How to clean your home after flooding

Wellness
Mold in the corner of a home

If your home has flooded, or is at risk of flooding, due to Hurricane Florence, it’s important you understand the risks associated with mold growth and how to remediate it.
Mold typically begins to develop inside a home within 24-48 hours of water exposure and will continue to grow until steps are taken to eliminate the source of moisture and effectively deal with the mold problem.
Here is guidance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency on the risks of mold and how to address it:

Mold hazards

The potential for mold-related health problems occurs when people inhale large quantities of airborne mold spores. For some people, however, a relatively small number of mold spores can cause health problems. Infants, children, immune-compromised patients, pregnant women, individuals with existing respiratory conditions and seniors are at higher risks for adverse health effects from mold.
Common symptoms reported due to mold exposure include:

  • Respiratory problems such as wheezing and asthma attacks
  • Nasal and sinus congestion or a dry, hacking cough
  • Eye irritation
  • Nose or throat irritation
  • Skin irritation such as rashes or hives
  • Nervous system problems such as headaches, memory loss and mood changes
  • Aches and pains

Before cleanup begins

  • Turn off the main electrical power at the circuit breaker box if the building’s wiring is wet or moldy. Have an electrician check the house’s electrical system before turning power on again.
  • Open the house to fresh air when the humidity is lower outside than inside. Use fans and dehumidifiers to remove excess moisture unless mold has already started to grow (fans may spread existing mold).
  • Use the furnace or air conditioning only if the ducts and equipment have not been inundated (any forced-air central heating ducts that have come in contact with water or mold should be professionally checked).
  • Remove all wet items such as furniture, rugs, bedding, toys and carpeting. Discard soaked or moldy carpeting. Discard all possibly contaminated food products – anything not in a watertight container.
  • Interior walls and ceilings: Remove all wet or contaminated porous materials such as ceiling tiles, drywall and wood byproducts. If wallboard is soaked, remove to a foot above the water mark and discard.
  • Drain walls by removing baseboard and drilling holes near floor. Dry panel-type wall material by pulling the bottom edge out from studs.
  • Check interior of the wall for hidden mold. Remove all wet insulation. Discard all but rigid insulation, which can be reinstalled after disinfecting and drying.

Take safety precautions

  • Make sure the working area is well ventilated.
  • Wear gloves, a mask and protect your eyes.
  • If mold is present, clean a small test patch. If you feel your health is adversely affected, consider hiring a professional to carry out the work.
  • Disinfectants are intended to be applied to already cleaned materials.
  • Exercise caution in cleaning and disinfecting molds because they release mold spores when disturbed.
  • Never mix bleach with ammonia; fumes from the combination are toxic.
  • When discarding items that are contaminated by mold, use extreme caution or hire a professional.

Cleaning hard surfaces

  • Wash items such as metal, glass, solid wood, plastic and other non-porous materials with a non-ammonia detergent and hot water. Use a stiff brush on rough surface materials such as concrete. Use a wet-dry shop vacuum to remove water and clean items such as studs or exposed wood framing.
  • Disinfect all cleaned surfaces with a 10 percent bleach solution. Let the solution stay on the surface for at least 10 minutes before rinsing with clean water or allowing to dry.

Cleaning porous materials

  • This includes upholstered furniture, rugs, bedding, clothing, curtains, books and papers and furniture made of pressed particle materials.
  • If an item has been wet for less than 48 hours, it may be able to be cleaned, disinfected with a phenolic or pine oil cleaner. It should then be completely dried and monitored for several days for any fungal growth and odors– if any mold develops, discard the item. If in doubt, throw it out.
  • Allow the wet or contaminated area to dry completely (usually two to three days) before beginning to rebuild, replace or return items.
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