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Approach to Mold Removal on a Kumeyaay Basket

Image 1: The basket start in a polyethylene bag. The blue strip in the upper left corner measures relative humidity. The yellow beads (silica gel) remove moisture

Image 2: A conservator at work removing mold with a vacuum and a brush

Image 3: Diagram of solvent table’s vacuum and mold trap device. The object is supported on the filter, which is usually located within a table

The Kumeyaay closed coiled basketry start affected by mold can demonstrate the basic conservation steps for objects with mold. While these are basic guidelines, it is recommended to consult a conservator before attempting to treat a moldy object.

Step 1: Safe Storage
Safe storage will stop additional mold growth and prevent the spread of the mold to other objects. Often this is as simple as placing the object in a sealed zip-lock bag in a freezer, though objects that are saturated with water need to be dried beforehand (Image 1).

Step 2: Remove the Mold
After creating safe storage and drying the mold, a conservator can then remove the mold from the object with a gentle brush and a vacuum with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter that traps the mold particles (Image 2).
Conservators working with moldy objects must always wear gloves and a breathing apparatus to minimize contact with the mold and possible mold spores.

Step 3: Apply Ethanol
Ethanol, lethal to mold, is applied using cotton swabs.  In the conservation treatment illustrated, ethanol was pulled through the object—to eradicate any interior mold—with the help of a suction table. A suction table is like a flat vacuum, which will trap the mold spores in the flask’s water (Image 3).

After touching or interacting with an object contaminated with mold, it is important to wash ones hands and clean any tools and work space with a disinfectant to prevent spreading the spores.

– Robin O’Hern

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