As floodwaters from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee recede, you may find yourself dealing with water damage in your home. Not only is water damage annoying because of how things get destroyed, but it is also risky because of the potential for mold growth.
"Damp conditions from flooding create the perfect breeding grounds for mold to grow, which can happen as soon as two days after flooding occurs," says Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Eli Avila. "It's important that you dry out your home as quickly as possible to avoid costly repairs and health issues in the future."
Since my basement gets water whenever it rains, I've got a dehumidifier going down there 24/7. Because of the potential for water in the basement, we haven't finished our basement with anything. It is simply concrete walls and floors. No drywall, no carpeting, no nothing. So when my basement flooded during Irene and again during Lee, I didn't have much to lose. And the humidifier keeps humming along.
Normally, in most instances, mold isn't a problem. Mold exists in our everyday life. But after flooding, mold can grown fast. Then, if airborne mold spores are present in large numbers, they can cause allergic reactions, asthma episodes, infections, and other respiratory problems.
For example, years ago we were considering buying a house that we'd heard had a water problem. As soon as we walked down into the finished basement, my eyes began to burn and I started having trouble breathing. (I'm asthmatic.) A future inspection later revealed that this home's basement had two different kinds of mold present in it—including one of the toxic black molds found in homes after Hurricane Katrina.
Because you never know who might become sensitive to mold, it's a good idea to make sure you rid your home of it after a flood or water damage. Here are some tips for cleaning mold:
- Dispose of anything you think might have moldy residue on it. This includes rags, paper, leaves, or debris that got wet.
- Discard any porous materials that can trap mold. Items such as paper, rags, wallboard, ceiling tiles, sheetrock, carpeting, and rotten wood should be thrown out.
- Wear protective gloves, such as rubber dishwashing gloves, when working with moldy materials.
- Throw out wet carpeting. Drying does not remove the dead mold spores from once-wet carpet.
- Remove sheetrock to at least 12 inches above the high water mark. Allow the area to dry for two or three days before replacing damaged materials.
- Scrub the entire affected area. Use a stiff brush or cleaning pad, then rinse with clean water. A good disinfectant when dealing with mold is a solution of no more than one cup of bleach in one gallon of water. Never mix bleach with ammonia–the fumes are toxic.
- Allow areas you are disinfecting to dry naturally overnight to kill all molds. Wait until everything is completely dry before putting items back in the once-wet area.