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  • Writer's pictureBritany Libutty

What Can I Keep/ What Should I Throw Out (...when I find mold in my home)

Updated: May 2, 2022

This question is one of the most regular that I see pop up in chat groups, forums, and pages for Mold Illness. In reality, it sucks to consider throwing away your things for economic and emotional reasons.... I get it- I really do. But if you want to get well, purging is a required part of the process. Why?

Mold spores and mycotoxins are both able to travel through the air and settle onto new things and into new spaces all around your home. If you have mold anywhere in your home, spores and mycotoxins are guaranteed to travel, especially since air flow directs and moves these things all throughout your home. If you have mold in one area of your home, the odds are very very very high that anything in your home can be contaminated- yes, even if they look perfectly "clean".

When you consider what you want to keep or throw out when dealing with mold, there are a few factors that will sway your decision:

1) Budget- can you afford to throw out items and buy them again?

2) How ill you are.

3) The type of mold(s) in your home.

4) Your work ethic and ability to methodically correctly clean items following protocols.

5) Is the item visibly mold, or does it smell?

6) Your absolute need (not want) to have/use the item.

Lets break down each idea.

1) Budget- can you afford to throw out items and buy them again?

Money is obviously this is the biggest factor to consider for most people in deciding if they should throw away items, (which is a shame because we would think that our health is the biggest factor in choosing our next forward motion). Families that are ill from mold suffer tremendous economic hardships related to healthcare. We end up paying out the wazoo because we jump from doctor to doctor racking up medical bills before we even get diagnosed correctly, we pay to visit new doctors that know about mold but jump around those to find the right fit for us, we pay to do medical treatments, we need follow up blood work and urine tests that aren't covered by insurance, we buy supplements and assistive devices/items to help us recover.

Healthcare largely does not acknowledge or accept mold illness as an actual diagnosis therefore people are screwed and have to eat all of these costs themselves.

After (or during) all of those, we also are needing to deal with the environment that got us ill in the first place. We pay for air testing, ERMIs/HERTSIs, indoor environmental specialists, remediation, and general contracting post remediation.

Then finally do we get to the point where we move to the next thing we have to deal with and it is item cleaning and/or replacement. After dealing with everything else, I have not met many people in the two years I have been reaching out to others or researching all over the internet that can actually afford to just throw everything away and start over. It may be the suggested gold standard by many professionals, but it isn't always realistic.

The conclusion here is that if your family is fortunate enough to have vast stores of money or you have very financially able and supportive friends and family- you can and should throw out and replace as much as you should. This is what is recommended by most all who have made it out of mold and have recovered substantially They would argue that your health is the most important thing to consider and that everything else is secondary. And I absolutely agree, But, being a family without those financial capacities means that we were not able to throw everything out and start over ourselves, and I understand other families that unfortunately need to make the same choice.

2) How ill you are.

Much like other illnesses, Mold Illness has a spectrum of symptoms and degrees of severity of each symptom. This is part of the reason it seems so difficult to get an accurate diagnosis sooner in your journey. Mold (like Lyme) is a great imitator, and presents in different ways that different doctors attribute to a wide swath of generic illnesses or diseases.

In considering if you should get rid of items, or how much/many, you need to think thoroughly about how ill you are, and if it is actually worth it to keep items that can be contributing to your ill health. If you are experiencing milder symptoms, or they seem to come and go periodically you may be able to recover most of your functionality without getting rid of too many items. You may be able to swing it with a thorough cleaning following a correct protocol.

In my case, I was profoundly affected- severely- and took getting rid of stuff from our home very seriously. Honestly the hardest parts were: figuring out how we could afford dumpsters, doing the manual labor to remove items, and also trying to get my husband to understand the why behind what we needed to do, because while he was super supportive, he does like to hang onto things for sentimental reasons. I on the other hand can literally live in an empty house as long as I had my basic needs filled, and I would be perfectly happy. Chucking everything that we didn't need to keep was an easy answer for me, but I had to compromise with my partner and do the purging in rounds to make it easier on him emotionally.

Purging Rounds:::

Round 1: All paper products in the home.

Round 2: Soft/porous items.

Round 3: Things we have outgrown/ things we were keeping for "someday" reasons.

Round 4: Anything we haven't actively used in the past year.

Round 5: Anything we knew would be difficult or impossible to clean from mold spores or mycotoxins.

We ended up throwing away about 70% of the things in our home.

Conclusion here- if you are very ill, consider chucking as much as you possible can that you don't need to live. If you are less ill, you have more wiggle room in choosing what you'd like to get rid of.

Keep in mind that any dust in the home can harbor mold spores or mycotoxins, and mold spores are just waiting for moisture to come along so they can grow again.

Having more clutter and stuff in your home allows for dust to accumulate, so I would advise to try keeping a simple and clean home for yourself.

3) The type of mold(s) in your home.

In regarding Mold Illness there is also a wide range of molds that can make you ill, and they do so in a variety of different ways and intensities. Some molds seem like more allergenic molds, some are deemed "toxic" in that they can do the most internal damage to your body across all systems and organs.

