The effects of natural disasters can stay with us for a long time. However, not all these effects need to stick around. Here's what to to do to deal with the occurrence of mold after flooding.
A huge flood can wreak havoc on your home.
When flood waters recede, our problems unfortunately don't recede with them. Sure, our homes won't be underwater anymore, and things can finally start going back to normal. However, mold and mold exposure are very real problems that floods usually leave behind for us to deal with. It can cause health problems such as immunological reactions, allergies, and asthma.
Dampness facilitates the growth of mold, which is a fungi. Floods aren't the only things that can cause mold to grow in our homes—structural problems that cause leaks can also allow mold to grow within our walls. Whatever the cause of the mold, however, what's important is that we need to deal with the problem as soon as we can.
Mold grows in a house due to Hurricane Katrina flooding [Photo by Alex Brandon / AP]
Before you enter your home after a flood, be sure to check if the building is structurally stable. If the flooding damage is severe, it may be best to have your home inspected before you go inside.
According to the National Center for Healthy Housing, areas less than 10 square feet large can be cleaned by homeowners and renters themselves. However, professionals are better for dealing with larger areas. If you'll be doing the cleaning yourself, use a P95 or P100 respirator, which is capable of protecting you from 99% of all particulates. It's also best if you wear “work” clothes when you go into the cleaning area, as long as you take them off once you get out.
Once the flood waters recede, dry the damp areas in the house. Mold begins growing on areas that have been damp for over two days. The longer you leave the dampness and the mold alone, the more the mold will spread. If mold has begun to grow, avoid using fans, because the wind can help the mold spores spread throughout the house.
A homeowner strips baseboards to stem the growth of black mold. [Photo by Elliot C. McLaughlin / CNN]
One effective way to get rid of mold after flooding is to use bleach on affected areas. However, bleach is only effective on certain kinds of materials, such as tile and porcelain, which are non-porous. Bleach won't be able to kill mold on wood and porous materials. In fact, applying bleach on these areas may make the problem worse.
If you do use bleach on non-porous surfaces, use the bleach with care. A good bleach-to-water ratio is a cup of bleach to a gallon of water, and it's best to open doors and windows when you use the mixture. Make sure to avoid using bleach with ammonia, because this mixture will cause toxic fumes.
A woman rids her house of debris after a flood. [Photo by Brett Coomer]
Floods can be devastating, and we can lose a lot of our possessions to flood waters. While trying to save the belongings we still have can be a good idea, some items may be beyond saving. A good rule of thumb to follow is to get rid of items that absorb water easily and dry slowly. These items, like pillows, mattresses, and stuffed toys, may harbor mold and are best thrown away. Wet ceiling tiles should also be replaced, as well as other parts of your home that retain dampness. However, if you live in an older home, it may have asbestos or lead paint.
You may need to keep repeatedly drying and cleaning areas in your home affected by mold after flooding. The process may be long and difficult, but it's worth it considering that you'll be protecting your and your family's health.
Get weekly science updates in your inbox!