Mold: Kill it? Or Remove it?

October 6th, 2015

Mold remediation by certified AMRT professional

Excessive mold growth in a home is never a welcome finding, and to remediate it properly requires time, training and great attention to detail. Unfortunately, fly-by-night businesses have grown up dedicated to “shortcutting” proper remediation protocols. Some are so-called “professionals” who had an online class that taught them to “spray and pray” (spray bleach on it and pray it doesn’t come back.) Others are chemical companies that sell chlorine bleach, often with a deodorizer of some sort, under a different name to homeowners and basically tell them the same thing – “Why pay a professional? Just spray the stains and the mold is gone!”

To understand proper mold remediation, you have to first look at it through a microscope. It resembles a tiny dandelion field…the spores are the dandelion seeds, clustered at the ends of the stalks. The mycelium are the “stalks and leaves” and the hyphae are the “roots”, that draw nourishment from cellulose (wood, paper, drywall, etc.)

The spores of many molds including Aspergillus, Stachybotrys and Cladosporium, are respiratory irritants…and they are repelled by water (hydrophobic.) So when a spray of bleach, or any other liquid hits them, they erupt off their stems and become airborne, potentially contaminating a larger area than was already affected. Additionally, even if the bleach or other disinfectant does “kill” (the correct term is “deactivate”) the mold spores, they are still a respiratory irritant, especially to anyone that is particularly sensitive to them. Young children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems are at the highest risk.

For this reason, a true mold remediator takes care to remove as many spores and as much of the hyphal growth as possible through HEPA vacuuming, and uses special HEPA-filtered airscrubbers to maintain negative presure in the work chamber, whether it be a room of the house, and attic or a crawlspace. This ensures that spores within the chamber don’t cross-contaminate other parts of the house, since air is constantly flowing into the work space, rather than out of it.

Porous materials such as drywall and insulation cannot be effectively remediated, and are to be disposed of in sealed bags to avoid cross-contamination during removal. Damp wiping, abrasion or oxidation with abrasive scrubbing (or a combination, depending on the job) are then used to remove the hyphae (roots) of the mold from sound structural wood that is to be saved.  Finally, another round of HEPA vacuuming is performed to remove the lifted hyphae, and a residual fungistat is applied to the wood to help retard mold growth in the future, should a water damage occur.

If you have a very small mold issue, you may be able to successfully remediate it yourself, and most professionals will gladly share best practices with you if this is the case. But if it is a larger area, it’s usually best to get an IICRC Certified Applied Microbial Remediation Technician to take a look at it and prepare a remediation plan based on the unique situation at hand.

If you have mold damage in Durango, Bayfield, Hesperus or elsewhere here in southwest Colorado, and need an inspection, give us a call at 970-385-8444. Or if you need tips on doing a small area by yourself, I’m happy to help with that too. See more information at our website, and you can email us from there as well. Thanks for reading, and have a great day!


Rodent Biohazard Cleanup in Durango, Bayfield and Hesperus

May 6th, 2015

Recently there was another unfortunate death from Hantavirus in our area, someone who had been cleaning out a rodent-infested building. The Centers for Disease Control has guidelines on their website concerning self-cleanup, and you can read them at:

However, given the very real health hazards associated with this work, it may be something you would rather have professional help with, especially if it’s a larger area. Not all companies who offer this service follow the same rigorous protocols to protect you (and their workers) so here’s a look at how I as a Certified Bio-Remediator would approach a typical rodent cleanup job.

When we clean up rodent contamination or other biohazards, we use heavy-duty disposable protective suits, full-face respirators and heavy gloves to protect our workers. We ventilate the area (crawlspace, shed or dwelling) using HEPA-filtered airscrubbers to prevent cross-contamination, and use safe, plant-based broad-spectrum disinfectants to kill viruses, as well as fungal growth that can occur on rodent droppings or carcasses.

Special HEPA vacuums are used to remove feces, urine residue and small carcasses after initial debris removal. These vacuums are equipped with sealed HEPA filtration systems so that even the fungal spores and very small particles of virus-laden feces or urine residue can’t escape. (NOTE: regular vacuums or “Hepa” Shop-vacs such as from a hardware store or Home Depot, are NOT suitable for this type of work, precisely because they will allow these small particles through, filling the air with fine contaminants while removing only the larger filth, and creating a bigger breathing hazard!)

