One of the most dangerous problems you can face after a flood is mold growth in your home. Mold growth destroys structures and can make you and your family very sick. What’s worse is mold begins growing quickly – often within 24 hours after a flood. The key to avoiding a serious mold issue is to act fast to clean and sanitize items that can be saved and to immediately remove and discard materials and items that cannot be saved. For example, wooden and upholstered furniture is rarely salvageable following a flood and should be discarded as quickly as possible. Carpeting is another item or material that often cannot be dried out or saved. Even if dried thoroughly, carpeting can still harbor mold spores and should be discarded. Here are some tips for cleaning and sanitizing the non-porous items you can save in your home after a flood:
1. First, a word of caution – it’s important to put your safety first before beginning any post-flooding clean-up. Wear gloves, masks and eye protection when cleaning up after a flood. This protects you from bacteria that might have been in the flood water and from coming in contact with cleaning solutions that can cause irritation to the skin or when fumes are breathed in.
2. Open windows for ventilation and begin cleaning efforts as quickly as possible after a flood. Also use fans, heat and dehumidifiers to help remove humidity and moisture from your home while you are cleaning and for several days after until the entire area and all salvaged items are dry.
3. The first step in cleaning after a flood is to use a detergent or soap that does NOT contain ammonia to thoroughly clean all areas and items that had contact with flood water.
4. To rinse and disinfect, use a solution of 1 and 1/2 cups bleach to one gallon of water. Thoroughly rinse away all detergent and use the solution to sanitize any item or space that had any contact with flood water. Note: This step is why it is important to use a non-ammonia cleaner in the previous step. Never mix ammonia and bleach cleaners as they have a chemical reaction that releases toxic fumes.
5. Cleaned areas can take several days to dry using fans, heat and dehumidifiers. Be sure to inspect any odors you detect during this time to look for hidden areas of mold growth.
6. Remove and discard any materials that are porous or cannot be properly cleaned, including drywall, flooring, carpeting, furnishings and non-supporting (non-stud) wood pieces or beams. For supporting wooden wall studs. Disinfect as above and let dry completely and inspect for mold growth before replacing drywall or other structural materials.
It is possible to clean up and avoid mold growth after a flood as long as clean-up begins immediately and materials that cannot be properly cleaned and disinfected are removed and disposed of as fast as possible. Speed and thoroughness are the keys to cleaning up your home after a flood and avoiding dangerous mold.