Natural disasters like tornadoes, floods and hurricanes aren’t just damaging at their outset – they also leave behind excess moisture as well as standing water which promotes the growth of mildew and mold in people’s homes as well as other buildings. When re-entering the house after the flood has passed, be alert about the possibility of a mold infestation which could pose a serious health hazard for you and your family.
The following individuals should be especially careful when returning to a flooded house since they are most susceptible to mold related diseases:
- Those who have allergies or asthma or other breathing disorders can be prone to mold diseases.
- Those who have immune suppression e.g. people with HIV infection, cancer patients on chemo, those who have just had an organ transplanted, are also more at risk of a mold infection.
If you have any of these issues, consider consulting with a mold removal company to better find out what mold can do to your home and your health and the steps necessary to reduce your risk.
Potential effects that exposure to mold might have on health:
Those who are sensitive to mold infestations may suffer from irritated eyes, stuffy nose, skin irritation or wheezing. Those who are allergic to it may experience trouble in breathing as well as short breath. Those who have a weakened immune system as well as suffer from chronic lung conditions e.g. obstructive lung disease, might even get a mold infection in their lungs. Should you or anyone in your family be suffering from any health problems after being exposed to mold, seek medical advice at once.
How to identify mold:
There are two ways by which you can detect the presence of mold in your home after a flood:
- Sight: The walls/ceiling will be discoloured, with tell-tale signs of water damage and/or a black/dark green fungus growth.
- Smell: A bad odour, typically an earthy, must smell are characteristic of mold infestations.
- Hiring a professional mold inspection service to identify areas that you may not even think of.
How to safely prevent mold growth:
Begin by cleaning up and drying your house as quickly as possible (within a couple of days of coming back). Keep the windows and doors open and use fans to speed up the drying process.
- Take out all porous belongings which have been wet for over two days and can’t be cleaned and dried properly. These items will continue to be ideal habitats for mold and therefore should not be in the house. Items that non-cleanable and porous are carpet padding and carpeting, wallpaper, floor/ceiling tiles, drywall, upholstery, leather, wood, paper, food, certain types of clothing and insulation material. Removal / cleaning are an essential part of damage control since mold can trigger allergies in certain people even after it is dead.
- To make sure that mold doesn’t grow any further, clean up wet surfaces and items using water and detergent.
- You may also want to store items outside of your home for a while until you’ve filed insurance claims.
- The US EPA provides excellent resources on disinfection procedures for mold infestations, refer to them for detailed instructions if the mold growth is extensive.
If there is a confirmed mold infestation in your house, cleaning it up and fixing the water problem should be your top priority. Keeping a check on the moisture sources in your home is the most crucial factor in preventing mold from infesting your house.
Check out this article to find out more about how you can prevent mold growth in your home.
In order to remove the mold from hard surfaces, commercial products, bleach solution or plain water and soap can be used. Note that the bleach solution should be in the ratio of 1 cup bleach to 1 gallon water. A stiff brush can be used on rough surfaces such as concrete.
Here are some guidelines for those who opt for bleach:
- Bleach should not be mixed with ammonia or other household cleaning products since this may lead to the production of toxic, harmful fumes.
- Keep the doors and windows open for better ventilation.
- Wear protective eyewear and non-porous gloves while disinfecting.
- Consult the EPA’s guide on Mold Remediation in Commercial Buildings and Schools if the building to clean covers more than 10 sq. ft.
If you are looking for a different technique to clean your home, check out our article on steam cleaning.
If it is your intention to remain within the building and do the cleaning on your own, an N95 mask, available from any local home supplies store, is a recommended investment. Wear it at all times when cleaning the mold. Be sure to follow the instructions on the mask’s packaging in order to fit it securely on your face.