We then steamclean or handwash surfaces and contents as needed to leave them in a safe, sanitary state, and perform on-site ATP contamination testing to verify that everything is clean. Additionally, we photodocument the test results and the work area as we go, and provide you with these photos along with your final invoice.

Finally, equipment used on the job is cleaned and decontaminated, and any potentially infectious waste disposed of in accordance with Infectious Waste Disposal regulations (not just thrown into a dumpster, where it could potentially affect others!)
When hiring a professional, ask for a plan of work along with the estimate. Double-check it against these best practices and make sure they adhere to these practices during your job to ensure a safe clean environment for you and your family!

If you have questions for me you can reach me by cellphone at 970-759-2395, and I will be happy to help you. If you’d like to schedule an inspection, remediation plan and estimate, call the office at 970-385-8444 and we’ll find a time that works for you. Have a great day, and stay clean and green!

Vandalism and Fire Extinguisher Chemical Cleanup in Durango

May 1st, 2015

IMG_2484 IMG_2485Fortunately, vandalism doesn’t happen that often in our community. However, when it does the damage can range from minor annoyance to posing an actual health hazard. One of the more common things that we see is vandalism through discharge of fire extinguishers. The vandals will spray fire extinguisher chemical, usually a dry powder, all around the interior of a home or business, leaving a yellowish mess on everything.

The chemical powder is a respiratory irritant, and should not be cleaned up without proper Personal Protective gear (gloves, suit and respirator). Additionally, it is important to remove as much as possible while it is still dry. However, the powder is so fine, it will pass through regular vacuum filters and, when blown into the air again through the vacuum exhaust, pose even more of a breathing hazard. The powder is corrosive to metal, and should be removed as quickly as possible and not allowed to remain in contact with surfaces.

This is where UltraSteam comes in. Our courteous, IICRC Certified Technicians know the proper cleanup procedures, and have the specialized HEPA vacuums to remove these chemicals without risk to workers or occupants. We also use airscrubbers to remove residue from the air while we work and prevent the contamination from spreading.


Often, homeowners or business insurance covers the cost of cleanup, and we can assist with direct billing to the insurance company. Even if it is not a covered loss, the cost of cleanup done right is far less than the risk if done wrong.

Whatever your property preservation needs, We’re Here To Help – 24/7. Just call us at 970-385-8444 day or night, and we’ll respond immediately!

4 questions to ask before trusting a cleaner in YOUR home…

May 9th, 2014



Protecting Your Home There’s an old saying “A person’s home is their castle.” As a service professional, I am often slightly surprised at the lack of care that other so-called professionals in my industry (and others) exhibit for people’s homes while they are serving them there. So whether you need a plumber, electrician, carpet cleaner or disaster restorer, here are some tips for choosing wisely:

1 – Ask for references! You probably have friends and neighbors who know a good service professional, but if not, you needn’t start from scratch. In our increasingly digital world, this is actually easier than ever. Websites like Yelp and AngiesList provide reviews of local service people by other folks right here in our town.

2 – If possible, ask for a quote on the work being done. This may be free, or cost a nominal fee for the serviceperson’s time and fuel. In any case, it is time well spent to familiarize yourself a bit with the person or company that you are considering trusting with your home. Take note of whether they exhibit care and concern for your home and belongings, and a sincere interest in your needs. And while they’re there, ask for references (again) – often the best companies will keep some references with them to show you.

3 – Consider what licenses and certifications are required for the work being done, and ask to see proof that they have them! Electricians and plumbers are required to be certified and licensed by the state. Cleaning and Disaster Recovery companies should be Certified Firms with the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification, employing IICRC Certified Technicians to do the work (not a minimum wage un-certified worker) The IICRC is the worldwide educational and certification body for our industry. Other industries have their own certification bodies; ask to see proof that the employees doing the work are certified for what you are getting ready to pay for!

4 – Remember…price is what you pay. Value is what you get! Almost always, the lowest price is not the best deal. Remember, the best employees don’t work for the lowest wages…the best (and greenest) cleaning products or building materials don’t cost the least. And if you are cleaning, building, or doing some other non-emergency work, it is possible to get a better deal during the “off-season” for whatever service you are looking for, when owners are trying to keep their employees working. But if they are “fitting you in” on overtime pay during a busy time of year, it will likely cost a little more!

