Do Attics Need to be Cleaned?

“Should I clean my attic?” Although most people regularly clean their homes, some areas may get neglected without us even realizing it. Attics can easily fall into the “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” cleaning category! Of course, your attic may be pretty empty or purely used as storage space for infrequently-used items. So, do attics need to be cleaned? Yes, they do! Cleaning your attic is vital to maintaining a healthy living environment, optimizing your heating, and preventing damage to your property! Let’s explore the reasons why. 

Due to a lack of ventilation and high humidity, attics often provide the perfect environment for mold to grow. Mold is harmful to our health and can cause structural damage to buildings over time. Another health risk is dust. Is dust really that big a deal? In fact, attic dust can contain harmful contaminants, including metals from building materials and insulation particles. Breathing in both mold and dust can aggravate respiratory systems and trigger an allergic reaction. Even if you rarely use your attic, the air will find its way into the rest of your house through the ceiling latch or door and sometimes in HVAC systems. Dust can also clog heating systems, making them less effective, which will cost you. Keeping your attic clean will prevent these issues. It also provides an excellent opportunity to check for signs of pest infestations and damage that may have occurred.

Attic wood panels with mold and mildew

How to clean an attic

Before you begin your attic cleanup

Before you start your cleanup, we recommend you have adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), such as thick gloves, long-sleeved clothing, a dust suit, safety glasses, and a respirator mask. Why is this necessary? As mentioned above, dust and mold spores may contaminate your attic air. Depending on how tidy your attic is and its condition, there may be unknown objects and debris. In addition, if any pests live in your attic, direct contact with them or their droppings/urine is also a hazard. So, ensuring you are well covered and wearing PPE is in your best interests.

attic cleanup technician in ppe before cleaning a dirty attic

Tidying 

Your attic may be empty, apart from insulation and heating systems. However, for many families, their attic is the home for things like camping gear, luggage, holiday decorations, boxes for appliances, unused clothing, family memorabilia, and that pasta-maker you never did get around to using…sound familiar? If your attic looks something like this, the first step to cleaning it is removing as much clutter as possible from the space. A tidy space is much easier and safer to clean. 

an attic filed with boxes and possessions

Dusting  

Next, you need to dust all surfaces except the floor; this includes any light fittings in your attic, attic walls, windows and windowsills, and all items stored inside your attic. As you dust high places, dust will fall onto the surfaces below, so cleaning from top to bottom is the most efficient method. You can ensure no areas are missed by working clockwise or counterclockwise around your attic. Using a damp microfibre cloth is an effective way to gather dust. The microfibres trap dust and capture even tiny bacteria, whereas other cloths can tend to spread the dirt around. You will probably need several cloths, and using larger cloths than usual or microfibre mop heads may help you cover large surface areas quicker than your regular cleaning cloths. Whatever cloth you use, swap it out when it becomes visibly dirty to make your dusting effective. 

Vacuuming 

Once you have dusted all areas, it’s time to vacuum your attic floor. You may need to pick up large clumps of dirt by hand or use your vacuum pole without the head attached. Then, with the usual vacuum head connected, work your way around your attic floor methodically from one end to the other. We recommend using a vacuum with a HEPA filter as these can capture even tiny particles of pollutants, such as smoke, dust, and mold spores. Standard vacuums won’t be able to capture these particles and will release them back into the air. Using smaller, slow, controlled movements of the vacuum head will ensure you capture as much dust as possible without kicking it into the air.

Watch out for pests/mold

While cleaning, you should look for any signs of mold on walls or furniture. If you find mold, it will require careful, specialized cleanup. Also, look out for signs of pests in your attic. These can include:

  • Droppings/urine staining
  • Bite marks on wood/objects 
  • Grease marks on walls – animals such as rats, mice, and bats have greasy or oily skin, which often leaves a residue behind 
  • Signs of a nest/nesting materials
  • Damaged insulation – mice will often burrow thru insulation and use it for nesting.

Both mold spores and pest infestations are significant health hazards that must be dealt with quickly and require meticulous, thorough cleanup.

bat guano on attic insulation

When do attics need to be cleaned? 