You'll want to know what types of mold you are dealing with in your house from any type of testing you get done; (note- air testing is not very reliable, ERMI/HERTSI is much better). Once you have test results you can figure out which molds are present in your home and research their possible effects on your health. I will warn you that searching any of that on google will bring back horrifying results, so I would urge you to read for information's sake and try not to apply it to and diagnose yourself from the internet with ailments. You also may want to know what types of genetic SNPs you have that may affect your ability to detox (in general) and detox mold (in particular). Lucky me, I have both- one of the reasons my recovery journey has been so long and tricky.

You can find out about your genetic SNPs that will affect your ability to detox in general, and detox molds in particular by doing a DNA test. I did the simple one on 23 and me and uploaded my results into an online interpreter. A word of warning about this as well, by doing any genetic testing about yourself you are opening yourself up to receiving great knowledge about your potential health concerns and risks- this can be overwhelming or cause severe anxiety if you find out more than you bargained on.

I knew those risks and took the chance anyway, because I was honestly feeling really close to death from how severely ill I was. I figured I needed to do anything for any information that could lead to an advantage on how my body could beat mold.

Knowing about the potential effects of the types of mold(s) you have in your home and also knowing about how your body responds to mold and detox will give you the information to decide on keeping or loosing items in your home.

If your molds are more allergenic in nature, you may be able to get away with a lot of proper cleaning of items and be okay to save them. LDI is a possible treatment that may help your body's ability to tolerate allergenic molds better, and worked well for me when we needed to stay in our home throughout remediation and post remediation cleaning.

LDI has helped my body lessen it's reactions to mold in general.

If you have some of the more toxic molds in your home, you will absolutely need to get rid of them for health's sake. Don't chance it.

4) Your work ethic and ability to methodically correctly clean items following protocols.

When we went through cleaning our items, we went room by room and took items outside of our home to disassemble them and clean them. IT. WAS. A. BEAST. OF. A. JOB.

It took around a month and I worked every day.

Because I knew that we couldn't afford to loose everything we owned I knew that we would have to suck it up and meticulously clean. I knew it would be long, and exhausting, and annoying as hell to take apart appliances--- but we did it, because it meant that we had a shot at keeping our things.

I followed protocols I found online in various places here are three of my fav.s:

The items we kept to clean followed a 4 step protocol for each item:

We did a HEPA vacuum off, then 8% peroxide soak, then borax scrub with vinegar water mix, then benefect decon 30 spray down, and dried with microfiber towels or let dry in the sun.

For everything.

We also ozoned our house a few times periodically to ensure we killed off anything left living inside of it, bacterially, virally, mold-wise. If you do decide to use ozone, no living thing can be in home during it's use and you must be sure to air out completely before returning to the environment. Do your research before deciding if ozone is something you want to use in your home.

We also used a UV Light in spaces in our home that were water damaged in the past, even though we had remediate and ozoned.

Was all of these steps too much?

Not when you've dealt with being as sick as I have been. I am throwing every simple cleaning technique at mold and mycotoxins now.

Was following these protocols and cleaning every single item we wanted to keep in our house a huge pain in the ass? Yes.

Did I react to anything after that.?.. Only like 6 things total out of anything we had let- so I chucked them.

If you are attempting to clean and save items you need to make sure you don't react to them post cleaning. If you do, loose them.

My work ethic and meticulous focus were my biggest saving graces in my ability to clean the items left in our home. It isn't an easy job, find some friends or family that can help you and the work goes much faster. You need to follow protocols correctly though, or you risk recontamination of your clean space.

5) Is the item visibly mold, or does it smell?

Easy one here, if you can see mold, or if you smell ANYTHING- Throw it out.

6) Your absolute need (not want) to have/use the item.

Some things you own are very expensive or hard to replace items. I don't have all the answers people want to hear about how to save precious art pieces or family heirlooms. I really hope you make a good call about keeping those items or finding a professional to clean them for you, but I can offer advice on expensive things you absolutely need to keep in home...

Here it is- get ready to buckle down and learn how to disassemble, clean, and reassemble the items if you want to try and save them.

We have 2 large Austin Air Purifiers that we bought during remediation, and 2 dehumidifiers as well. We threw out our old contaminated half broken fridge and got a "new model" barely used fridge but I was still worried about possible contamination from the house it came from. These items we needed to keep and used daily.

I didn't want to pitch them because we didn't have money to replace all of these items. Because I knew that they were made of metal, plastics, and other materials I knew I could clean I decided I would try to save them. I brought them all into our backyard and spent two days taking them apart screw by screw and following our 4 step cleaning protocol listed above, and reassembled them. No reactions to anything. It was big work, but we were able to keep what would have been about $4000 to replace with new models of all of those things.

If the items you are on the fence about keeping aren't items that you absolutely need to live, work, or function. I would urge you to consider just letting them go. You could also save them storage away from you and your house somewhere, and decide to clean them later and see if you react to them once you have had a good amount of recovery in your safe environment. You can choose later whether or not you'd like to toss them when you are more healthy.

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