As always, thanks for your time and kind attention! If you need carpet, tile and stone or wood floor cleaning, or emergency flood and fire cleanup and mold remediation, give us a call at 970-385-8444 here in Durango…and have a great day!

Fire and Smoke Cleanup Secrets of a Master Fire & Smoke Restorer!

August 10th, 2012

Fire…properly contained it has been a friend of man since the dawn of time. However, when wildfires rage near a home or a kitchen fire starts on a stove, or fire destroys or damages part of a home, the resulting damage and smoke odor can pose what may seem like an insurmountable problem to clean up!

Fortunately, homeowners insurance covers nearly all fire losses within a home, and if you have wildfire coverage it may help with smoke damage as well. (Check with your agent for coverage details.)

UltraSteam has two IICRC/CleanTrust Certified Fire and Smoke Restorers on staff, as well as the latest in Smoke Deodorization technology and meticulous cleaning procedures to help when disaster strikes! Here are some tips from Fire and Smoke Restorers Richard Carpenter and Joe Daleiden:

“Structural fires, with burning wood, plastics and other items create the sootiest, darkest smoke, which travels readily throughout a structure depending on airflow and can affect areas not directly damaged by the fire. Protein based kitchen fires (such as burnt food) can cause malodor that permeates an entire home, though it is usually worst at the scene of the smoke. Thermal fogging, hydroxyl or nano-deodorization and meticulous deep cleaning with specialized fire restoration products, as well as repainting or structural repairs where needed can readily restore your home. Usually, laundering and drycleaning of clothing will be involved as well, to remove smoke and protein odors from the fabrics, as well as cleaning or replacement of shoes, furniture and other affected contents.

“Smoke odor is stronger with proximity to heat, therefore, outside smoke carried inside is less problematic to clean up though it still brings in dust and residue. Fortunately, cleaning can resolve these problems readily.

            “Soft furnishings such as carpet, upholstery, area rugs and drapes should be cleaned first, then advance from there as needed. Often, cleaning and deodorization of the soft goods will abate the odor almost entirely, as it is held most readily in these fibers. If additional deodorization is needed, there are new, safer alternatives to ozone deodorization. Hydroxyl deodorization works extremely well on smoke odor, while being safe for people, plants and pets, unlike ozone. Airscrubbers equipped with special odor-neutralizing nanofilters can also help.”

            Finally, Joe reminds you, “Apart from odor problems, homeowners at the bottom of hills affected by wildfire should be aware of the possibility of mud and ash slides for up to a year pending rain and snow.”

If you have a fire or smoke damage emergency, call us 24/7 at 385-8444 or 759-2395 for immediate, expert help. Or find more information at our Durango Fire and Smoke Damage Cleanup and Restoration page.

Mountain Middle School Fundraiser in March!

March 1st, 2012

Spring is right around the corner…and March is the perfect time to get a great pre-season deal on Durango’s best carpet or floor cleaning, getting built-up winter soil and allergens out of your home and leaving your floors sparkling and your carpet spring-fresh and fluffy! Call 385-8444 before March 31st, and you’ll get: $75 OFF Stone, Tile & Grout or Sandless Wood Floor Cleaning & Refinishing, or Every 3rd Room of Carpet Cleaned FREE!

But the best part is, this month, a portion of all cleaning proceeds will go to Mountain Middle School to help their current fundraising effort!

Mountain Middle School is a tuition-free, public charter school with 168 students in grades six through eight.  This is their first year of operation and the school building is up and running, but not complete. Since state statute prevents charter schools from receiving mill levy funding for buildings and facilities, as public schools do, they rely on donations from the community to meet school and student needs. Community support for the capital campaign has been terrific to date, including students holding mini-fundraisers over the summer, and asking for cash gifts to the school in lieu of birthday gifts.

There is a $500,000 capital campaign in place for the renovations to the building.

  • $250,000 has been donated in materials and volunteer labor.
  • $105,000 had been donated to date in cash.
  • $62,000 is needed now for: 

– Flooring

            – Student storage facilities (cubby/lockers)

            – Trim and finish work

            – Installation of heat in the new classroom

  • Another $83,000 will be needed on top of that for additional building needs.


