Mold spores are microscopic cells that can spread through the air. In general, mold spores are a natural part of the environment and don't pose much of a threat to us. However, if the conditions are right for growth they can quickly grow into a big problem. After a water disaster occurs it's essential to begin the cleanup process as soon as possible to avoid mold and mildew growth (mold and mildew are the same thing).

Mold spores only have a few requirements: nutrients, humidity levels above 60%, temperatures between 50 and 90 degrees, poor ventilation, and moisture. As far as nutrients go, molds ingest organic materials. Different types of molds will attack and feed on different kinds of materials. No one knows for sure how many different types of molds there are. Some say there can be as many as 300,000 different types.

Before you begin your own assault on water damage mold you'll need to protect yourself from exposure. You should have the following: rubber gloves, eye goggles, pants, long sleeve shirt, and a medium or high efficiency filter dust mask. Be sure to minimize the spread of mold spores by protecting other areas of the house. Use plastic sheets to cover door openings and air vents.

Eliminating any mildew growth is an essential step of water damage restoration. Disinfecting with bleach isn't essential unless you're cleaning up after a septic or sewer break. However, it's still recommended. You can mix 1/4 to 1/2 cup bleach per gallon of water. A spray bottle works well. Don't rinse or wipe off the bleach solution, simply spray and let the area dry. If you don't have a spray bottle you can dab the area gently with a damp sponge. If any solution starts to run off the sponge you can clean it up with a wet vac or mop.

If new growth starts to reappear it's possible the moisture isn't under control. Repeat the cleaning steps with a stronger cleaning solution such as TSP (trisodium phosphate). TSP can be found in many different types of cleaning products. TSP is a caustic chemical and degreaser. You can use it to clean clothing, walls, floors, and some types of furniture. You can also take a mixture of one part bleach to four parts water and add it to TSP. However, it's very important that you never apply a bleach solution to any surface which previously was cleaned with an ammonia-based cleaner. This can cause the formation of a toxic chlorine gas.

Like any cleanser, use caution and proper ventilation when cleaning with TSP. Follow dilution instructions carefully and wear skin and eye protection. At normal dilutions it can damage some metal and painted surfaces. If the solution is not mixed properly, the damage can be even more severe.