Personal Protective Equipment for Water and Mold Removal

Water damage repair can be hazardous. The most common types of hazard? Contaminated water and mold. Both pose a huge threat to you and your family.
Thankfully personal protective equipment, also known as PPE, is readily available this day in age.
In this third part of our series on water damage repair, we look at recommended PPE for both contaminated water removal and mold removal. As always, these articles are merely suggestions, and we do not recommend removing toxic materials unless you are certified to do so and you understand the risks!
Your PPE protects against three major forms of contamination:
+ Inhalation – Breathing contaminated air.
+ Ingestion – Contaminated materials entering your mouth, nose or eyes.
+ Skin Contact – Contaminated materials touching your body and exposing you to illness.
Sounds delightful, right? Use the following PPE to combat these elements:

Perhaps the most important piece of PPE, respirators protect your respiratory system from air-borne particles like mold spores. Respirators are only as good as 1) their fit to your body and 2) the filters on them.
Now don’t confuse “respirators” with “dust masks.”
Dust masks are good for activities involving dust. Hence the name. Respirators are much more efficient, and cost about 100 times more. I recommend any true do-it-yourselfer have a full or half-face respirator in their tool shed. Be sure you have them “fit tested” by your local dealer. Basically a “fit test” shows you how to ensure a proper seal on your respirator.
Respirators need filter cartridges to effectively filter the air. There are an assortment of different cartridge types and they come in all sorts of interesting and nonsensical colors. The bottom line is this: Pick up a HEPA Filter, also called P100, that is also an organic vapor filter. Basically, it filters almost everything you would encounter during water damage repair.
Expect to pay about $70 for a good half-face respirator and $20 for a set of filters.
Suits (Personal Protective Clothing)
Repairing contaminated water damage events or removing mold requires a Tyvek suit. Tyvek is a brand, but is also used to describe a type of suit. Kinda like Kleenex and tissue…
I also recommend having a few Tyvek suits in your tool shed. They only cost a few dollars each and come in handy, even when traipsing through the attic to make a repair.
I recommend buying suits about 2 sizes larger than you would normally wear; this allows for greater freedom of movement and makes putting them on easier. I also recommend reinforcing the seams of the suit with duct tape if you plan on wearing the suit for more than an hour or so. Doing so helps eliminate annoying and potentially dangerous rips as you work.
As a final precaution, use duct tape to secure your suit at the wrists and the ankles, once gloves and boots are on.
Tyvek Suit
Expect to pay about $4 each for Tyvek suits and about the same for a roll of duct tape.
Unless you do water damage repair for a living, don’t waste your money on specialty boots. Use the boots you have and simply buy overshoes. Overshoes are just that; rubber boots or shoes that go over your existing boots.
Be sure your overshoes are puncture resistant. The last thing you want is to step on a tack strip that has been immersed in sewage. Should you puncture the skin you will create a clear path of travel for infection. Beware!
Rubber Overshoes
Expect to pay $25-30 for a good pair of overshoes.
When I perform hazardous clean-up, I wear multiple layers of gloves:
+ First I put on a standard medical latex glove.
+ Then I put on a large chemical resistant rubber glove, and tape to my wrist.
+ I finish it off with a durable, puncture resistant work glove.
This system gives me both the safety of the rubber gloves and the durability of the work glove. Expect to throw away the work gloves, and all the other PPE clothing (other than the respirator) after each clean-up job.
Work Gloves
Expect to pay about $4 for a box of 100 latex gloves, $3 for a pair of chemical-resistant rubber gloves and $5-7 for a good pair of work gloves.
Eye Protection
If you use a full-face respirator, eye protection is not applicable.
But if not, be sure to use a good pair of splash goggles. Splash goggles made with soft vinyl frames and a plastic lens, and conform to the contours of your face. They are not water proof, but will deflect things from splashing or falling into your eyes. They are a must for mold or contaminated water removal.
With this equipment, used properly, you should be able to remove mold and contaminated water safely from your home.
photo: NIOSH

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