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1979 Mercedes 450SL - Complete Interior & Mold Abatement


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#1 David Fermani

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Posted 26 October 2008 - 02:15 PM

I received a call from this client’s property manager after he noticed a disgusting mold contamination on the inside of this 1979 Mercedes 450SL. He tried having it cleaned by a local car-washer and not only was the results terrible, but the mold returned after a few weeks! I tried asking as many questions as possible to diagnosis the cause & origin of the contamination so I could plan ahead and create a game plan that would effectively tackle the project. The owner had no idea what this problem was caused from and/or how it got there. He explained that the vehicle was never involved in a flood and has never noticed any water inside at any time. The vehicle is parked at the owner’s vacation water front condo in Los Olas (FT. Lauderdale) inside their parking structure.


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This environment (dark & wet) is key for the development of a mold growth and if not properly treated, could literally destroy the interior of a vehicle at the same time infecting the health of its occupants. At 1st I researched multiple products that are designed for the removal of mold on leather. I also consulted several forum members (Grouse ~ Aaron @ 3LG) and he recommended cleaning the vehicle’s leather with products from Leather Master. I then called Phil from Detailer’s Domain and he put me in contact with Multimaster of North America (reseller of LeatherMaster). They specialize in all facets of cleaning, repairing and protecting leather as well as other surfaces including fabrics & wood. Many of their products of imported from Italy. I was instructed to 1st clean the leather and then treat with Mold Killer to prevent its return.


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Upon 1st inspection, I noticed a medium growth of mold spores contained mostly to the leather seats, armrest and steering wheel. There was also a slight dusty film of mold on the door trim panels and carpets.


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I 1st removed all possible carpet assemblies and removable trim pieces such as the package tray. At this point, I have no idea what created this mold problem and continued to search for signs of evidence. I began cleaning the seats with LeatherMaster’s Rapid Cleaner S. This product is recommended to be dispensed in a special foamer type sprayer nozzle and gets applied to a foam style sponge. To my surprise, this product safely & immediately removed the surface mold and cleaned the leather surfaces too.

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Here’s what the sponge water looked like after cleaning the leather:



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Leather/vinyl trim panels were also cleaned with Rapid S and all other panels were scrubbed clean via toothbrush with Auto Magic Special Cleaner.

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Carpets/Floor mats received a series of cleaning procedures that I’ve documented below:


Each panel was dry scrubbed with a stiff brush. This looses up the debris and allows for a more effective cleaning. It also stands up the nape of the fabric because the deeply embedded debris gets loosened to clean deep into the piling strands of fabric.


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Next, the surface is vacuumed:


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Next the surface is blown out with compressed air to loosen up even more ground in debris:


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**These 2 steps alone are key for proper cleaning and can actually make or break certain fabric cleaning applications. It allows the ground in dirt & debris to be lifted away instead of buried in deeper while wet cleaning. It is essential to perform these 2 steps prior to getting any of the surfaces wet. **



Next, all surfaces were pre-soaked & scrubbed with Auto Magic Enzyme Pre-Spot. This eats away and kills the bacteria in the fabric.


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Next I prepared a bucket mixed with 1 gallon of water and Auto Magic EZ-Clean HD shampoo & Mark-V’s Breeze Odor Eliminator.


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This was foamed up by sticking my compressed air nozzle in the bucket and then applied via Grout Sponge. Each floor matt was cleaned individually to prevent over saturation of the surface. I then scrubbed the foam into the fabric. The foam creates and allows the dirt to lift up and out.


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Next, I slowly vacuumed each surface:


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Next, all the remaining wetness, soiling & chemicals were toweled out:


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#2 David Fermani

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Posted 26 October 2008 - 02:16 PM

Floor mats and fabric panels were left outside in sunlight to speed up the final drying process. When 100% dry, they were dry brushed again to fluff up the fabric.


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Finally, all the leather was treated with Leathermasters Mold Cleaner in 2 separate applications.


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After cleaning the interior, I proceeded to wash the exterior with using the owner’s garden hose. While rinsing, I noticed the seals on the convertible hard top were leaky. Water was entering and running down the windows. I didn’t think anything of it, but as soon as I opened up doors and looked inside, I noticed multiple medium sized puddles on the center and rear floor pans and water was running down behind each ¼ panel interior trim panel!!!!! :wow::wow::wow:


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I finally realized and was able to confirm the cause of the problem. It seems as if every time the vehicle was washed and/or in the rain, water entered the cabin compartment. This in turn created a major mold growth after closing the doors for months and stored in the dark, damp parking structure. I informed the owner of this discovery and he was shocked and very happy. I was too, by knowing that what I did fixed the problem and discovered how to prevent it from occurring again. I also instructed the owner to leave the windows down for several days as well as the leave the vehicle outside so that the sun can dry up any remaining wetness.



