The Bible: The World's Oldest Mold Remediation Guide
Regardless of your stance on religion, one has to admit that the bible is chock full of wisdom. In fact, most ancient texts showcase the deep insight that our ancestors possessed on subjects such as diet, emotional well-being and warfare. The bible still gives meaning and direction to the lives of millions, modern military leaders still read Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” and few will argue that the latest faux-food invention at Taco Bell can compete with tried and true recipes passed down through generations.
Throughout history, people have learned from their mistakes, figured out smart and practical ways to deal with things and passed the knowledge down to their children. It wasn’t until profit motives began driving decision making that we actually started to toss out lessons learned from the past. This includes the topics of building science and even mold remediation.
Mold and mildew are mentioned several times throughout the bible. The books of Deuteronomy, Kings, Chronicles, Amos and Haggai all mention mildew, mostly as punishments dealt out by the unforgiving God of the old testament. What we’re discussing today, however, can be described as no less than actual protocols for mold remediation found in the book of Leviticus, chapters 13 and 14.
Chapter 13 outlines the procedure for dealing with mold on clothes. It specifies woven or knitted material made of linen or wool or anything made of leather. Starting at verse 50: “The priest is to examine the affected area and isolate the article for seven days. On the seventh day he is to examine it, and if the mold has spread in the fabric, the woven or knitted material, or the leather, whatever its use, it is a persistent defiling mold; the article is unclean. He must burn the fabric.”
It goes on to say that even if the mold has not spread, it should be washed and examined again in seven days. If the mold is still visible, burn it. If the mold went away, cut out the piece that was moldy and keep an eye on it. If mold reappears, you guessed it, burn that sucker. The only way an article of clothing is determined clean is if it is washed, quarantined for seven days, is rid of visible mold, then washed again.
These days, if I see any visible mold on a piece of clothing I’m going to tell you to throw it away. Back in bible times though, clothes weren’t considered so readily disposable the way they sadly are now. Still, this ancient moldiness test is pretty difficult to pass and as you can see, most items are getting tossed in the fire.
Chapter 14 is where it gets even more interesting because we’re talking about mold remediation in homes. Starting at verse 35: “The owner of the house must go and tell the priest, ‘I have seen something that looks like a defiling mold in my house.’ The priest is to order the house to be emptied before he goes in to examine the mold, so that nothing in the house will be pronounced unclean. After this the priest is to go in and inspect the house. He is to examine the mold on the walls, and if it has greenish or reddish depressions that appear to be deeper than the surface of the wall, the priest shall go out the doorway of the house and close it up for seven days.”
Notice that it specifically talks about mold that has penetrated the walls. So we’re not talking about transitory or light surface mold. Obviously, back then they didn’t have plumbing, so I believe the main moisture source was humidity. Some houses were well ventilated, some were not. I’m sure the occasional roof leak came into play as well. Again, we see the seven-day test. The difference today is that I’d tell you to immediately call a plumber, roofer or another professional that will ensure the moisture source has been corrected. After that, the sooner the better to get started with remediation.
After the seven days pass, the priest will reinspect and if the mold has spread the protocol is as follows. Starting at verse 40: “The contaminated stones be torn out and thrown into an unclean place outside the town. He must have all the inside walls of the house scraped and the material that is scraped off dumped into an unclean place outside the town. Then they are to take other stones to replace these and take new clay and plaster the house.” And after all this, if the mold comes back, the house must be torn down completely. Wow, they weren’t messing around.
The important thing we’re seeing here is that the mold is being removed. Not sprayed with chemicals, not fogged, not painted over. Removed. Any indoor environmental professional worth his salt will advise you against any remediation method where the mold (or water damaged materials, for that matter) are left in place.
In conclusion, what stands out in these chapters is that they really took mold seriously, even back then. There’s still a lot to be learned on the science of mold and mycotoxins but they knew it was no joke. And they kept it simple. It was all about removing the mold.
Full text for those that are interested (from the New International Version):
47 “As for any fabric that is spoiled with a defiling mold—any woolen or linen clothing, 48 any woven or knitted material of linen or wool, any leather or anything made of leather— 49 if the affected area in the fabric, the leather, the woven or knitted material, or any leather article, is greenish or reddish, it is a defiling mold and must be shown to the priest. 50 The priest is to examine the affected area and isolate the article for seven days. 51 On the seventh day he is to examine it, and if the mold has spread in the fabric, the woven or knitted material, or the leather, whatever its use, it is a persistent defiling mold; the article is unclean. 52 He must burn the fabric, the woven or knitted material of wool or linen, or any leather article that has been spoiled; because the defiling mold is persistent, the article must be burned.
53 “But if, when the priest examines it, the mold has not spread in the fabric, the woven or knitted material, or the leather article, 54 he shall order that the spoiled article be washed. Then he is to isolate it for another seven days. 55 After the article has been washed, the priest is to examine it again, and if the mold has not changed its appearance, even though it has not spread, it is unclean. Burn it, no matter which side of the fabric has been spoiled. 56 If, when the priest examines it, the mold has faded after the article has been washed, he is to tear the spoiled part out of the fabric, the leather, or the woven or knitted material. 57 But if it reappears in the fabric, in the woven or knitted material, or in the leather article, it is a spreading mold; whatever has the mold must be burned. 58 Any fabric, woven or knitted material, or any leather article that has been washed and is rid of the mold, must be washed again. Then it will be clean.”
59 These are the regulations concerning defiling molds in woolen or linen clothing, woven or knitted material, or any leather article, for pronouncing them clean or unclean.
34 “When you enter the land of Canaan, which I am giving you as your possession, and I put a spreading mold in a house in that land, 35 the owner of the house must go and tell the priest, ‘I have seen something that looks like a defiling mold in my house.’ 36 The priest is to order the house to be emptied before he goes in to examine the mold, so that nothing in the house will be pronounced unclean. After this the priest is to go in and inspect the house. 37 He is to examine the mold on the walls, and if it has greenish or reddish depressions that appear to be deeper than the surface of the wall, 38 the priest shall go out the doorway of the house and close it up for seven days. 39 On the seventh day the priest shall return to inspect the house. If the mold has spread on the walls, 40 he is to order that the contaminated stones be torn out and thrown into an unclean place outside the town. 41 He must have all the inside walls of the house scraped and the material that is scraped off dumped into an unclean place outside the town. 42 Then they are to take other stones to replace these and take new clay and plaster the house.
43 “If the defiling mold reappears in the house after the stones have been torn out and the house scraped and plastered, 44 the priest is to go and examine it and, if the mold has spread in the house, it is a persistent defiling mold; the house is unclean. 45 It must be torn down—its stones, timbers and all the plaster—and taken out of the town to an unclean place.
46 “Anyone who goes into the house while it is closed up will be unclean till evening. 47 Anyone who sleeps or eats in the house must wash their clothes.
48 “But if the priest comes to examine it and the mold has not spread after the house has been plastered, he shall pronounce the house clean, because the defiling mold is gone. 49 To purify the house he is to take two birds and some cedar wood, scarlet yarn and hyssop. 50 He shall kill one of the birds over fresh water in a clay pot.