Almost all modern homes contain a great deal of cellulose (such as drywall, insulation, wallpaper, furniture and carpeting) that can become dangerously moldy very quickly when water intrusions occur. While flooding is the most dramatic example of this problem, other water events (such as pipe leaks, roof leaks, drainage backups or even a bathtub overflow) can result in the growth of equally problematic mold.
Here is a list from the momsAWARE website of basic principles to follow when water events occur. Additional reliable information about this topic can be found at the links below.
10 Guidelines for Safe Cleanup of Water Intrusion
- Understand that time is crucial. Mold grows within 24-48 hours.
- Record details of damage with photographs or videos.
- Prepare for difficult decisions. Border on the side of caution.
- Keep children and pets away from flooded areas. Those entering the site should wear protective gear such as N95 respirator mask, gloves, and goggles.
- Recognize mold. Look for discolored walls or ceilings. Check for foul or musty odors.
- Dry out the building. Open doors and windows when possible. Use fans. See the CDC’s fact sheet Reentering Your Flooded Home.
- When in doubt, take it out! Discard porous items that cannot be thoroughly submerged in water and then dried.
- Pay close attention to and be prepared to discard the following: carpeting and carpet padding, upholstery, wallpaper, mattresses, clothing, paper, wood, and food.
- Discard contaminated building materials including drywall, insulation, wood flooring. (Note: If the presence of asbestos is suspected, contact the city or a professional for instructions on how to handle it.)
- Thoroughly clean all hard surfaces with hot water and soap. There are varied opinions regarding the use of bleach. All agree that bleach must never be combined with ammonia as toxic fumes will be released. It is important to note that while bleach does kill bacteria and viruses, it does not kill mold; it merely takes away the color. Other cleaning agents include white vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, borax, tea tree oil, and liquid detergents.
Pictured above: Homes in New Jersey during the flooding associated with Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
Global Indoor Health Network
This is an easily comprehensible five-minute video providing an overview of what to do after a flood. For more information about the not-for-profit organization Global Indoor Health Network, visit their website.
A brief article called “What’s the Story with Mold” from December 2012 summarizing the science of why and how mold becomes a problem in areas that have been flooded. This site, developed by a team of science communications professionals from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, presents “The Science Behind the News.” It is supported by the National Institute for Science Education and the National Science Foundation. (Photo: New Orleans homes were affected by both flooding and roof damage in the wake of Hurricane Katrina during 2005.)
This website focuses on “living healthy in a toxic world,” including a wide range of information on toxic mold issues. The flood recovery section of the website includes a series of short videos and a radio interview with a remediator. (Photo: Flooding in Boulder, Colorado, in September 2013.)
Pennsylvania remediator May Dooley created this website with hurricane mold cleanup information in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in late 2012. (Photo: New York City cabs during the 2012 Hurricane Sandy flooding.)
Mike Holmes is a Canadian residential contractor and popular home improvement TV show host. Subsequent to flooding in Alberta in Summer 2013, he spoke out on a number of occasions about the importance of handling remediation of water intrusions carefully in order to prevent mold growth.