It is a good idea to clean your attic regularly, at least a few times a year, to keep on top of dust and dirt and ensure it remains in good condition. A thorough attic cleanup is vital if your attic has suffered damage or infestations such as the following:

After a bat infestation 

A bat infestation will leave behind a tonne of waste that will require careful disposal before thorough cleanup and decontamination of the space. While it is safe to vacuum up scattered bat droppings (guano), piles of guano can harbor fungal spores called Histoplasma. When these spores are inhaled, they can cause a horrible respiratory disease, Histoplasmosis. Therefore, accumulations of droppings need to be treated as hazardous waste. After removing the guano, the area should be disinfected, and an air scrubber should be used to eliminate fungal spores. Guano mixed with bat urine is highly corrosive to solid building materials so proper guano cleanup will safeguard your property.

an attic cleanup professional inspecting insulation covered in bat guano

After a flood 

If your attic has suffered a flood, a complex cleanup is required to prevent severe structural damage and mold growth. Attic cleanup after a flood presents risks and requires a different approach from standard cleaning. Floodwater can contain harmful contaminants such as animal waste, chemical contaminants, and even sewage, so you must wear PPE, including rubber boots, gloves, waterproof clothing, a mask, and goggles. Before cleaning the area, ensure the gas and electricity are switched off. After removing the floodwater, dry the area – keeping it well-ventilated and using dehumidifiers will help. There is a high risk of mold spores growing and multiplying after a flood. Mold is bad for health and can significantly damage a building, slowly destroying wood, drywall, and insulation. If this happens, repairs will be costly, and a history of mold can also considerably lower the market value of your property. So, to minimize these risks, remove all damp possessions from the attic to leave as clear a space as possible for air movement and drying. Be aware that items you remove may have mold spores even if you cannot see them, so they must be disinfected. Clean all surfaces thoroughly with household detergent to remove dirt and debris. Then, treat all surfaces with anti-mold/anti-fungal disinfectant to kill all mold spores.

rotten attic roof after flood damage

After a fire

Cleaning up after a fire is a complex task. Soot and debris can contain toxic substances that irritate skin and cause respiratory distress. In addition, you may be dealing with water and chemicals from fire-fighting efforts. So, again, it’s essential to wear PPE, including gloves, goggles, and a respirator mask. Before cleaning, clear the area by carefully removing any water sitting there and dry out the area. Remove debris and as many possessions as possible from the area. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to clean surfaces affected by soot. For porous materials like wood or insulation, consult professionals or consider replacing them if cleaning is insufficient to remove smoke damage. Thoroughly clean all surfaces with detergent and disinfectant to remove soot and smoke residue and kill harmful toxins. Properly ventilate the area during and after cleaning to help eliminate lingering odors and contaminants. We also recommend using an air scrubber with a HEPA filter to remove smoke particles. 

When should I use a professional attic cleanup company?

Utilizing a professional attic cleanup company is recommended following the events mentioned above. As discussed, contaminants like mold, animal waste, asbestos, soot, chemical waste, and other harmful residues make attic cleanup particularly dangerous after floods, fires, or pest infestations. It’s advisable to use specialized equipment like HEPA vacuums and air scrubbers. Moreover, in these cases, there is potential for structural damage in the attic, so it’s best to get a professional assessment to ensure it is safe and structurally sound before cleanup begins. Entrusting the work to a professional attic cleanup company ensures the availability of necessary safety equipment and expertise, safeguarding both the workers and the property. Their expertise can prevent further damage, save money in the long run, and mitigate health risks associated with inadequate cleanup efforts. 

Attic Cleanup technician cleaning up guano

So, “do attics need to be cleaned?Yes, and even if your attic has not suffered any damage, a regular cleaning schedule will ensure you maintain a healthy home environment, minimize potential risks to your health or property, and even save you costly repair work by enabling you to spot potential problems in your attic early on. If you need any help with attic cleanup, contact us today!

Your Local Attic Cleanup Specialist,

Michael Koski

Michael Koski Attic Cleanup Owner

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