Addressing Questions About Different Fogging Methods for Tackling Mold in Your Home
by Kevin Carpenter, PharmD
Protecting and maintaining your home is important; homes are not just physical things, but places where memories are created, and treasures are stored. If allowed to proliferate indoors, mold can disrupt a home’s air quality and destroy not only feelings of safety and balance but also, quite literally, memories, treasures, and the health of the inhabitants. Personally, I find periodic fogging to be a useful tool in my arsenal against indoor mold and allergens. The whole world of fogging can be confusing, though, and with so many foggers available, it becomes difficult to answer, “Which fogger is right for me?”
In today’s article, I hope to provide some quick fogger comparisons and give my opinion about different types of fogging and the various foggers at one’s disposal. I will also discuss why we at Micro Balance favor and choose to sell ultra-low volume (ULV) foggers and how best to use the EC3 Mold Solution Concentrate for fogging your home. So, without further ado, let’s dive in!
Different Types of Foggers
The two most common types of foggers are Thermal and Ultra Low Volume (ULV) foggers. So what do those names mean and which type of fogger is ideal for tackling indoor mold? We will explain these different types of foggers and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Thermal foggers are so named because they use electricity to heat a coil which then causes the liquid solution to vaporize. The vapor is then expelled out into thousands of small droplets in a visible dense cloud that looks like smoke. Some thermal foggers are left stationary while the solution is dispersed, while others are carried. One of the benefits of thermal foggers is the small particle size produced, which can be as small as 0.5 microns. However, the particle size produced is not consistent. Particles produced from a thermal fogger can range in size as large as 60 microns. Since the particles are produced by heat, the droplet size can’t be adjusted, therefore; the expelled fog will contain a mix of small and large particles. Since the particle size is inconsistent, this results in reduced efficiency as the larger particles will not travel far and will fall to the ground. A lot of the solution gets wasted this way.
Thermal foggers require a special solution formulation, usually comprised of propylene glycol. It is generally reported that low concentrations of propylene glycol are safe; however, it’s not without risk and caution should be taken if you decide to use a thermal fogger. There have been reports of asphyxiation while fogging. Individuals with compromised respiratory or cardiovascular systems are at higher risk of asphyxiation. Some people, especially those with chemical sensitivity, could be sensitive to propylene glycol. It will be necessary to wear protective clothing and a respirator while thermal fogging. It’s also good practice to have a spotter periodically check on you while thermal fogging. For all these reasons, it is best to have a professional perform the task should you choose thermal fogging. The thermal fogging solution is also very expensive, and it can become very costly should you wish to fog regularly. Another potential issue with thermal fogging is that the fog may penetrate deeply into materials such as wood and other porous materials and may cause off-gassing. I found this to be especially true with manufactured particleboard and MDF. For this reason, it’s not unusual for professionals performing remediation to recommend vacating the house for at least 48 hours after thermal fogging. Thermal foggers will need to be periodically flushed with a flushing fluid to keep the lines and chambers clear. Although a thermal fogger does produce very small particles; due to the risks, reduced efficiency, and expense associated with thermal fogger use, we do not currently provide a thermal fogger or thermal fogging solution for retail customers.
Ultra-Low Volume (ULV) Foggers
Ultra-Low Volume (ULV) Foggers are so named because they are able to disperse a small amount–a fine, cold mist or aerosol–of the solution by compressing it through a special nozzle with high-powered motors. Thus, they are commonly referred to as “Cold Foggers”. Most ULV foggers are powered by electricity. Some require a power cord while there are some that run on batteries. Most ULV foggers are carried while in use; however, there are some stationary models that are primarily used in the industrial or agricultural setting. The particle size typically ranges from 10-to 50 microns. Unlike thermal foggers, the flow rate of ULV foggers can be adjusted resulting in uniform particle size. On a low output setting the particle size will range from 10-to 15 microns. Another benefit of ULV foggers is they require less diluent, allowing for more concentrated solutions to be dispersed. One of the biggest benefits is that ULV foggers do not require propylene glycol in order to be properly dispersed. Because propylene glycol is not required, this makes most solutions less costly and removes risks associated with propylene glycol. Depending on the type of solution used in a fogger, the safety protocols may vary. ULV foggers are relatively easy to maintain and periodic maintenance is recommended. Maintenance includes keeping the air filter clean, periodic rinsing and draining the tank, and flushing the head and lines by running the fogger for a few minutes with an empty tank.
Why Do We Like ULV Foggers?
