Water events, especially intense hurricanes, are no stranger to South Floridians. Not only can they dump massive amounts of water in a short amount of time, but they often plague us with flooded communities and homes. If water sits too long or doesn’t dry completely, mold can quickly develop. Therefore, cleaning up after a flood can pose tremendous health risks. You and your family should wait to re-enter your home until professionals tell you it is safe, with no structural, electrical, or other hazards.
Before you start cleanup activities, contact your insurance company and take pictures of the home and your belongings. Remember – drying your home and removing water-damaged items is your most important step for preventing mold damage.
Is There a Problem?
Was your home flooded? If so, and you were not able to dry your home (including furniture and other items) within 24-48 hours, you should assume you have mold growth. You need to completely dry everything, clean up the mold, and make sure you don’t still have a moisture problem.
You may see or smell mold on clothing, drywall, furniture, cardboard boxes, or books, but it may also be hidden under or behind items like carpet, cushions, or walls.
Mold Basics: How Molds Can Affect Your Health
Exposure to mold can lead to asthma attacks, eye and skin irritation, and allergic reactions. It can lead to severe infections in people with weakened immune systems. Avoid contaminated buildings and contaminated water as much as you can. Flood water may have carried sewage or chemicals into your home. This could expose you or your family to viruses, bacteria, disease carriers (such as mosquitos), and parasites, as well as mold. To learn more about cleaning and disinfection visit www.cdc.gov.
You can protect yourself and your family from mold exposure by following these steps.
How to Safely Deal with Mold
Wear personal protective equipment, such as an N-95 respirator at minimum, goggles, and protective gloves
Use portable generators carefully, outside and away from the home, to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning and fires*
Ensure the mold cleanup is complete before reoccupying your home
Before You Enter Any Moldy Site:
Protect yourself and loved ones against hazards:
People with breathing problems like asthma or who have weakened immune systems should stay away from moldy sites
Children should not take part in disaster cleanup work
Check for loose power lines or gas leaks
Make sure the electricity and gas are turned off
Look for sagging ceilings or floors or other structural problems
Watch out for wet, muddy, or slippery floors
Protect your mouth and nose against breathing in mold:
Wear at least an N-95 respirator.
If you plan to spend a lot of time removing moldy belongings or doing work like ripping out moldy drywall, wear a half-face or full-face respirator – basic information on using it is in OSHA’s general respiratory protection guidance
Protect your skin:
Wear protective gloves (non-latex, vinyl, nitrile, or rubber)
Do not touch mold or moldy items with bare hands.
Protect your eyes:
Wear goggles that provide complete eye protection
Choose goggles designed to keep out dust and small particles
Safety glasses or goggles that have open vent holes will not protect you against dust and small particles
After You Leave a Mold Site:
Protect yourself and loved ones. Shower and change your clothes. This will help you avoid carrying mold and other hazards back to your current living quarters
Should I Do This Myself?
This job may be too difficult or dangerous for you. It may be best to get help from experienced and qualified professionals if you can. Hire a mold inspection or remediation professional to inspect, repair, and restore the damaged parts of your home. Your state also may regulate mold remediation.
Sampling for mold is not usually recommended. Understanding the results can be difficult, and no matter what kind of mold is in your home, you need to clean it up and fix the moisture problem.
If I Must Do This Myself, How Can I Do It Safely?
Follow these steps:
Put on the personal protective equipment described above to protect your eyes, nose, mouth, and skin
Remove standing water and wet materials
Use a wet vacuum to remove water from floors, carpets, and hard surfaces
Dry your home and everything in it as quickly as you can – within 24 to 48 hours if you can
Open all doors and windows when you are working and leave as many open as is safe when you leave
Open inside doors, especially closets and interior rooms, to let air flow to all areas – take doors off their hinges if you need to
Open kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanity doors – remove drawers, wipe them clean, and stack them to dry
Open the attic access to let air flow to the attic
When electricity is safe to use, use fans and dehumidifiers to remove moisture
WARNING: Do not use fans if mold has already started to grow, because the fans may spread the mold!
Clean with water and a detergent to remove all mold you can see – dry right away
If you use cleaning products, do not mix cleaning products together
WARNING: DO NOT mix bleach and ammonia because it can create toxic vapors!
Painting or caulking over mold will not prevent mold from growing – fix the water problem completely and clean up all the mold before you paint or caulk
Throw away items that can’t be cleaned and dried, such as anything that was wet with flood water and can’t be cleaned and dried completely within 24 to 48 hours
Am I Done?
If you still see or smell mold, you have more work to do – after remediation, there should be no signs of water damage or mold growth
You may need to ask a mold remediation professional to know whether your mold problem is completely fixed
As noted in the “Should I do this myself?” section, sampling for mold is not usually recommended; instead, a careful inspection of the work area for completion of the cleanup and absence of mold-related odors is usually appropriate
If you have health problems that get worse when you return home, like asthma or allergy attacks or skin or eye irritation, you may still have some mold
*Safety Tips on Using Portable Generators
If you use a portable generator for electricity use CAUTION to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning and fires:
Use portable generators OUTSIDE and at least 20 feet away from buildings
Do not use portable generators inside your house or garage
Do not put portable generators on balconies or near doors, vents, or windows
Do not use portable generators near where you or your children are sleeping
For more information, visit www.osha.gov.
All information provided www.cdc.gov.
This blog was intended to help educate the reader with an easy-to-understand guide to mold cleanup after disasters. The information offered is for general information and educational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any matter and does not create a company-client relationship. Agency and state department information and regulations are subject to change at any time and therefore, the information offered in this article may not reflect the most current information at the time of reading. Environmental Matters Contracting & Consulting, LLC does not take responsibility for any inaccuracy in any information shared on this blog or this website.