Preventing Mold After a Flood

A photograph of mold growing on a wall behind a painting.

PREVENTING MOLD: CLEAN IT, DRY IT OR DISCARD IT

Not all of the damage from flooding takes place while your home or business is under water. Long after the flood waters have receded, mold and mildew can present serious and ongoing health issues.

Oklahomans impacted by the severe storms and flooding that took place between May 5 and June 4 should take steps to protect the health of their family or employees by treating or discarding mold- and mildew-infected items as soon as possible.

Health experts urge those who find mold to act fast. Cleaning mold quickly and properly is essential for a healthy home or work place, especially for people who suffer from allergies or asthma.

Mold and mildew can start growing within 24 hours after a flood, and can lurk throughout a home or business, from the attic and basement to crawl spaces and store rooms. The best defense is to clean, dry or discard moldy items. A top-to-bottom cleanup is your best defense, according to the experts.

Many materials are prone to developing mold if they remain damp or wet for too long. Start a post-flood cleanup by sorting all items exposed to floodwaters:

  • Wood and upholstered furniture and other porous materials can trap mold and may need to be discarded.
  • Carpeting presents a problem because drying it does not remove mold spores. Carpets with mold and mildew should be removed.
  • Glass, plastic and metal objects and other items made of hardened or nonporous materials can often be cleaned, disinfected and reused.

All flood-dampened surfaces should be cleaned, disinfected and dried as soon as possible. Follow these tips to ensure a safe and effective cleanup:

  • Open windows for ventilation and wear rubber gloves and eye protection when cleaning. Consider using a mask (rated N-95 or higher) if heavy concentrations of mold are present.
  • Use a non-ammonia soap or detergent to clean all areas and washable items that came in contact with floodwaters.
  • Mix 1.5 cups of household bleach in one gallon of water and thoroughly rinse and disinfect the area. Never mix bleach with ammonia, as the fumes are toxic.
  • Cleaned areas can take several days to dry thoroughly. The use of heat, fans and dehumidifiers can speed up the drying process.
  • Check all odors. Mold often hides in the walls or behind wall coverings. Find all mold sources and clean them properly.
  • Remove and discard all materials that can’t be cleaned like wallboard, fiberglass and other fibrous goods. Clean the wall studs where wallboard has been removed and allow the area to dry thoroughly before replacing the wallboard.

For other tips about post-flooding cleanup, visit www.fema.gov, www.oem.ok.gov, www.epa.gov, or www.cdc.gov.
Image credit The Why Files