you sort out everything after mold remediation.

Should I Clean or Pitch Belongings After Mold Removal?

The answer: it depends. There are surely some things you need to throw out after they’ve been exposed to mold, but there are some items you might be able to rescue. 

Here are some guidelines to follow if your home has (or had) mold damage.

What to Throw Away

Belongings that are:

  • Porous: carpet, cardboard, upholstery, and stuffed animals*

  • Made from paper: documents, books, photo albums, etc.

  • Food-based or used to prepare food: basically, anything you’d eat or items that come in contact with food

  • Submerged in water: items that have soaked are at higher risk for deep mold absorption and should be thrown out

*Beds and bedding are technically considered porous, and should therefore be either thrown away or thoroughly inspected and cleaned before using.

What You Can Keep

  • Items made of plastic, metal, ceramic, or glass 

  • Fabric that’s been cleaned well and disinfected

  • Electronics and electronic appliances**

  • Belongings that look clearly compromised (permanent spots and stains)

  • Items that hold a funky smell after cleaning

**Appliance coils are very susceptible to harboring mold. If you’re removing mold from your home by yourself, be sure to inspect all areas of your devices.

Why Should You Throw Away Items After Mold Removal?

Unfortunately, mold releases toxins that create free radicals (unstable atoms that damage cells) when ingested by humans, which can lead to a bunch of different health issues. In fact, ingesting certain types of mold (including black mold) can make you very sick—and it can even be life-threatening!

This is why many toxicologists recommend homeowners treat moldy belongings ASAP. Damaged items should be thrown away without question, and items that are easy to replace or inexpensive (i.e. clothes, food) should be tossed as a precautionary measure. 

Basically, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

mold on kitchen wall
Ekspansio / E+ via Getty Images

Harmful Types of Mold in Homes

Mold is a fungus that grows in all types of climates pretty much everywhere on Earth. With more than 100,000 strains of molds identified by scientists, it can be a challenge to make blanket statements about the health risks of breathing or being around mold.

In people’s homes, though, the types of mold most commonly found can be narrowed down to six particularly harmful types:

  • Stachybotrys (“black mold”)

  • Chaetomium

  • Aspergillus

  • Penicillium

  • Fusarium

  • Alternaria

Health Risks of Household Mold

Harmful mold that grows in homes are associated with one or more of the following health risks:

  • Allergenic: Mold can trigger asthma and allergies, which may cause health issues

  • Pathogenic: Pathogenic mold can cause infections in humans, even if you’re healthy. For someone recovering from an illness, pathogens in mold can slow recovery or exacerbate symptoms

  • Toxicity: Some molds produce mycotoxins, which have serious health effects on humans including difficulty breathing, severe fatigue, and mental health issues 

Who Should Do Mold Cleanup?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says it’s safe for you to tackle mold patches smaller than 10 square feet yourself.

Anything beyond that size, or if mold has infiltrated the foundation of your home (lurking in the walls, for example), should be cleaned up by a professional. 

If you’re experiencing any type of symptoms and you think mold is the cause, you should have your home or apartment inspected for black mold by a local pro right away. Prolonged exposure to black mold can cause severe respiratory issues, rashes, headaches, and chronic fatigue.

Mold remediation should also be considered for any areas that have suffered extensive water damage.

How Do I Clean Mold by Myself?

Mixing antibacterial soap and water is a simple way to clean mold. You can also combine one-half cup of bleach with one gallon of water to wipe down hard, even surfaces. 

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the following safety precautions when entering a house with mold:

  • N-95 mask

  • A long-sleeved shirt

  • Rubber gloves

  • Eye protection

  • Long pants

  • Waterproof boots

Depending on the severity, you may even need to temporarily vacate your home before cleaning. If that isn’t an option but you suspect your bed or wardrobe is harboring toxic mold, purchase an air mattress and get rid of the affected clothes immediately.

Hiring a Pro for Mold Removal

Beyond a small mold removal job, it’s probably best to hire a pro to take care of your problem. Mold experts not only get rid of mold, but lay the foundation so that it doesn’t return.

Find a mold removal specialist near you to get the process started.

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