We took all these factors into consideration when choosing the type of fogger we wanted to provide to our customers. For our purposes and those of our customers, the choice was clear. We chose a ULV fogger primarily for its safety profile, durability, and cost-efficiency. Additionally, many people with mold-related illnesses also suffer from multiple chemical sensitivities. With the concerns regarding propylene glycol, we felt many of our customers would be unable to tolerate a thermal fogging solution. Many of our customers also find themselves in situations where they require regular fogging in their home or business to maintain their health. With our EC3 Sanitizer Fogger, you can fog an area of approximately 4,000 square feet with a single bottle of EC3 Concentrate. This is much more cost-effective when compared to a thermal fogging solution which can be several hundred dollars for a single gallon. Please keep in mind that not all ULV foggers are of the same quality. The prices can range from $100-to $900 for comparable units. Some ULV foggers, especially the lower-priced units, may not be as efficient or durable. Our EC3 Sanitizer Fogger is made in a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in the USA and is backed by a 1-year manufacturer’s warranty where they will fix or replace the unit if damaged or if it is not working properly.
Benefits of Fogging
It’s important to note that fogging is not the same as mold remediation. Fogging alone will not remove mold from your home. Remediation consists of source identification and removing/fixing the cause of the mold. Common causes are things like leaking pipes, humid/damp crawlspaces, high indoor humidity, etc.
Removing the source often requires the removal of contaminated building material and then cleaning all other surroundings and surfaces. Fogging can be a part of the mold remediation process but it is not the only step in the process. Catherine from Moldfreeliving.com has explained this very well: “Fogging is a good temporary option to help keep mold counts down for those who are renting, traveling to a temporary home, or just cannot afford to do all of the remediation required at the time. Remember, the operative word here is “temporary.” If the source or the reason for the mold is not fixed or removed, the mold will return and will continue to grow no matter how much fogging is done. In other words, like a Band-Aid, fogging can stop the bleeding. It cannot stop the need for stitches, or major surgery, though. Fogging, when done correctly, can make things more livable until a better solution, like moving to a mold-free environment, or full-scale, professional mold remediation can occur.”
Whenever you do decide to fog, be sure to evaluate your options carefully before spaying a substance throughout your home. Ideally, you don’t want to fill your home with toxic chemicals to address a mold problem. Why would you address a toxin with a toxin? You wouldn’t! You address a toxin by eliminating it from the environment. THEN, you clean the environment thoroughly, and after that, you MAINTAIN the environment. Fogging with EC3 is perfect for the cleaning and maintenance pieces of the remediation puzzle.
EC3 Solution is non-toxic, botanically-based, and can be used without having to wear PPE. When you use EC3, it does not require you to vacate your home or worry about harmful effects from breathing in the fog while cleaning. It is also safe for almost all surfaces and materials.
How to Fog with EC3
First, thoroughly dust and HEPA vacuum the whole house. Try to wipe down any hard surfaces as best as possible. If you do not have time to do your whole home all at once, you can fog room by room. You really want to remove as much surface dust and debris as possible. Then, fill the fogger tank with one gallon of mixed EC3 solution. It comes as a concentrate, so you have to mix it per bottle directions with distilled water before use. One gallon of mixed solution will fog approximately 3,000 square feet.
Begin by starting on the bottom-most floor. Make sure all electrical items are powered off. Plug the fogger in, you will need an extension cord. Power the fogger on, adjust the dial to low output, and, holding the fogger, make a sweeping motion and direct the mist from floor to ceiling. Try to keep moving and methodically cover the whole space and contents with the fog. If you have items you are worried about getting wet, you can cover them before fogging, but if done correctly, the fog should dry quickly. Once done in one room, you can move on to the next. Once fogging is complete, turn on overhead fans to encourage drying and air circulation. Once dry, HEPA vacuum the floors again. It may be beneficial to wipe down horizontal surfaces as well. You can leave the HVAC on or off while fogging but if you do leave it on, it would be a good time to replace the filter. If you have recently replaced the filter, turn the unit off while fogging or remove the filter from the unit while fogging. You do not want the filter to get wet as it can lose its electrostatic charge to collect dust when wet.
How often you fog is up to you. Some people may find it helpful to fog weekly in times of high humidity. You can also fog items before bringing them into your home. Things like new furniture, luggage, or packages can be quickly fogged. ULV fogging is a great option and a useful tool in the battle against mold. Should you ever have any questions regarding fogging with our product, please feel free to contact us by email or phone. We are always here to help! In fact, here is a short, helpful video we also posted to our Facebook and Instagram pages called Fogging 101 to answer some common questions about fogging. Enjoy!