Flag conservation

Flag conservation
Textile conservator, Gwen Spicer of Spicer Art Conservation at work

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

A Low-Tech Treatment for Small Areas of Visible Mold

The humidity many of us have experienced this summer due to torrential rains and heat sweeping across the country can easily lead to mold growth. Now in the wake of Hurricane Florence mold will be rampant as the flooding recedes. (For more on freezing see our earlier post.) It's important to be vigilant by monitoring humidity levels throughout your institution or home to prevent excessive moisture levels. Mold is not only a hazard for objects, it's also a danger to people.

If you've got a big mold problem, first fix the source of it and then call in professionals to remediate it. Poor drainage, foundation or wall cracks, leaking roofs or plumbing, lack of sufficient ventilation or air-conditioning all contribute to the spread of damaging mold.

If you have visible mold in less than 10 continuous square feet, you may be able to remediate it yourself with dehumidification and a low-tech water trap attached to your vacuum to capture the spores.

The water trap can be made of any glass or jar. The one we use in the studio is in the image below. It is important to ensure that it is well sealed around the openings and the tubes. Ethafoam (a strong, resilient, medium-density, closed-cell, white polyethylene foam which is acceptable for use in the preservation of objects) is really helpful for this. Gwen even carved out a stand for the glass to ensure it would not fall over. The other critical aspect is the ends of the two tubes inside the glass are above the water line. It is the vacuum's suction that forces the mold spores into the water i.e. trap, while not traveling into the vacuum cleaner.

The above photo illustrates how the water trap is connected to a vacuum. The right hand hose (with the blue end on it) is the one used to suck up the mold.

When finished, thoroughly clean all of the associated tools, mark them and save them together, including brushes.

It's very important to contain the spores, not spread them around (which is what regular vacuuming will do). Here's a step-by-step guide to what to do next and don't forget to wear an approved N95 respirator, gloves, and eye protection!

Captured mold

Gwen Spicer. When Water Strikes, It's a Freezer to the Rescue! March 2018.
Ibid. Mold on Pastel Portraits, why it grows and how it can be prevented. January 2017.
Idid. Mold in museum collections is the environmental "canary in a coal mine". September 2014.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great article. Exposure to mold can cause harm to property and a variety of health effects. I have faced moisture and damp problems in the past and it was very difficult for me to get rid of it but I'm happy I came across Northern Virginia Mold Treatment. They provided the best services and helped me get rid of it.