Generous donors to date:  Daniels Fund, Mercury Payment Systems, First National Bank of Durango, Ballantine Family Fund, La Plata Electric Association, board members of MMS, MMS families, Durango Electrical Services, Gary’s Plumbing, ClassiqueBilt, Boss Mechanical Plumbing, Exclusive Remodeling & Home Repair, Doug Savage Plumbing, Feeney Architect, Garrhs, James Hopper, Animas Engineering, Ted’s Rental, Advanced Concrete Solutions, Wilson Structural Engineering, Colors, Inc, Joel Perry Welding, Animas Drywall, Eagle Crane, Building Code Services Int’l, Alpine Lumber, Mantell-Hecathorn Builders, Master Rooter, S & S Lock, FCI Construction, The Gallery, Target Rental, and more.

So, if your house could use a little more sparkle and a little less sniffle this month, call 385-8444 and schedule your appointment today! You’ll save money with our pre-season cleaning specials, breathe easier as you relax on your beautiful clean floors and carpet, and help out the school as well!

We truly look forward to serving you!


Richard “Dean of Clean” Carpenter, President

A Homeowner’s Bill Of Rights for Water Damage

February 3rd, 2012

24/7 Water Damage Restoration in Durango by UltraSteam - 385-8444

If you’ve ever experienced a flood, water or sewage damage at your home or business, you know that it can be a traumatic, confusing time. Here are some things to remember – a “bill of rights” if you like – to get the best cleanup and restoration job possible.

1 -YOU control who works for you. Insurance companies will often try to “steer” you toward this or that company, (often a national chain), but this is usually because they have an agreement to get a “rebate” or lower price from that company in exchange for the referral. It’s almost never because they have extra confidence in a given provider’s superior work. Remember that the final decision on who to hire for your water damage cleanup is yours.

2 – You have the Right to check Certifications and References. Personnel performing the work should be CleanTrust Certified Water Damage Restoration Technicians (WRT), and supervisory personnel with Applied Structural Drying and Applied Microbial Remediation Technician (ASD/AMRT) certifications are preferred. Also, a company should be willing to provide you with references from satisfied clients.

3 – You have the Right to be Informed and consider what chemicals they’ll use in your home. Most companies still apply Phenols and Glutaraldehydes as anti-microbials, because they’re cheap, and use petrochemical cleaning products for the same reason. And although the EPA requires respirators to be used by personnel applying these products, they’re left to dry in your home afterward. But there are new, plant-derived anti-microbials and cleaning products that actually do a better job, without the harmful VOCs and need for respiratory protection. What would you rather have used in your home?

4 – You have the Right to Be Comfortable with the personnel that are going to perform your cleanup and drying. After all, you’ll be seeing a lot of them for a few days, and you’re trusting them with your home! Look for clean, courteous, uniformed technicians who respect you and your home and explain what they’ll do and why it’s necessary, not just barge in and “take over”. Some companies even have the ability to help you find temporary housing if the loss is a large one or if the water is Category 3 (sewage) and you need to vacate the premises during cleanup procedures, and provide referrals to qualified reconstruction, carpet and plumbing professionals should you need their services.

Click the link for more information about 24/7 Water/Sewage Damage Cleanup, Structural Drying and Restoration in Durango, or call us at 385-8444 if you have an emergency (press 4 to be connected to an immediate response team)

Blood Cleanup in Durango, Cortez and Farmington – 970-759-2395 Emergency Service

January 19th, 2012


Blood Cleanup in DurangoBlood – it is literally the fluid of our life. But when large quantities of blood are spilled, as may happen at a crime or trauma scene, expert cleanup is required – and that is where Certified Bio-Remediators come in, restoring crime or trauma scenes to a healthy environmental state.

Small blood spots (for instance, if you cut your foot) can often be self-cleaned using a good neutral spotter and hydrogen peroxide to remove the stain. UltraSteam provides an excellent “Green” spot remover to our clients – stop by our shop if you have run out, and we’ll be happy to refill your bottle.

However, if you are dealing with a trauma scene involving arterial spray, or blood and body fluids resulting from a gunshot wound or other injury, call us immediately for 24/7 emergency blood cleaning service. Richard and Shelly are both Certified Bio-Remediators with years of experience and the technical skill to properly assess and remediate any crime or trauma scene back to a clean, healthy state. We offer you care and discretion in your time of need, and respect for all involved.