Unfortunately, due to a heavy rainstorm, I didn’t have the opportunity to take any outside final photos; just inside the garage. :grrr Here’s the final outcome:


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:thx:thx:thx

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#3 Peachstate Detail LLC

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Posted 26 October 2008 - 02:31 PM

Very nice work David. I will book mark this one for future reference.

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#4 stiffdogg06

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Posted 26 October 2008 - 03:02 PM

Awesome Job David.


Hope you wore a face mask...:nervous2:
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#5 Pats300zx

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Posted 26 October 2008 - 03:05 PM

Awesome come back David.....

That is nasty. I am sure I would have wanted to tackle that one...

#6 weekendwarrior

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Posted 26 October 2008 - 03:20 PM

Great Job. Not only did you take care of the problem, but you were able to diagnose the root cause.
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#7 lt1_man

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Posted 26 October 2008 - 03:27 PM

Very nice job, I found myself taking notes as I read. When I first saw the steering wheel, I thought it was a ugly cover for it, not mold!! Great job once again.

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#8 twitch

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Posted 26 October 2008 - 03:49 PM

:shocked WOW! :goodjob David!

I am sure the owner was very grateful of your accomplishment while also providing the underlying issue.

Great work man! I also appreciate the write up about the matts. I am going to have to remember this one. Thanks.
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#9 connorb850

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Posted 26 October 2008 - 04:03 PM

Very thorough job on the interior! Your process on the mats seemed very effective.

#10 Accumulator

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Posted 26 October 2008 - 04:16 PM

David Fermani- Wow, what a great job :bow

Hope I never need 'em, but it's great to know what products and processes worked on something like that.

#11 rydawg

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Posted 26 October 2008 - 04:22 PM

Wow, that was just nasty. That was an amazing deep cleansing job David. The afters look like a totally different car. Superb Work!
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#12 DetailersDomain

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Posted 26 October 2008 - 05:29 PM

nice work Dave!
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#13 MobileJay

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Posted 26 October 2008 - 05:54 PM

I had a problem like this on my other car. I don't think it was ever 100% gone/cleaned but someone else bought it.
How good does the Mark V odor elimiator work? I have been trying to find something that will kill smoking odors from a clients vehicle but nothing yet.

Oh yeah, very very nice job and write up. Thanks for sharing

#14 Scottwax

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Posted 26 October 2008 - 06:53 PM

Very nice work David. I will book mark this one for future reference.


Same here. In fact, it should be archived. First rate write up and very useful information. :bow

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#15 gamby

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Posted 26 October 2008 - 08:13 PM

"Brave" is the best word I can use to describe this job. What a colossal undertaking.

Beautiful results. Great that you were able to find the source of that mess.

#16 SilvaBimma

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Posted 26 October 2008 - 10:12 PM

Amazing work. Hope you got paid a VERY nice amount for all that cleaning. Did you wear gloves and mask? That is dangerous work.

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#17 Holden_C04

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Posted 26 October 2008 - 10:46 PM

Amazing work. Hope you got paid a VERY nice amount for all that cleaning. Did you wear gloves and mask? That is dangerous work.


To the best of my knowledge, there is no proven health risk due to exposure to mold.
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#18 John Henry

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Posted 27 October 2008 - 12:47 AM

Great job, David!

FWIW, the owner should consider using DampRid in the future.

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I use two containers of the stuff in my RV and I pull a couple of quarts of water from the air every month. (As you know, this Benz lives a couple of hundred miles south of me... even more humidity.) I'm surprised that this is not a more common problem in the Southeast for vehicles that are stored for long periods, with or without roof leaks.

Based on my RV detailing experience, I wonder if this vehicle could benefit from an ozone generator treatment. (The machines used for mold/mildew abatement are the $1K+ models, not the $119 specials.) Your work on the MB interior is amazing; however, I suspect that mold is lurking in the concealed areas.

Hey, thanks for posting! Very informative.
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#19 RickRack

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Posted 27 October 2008 - 03:46 AM

David, that is one amazing turnaround!!!

I have done a few of these in the past and find it amazing how quick mold grows. The wholesaler I used to detail for bought a few cars at an auction during the summer which had been recently detailed. The cars sat in the sun for about a week with wet carpets and the mold growth was incredible.

Great job bringing that interior back and finding the cause!

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#20 howareb

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Posted 27 October 2008 - 04:10 AM

Great read with the morning coffee. Thanks David as always. Very informative.




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