After a flood event, you have to watch out for the development of mold. If mold develops in your home, it can pose a health risk to you and your family long after the waters subside.
Mold can cause allergic reactions and breathing difficulties for those sensitive to its presence. It can pose an even higher risk for those with suppressed immune systems. If left untreated, it can damage the structure of your home as well as its contents.
After a major flood event, you must take steps to prevent mold from growing in your home. That means you should be prepared to assess damage to your home and its contents and clean, dry or discard items as necessary.
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Removing damaged items and fixtures from your home and sanitizing the remains can take time and effort. In some cases, you may need to hire a professional to help you.
Mold can begin to grow within 24 hours of a flood event. Therefore, you must try to return to your home and begin cleaning and drying as soon as it is declared safe to do so.
If you manage to dry your home completely within 24 to 48 hours of a flood, there is a chance you may be able to prevent mold growth. However, it is still important to examine your home thoroughly to ensure no mold is growing.
If you did not manage to get into your home and clean within this timeframe, it is best to assume you may be dealing with at least some mold growth. It is a good idea to take pictures of your home right before you begin your cleaning for insurance purposes, but do not delay clean-up any longer than you need to.
Remove and Control Water
If there is still water in your home, it must be removed immediately. A water vacuum or pump may be needed to remove standing water or to dry wet carpeting.
If there are any areas still containing moisture, even a small amount, they must be dried as soon as possible. Check for any leaks, as preventing further spread of moisture is key in containing the risk of mold growth.
Open windows and place fans in affected rooms to increase air circulation. Remember to circulate air into your attic, cabinets, closets and drawers while cleaning them.
Remove any wet items from inside the affected rooms and take them outside to dry. This allows you to better assess the damage inside, as well as giving you space to work.
The items you remove might need to be discarded if there is a chance they harbor mold growth. If anything has not been cleaned and dried thoroughly within 24 to 48 hours, it generally needs to be discarded. In some cases, they can be cleaned by a professional.
Do not try to hold on to damaged items that can spread mold in your home. If you rent the property, your renter’s insurance may be able to pay for the lost items so that you can replace them instead.
If you find undamaged items, it is important to keep them away from any items with mold growth. If you find items with mold growth, take them outside before attempting to clean them, as you may spread the mold spores indoors.
After a flood event, you should throw away:
- Pillows and mattresses.
- Upholstered furniture.
- Carpets and padding.
- Appliances with fans.
- Books and paper.
Clean and Sanitize
Any wet items and areas must be cleaned as soon as possible with water and detergent, then dried immediately. If there are areas of mold growth, these need to be dealt with very carefully.
You may clean mold in an area of less than 10 square feet. However, anything larger than this must be cleaned by a professional.
You can use hot water and detergent on hard surfaces to remove mold. Use a stiff brush on rougher surfaces that may allow mold growth.
You might choose to use bleach instead of detergent, but this must be done with caution. Mix one cup of bleach into a gallon of water, being careful not to make the mixture too strong. Never mix bleach with ammonia, as this can create a toxic gas reaction.
When cleaning your home for mold growth, even if you are uncertain as to whether there is mold present, it is important to be safe. Children cannot assist with clean up, and adults must take precautions:
- Wear masks and respirators, either N95 masks or higher, inside the house and while cleaning moldy items.
- Wear protective eyewear while cleaning.
- Wear non-porous gloves and protective shoes throughout the cleaning process.
As you continue to work in your home, try to complete the drying process. Opening windows and using fans can be a good start, but this may not be enough to dry everything completely.
If possible, consider using equipment such as a dehumidifier to ensure all the moisture has been removed from your home. Trapped moisture may remain even if something seems dry on the surface.
Drywall is highly porous, which means mold can grow easily in it. Therefore, you may need to cut areas of your walls and ceilings away if they could harbor mold growth.
Remember, water can wick up the wall higher than the flood line. Cutting some drywall away at the top of the wall and at the bottom, or removing the molding and baseboard, can help create airflow to better dry the room.
Additionally, remember to remove insulation from affected areas, even if the walls seem dry. Mold can easily grow out of sight in these hidden areas.
Call a Professional
If you have not been able to re-enter and clean your home within 24 and 48 hours and the mold has spread, it may be advisable to hire a professional. This may mean access to industrial cleaning and drying equipment, as well as moisture detection equipment.
A certified professional may be able to sample for mold, as well as clean it safely and effectively. In some states, mold cleaning may be regulated, which means you might be required to hire a contractor for the job.
Related Article: How to Prepare for a Flood