This work requires proper Personal Protective Equipment for the personnel performing the cleaning, as well as disposal of any contaminated material as medical waste (not thrown in a dumpster, as unethical or untrained companies do.) It may involve the removal of contaminated soft material like carpet and pad, as well as the meticulous cleaning of  hard surfaces with botanical disinfectants to kill bloodborne pathogens. Affected subfloor may be sanded and sealed, depending on the volume of blood and the material at hand. After the scene has been properly cleaned and all bio-matter removed, sealing and repainting of walls or ceiling can begin, and we can provide referrals to reputable contractors who can take care of this for you as well.

Often, crime and trauma scene cleanup is covered by your homeowners or business insurance, and UltraSteam can assist you in the steps to take to determine coverage, and invoice your insurance company directly for the work performed.

If you or someone you know needs our services, call 970-759-2395 or 970-385-8444 (press 4 for our immediate response team) and our caring, discreet experts will be there as quickly as possible (usually within an hour) to respectfully start putting your home or business back to normal!

Click the link for more information on Blood Cleanup, and Crime/Trauma Scene Cleaning

“Our Rugs don’t LOOK dirty…should we clean them?”

December 30th, 2011




Well, it depends! If the rug is only a year or so old, or was cleaned that recently, and isn’t in a high-traffic area like an entry or kitchen, you can probably wait another year…unless of course
someone spills wine, or the dog has an accident.
But if you have an oriental or persian area rug (or three) that haven’t been cleaned for a
few years, the photo below shows the damaging dry sand and soil that we remove
before even beginning the wash process.

 Dry Soil Removal from A Persian Rug at RugMasters of Durango


This fine, sharp particulate dirt gets deep into your rugs, beyond the reach
of your vacuum. As you walk on the rug, it slowly grinds them away from within, wearing them
out long before their time. (A well-cared for rug can be
passed down to your kids or grandkids, lasting generations.) But as you can see, oriental and persian rugs can
hide POUNDS of soil deep in their pile…and still look clean!

My friend Lisa Wagner at Blatchford’s Rug Cleaning in San Diego likes to say, “Rugs are like people…they need a good bath from time to time!”

Removing this dry soil from your rug is the first (and one of the most
important) steps in cleaning a fine persian or oriental rug properly. We dust the rug with a special machine that creates harmonic vibrations to dislodge this soil, then deep-vacuum it.
After the dry soil is out, we gently hand-wash it in our rug bath and
on our wash floor, paying special attention to spots and fringes. Next
we rinse it, and extract the rinsewater with our centrifuge, leaving it
nearly dry – then finish the drying process flat – not hung on tacks or poles, which can put stress on the rug. Your rugs return to you cloud-soft and fluffy!

Click here Durango Rug Cleaning to see a virtual tour of our cleaning facility in the video on our Buzztown page. If you have any rug cleaning questions, or to schedule pickup or dropoff of your rugs for cleaning give us a call at 970-385-5777 or 505-592-0777. To learn more about rug cleaning, click Oriental and Persian Rug Cleaning Durango for useful information and spot removal tips!

Make sure that your insurance will cover your loss!

November 29th, 2011

“Why didn’t the insurance company pay for the complete cost of replacing the damaged carpet?”

I recently heard just this question from a client – so I’m providing the answer to the rest of my clients – hopefully before you need it. It’s sort of boring, but important!

The answer is a little-known difference in insurance policies – “Actual Cash Value” or ACV vs RCV “Replacement Cost Value”. I never gave this any thought, since my agent (Steve at Farm Bureau) advised me years ago to buy Replacement Cost Value, and I did. However, some policies cover only the depreciated value of your carpet and other affected contents, should they need to be replaced after a fire, flood or mold emergency.

In this case, the carpet had sat in a flooded basement for a week and was damaged beyond repair – but it was five years old, so the insurance company deducted for depreciation before writing a check for the remainder of the value of the carpeting…leaving the client with an additional amount on top of the deductible that she needed to come up with to get new carpet and pad put back in.

In my experience, there’s not typically a huge difference in premium cost between the different types – but it can make all the difference in the world to you if you should ever experience a loss. (Same principle applies to car insurance, by the way!) So before the winter freezing season starts, check with your insurance agent and make sure you have the correct coverage for your situation.

Speaking of freezing weather, click 4 Tips to Prevent Water Damage to learn how to avoid the most common types of water damage this year. Or check out 24/7 Water Damage Mitigation by UltraSteam to learn the best way to deal with water damage in case you come home to wet carpet or dripping ceilings!