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Mold in a damaged home can create serious health problems for residents following severe storms and flooding FEMA officials warn
Mold flourishes in moist environments in water-damaged homes. It often appears as a fuzzy growth or a discoloration of surfaces, and may be accompanied by a musty, earthy odor or a foul stench. Residents are advised to use care when cleaning up the mold. If there are signs of mold growth in your home before you do anything about it you must decide who is best equipped to do the clean-up. This depends on a number of factors.
One consideration is the size of the mold problem. If the moldy area is less than about 10 square feet (roughly, less than a 3 ft. by 3 ft. patch), in most cases, you can handle the job yourself, following the guidelines below. If there has been a lot of water damage, and/or mold growth covers more than 10 square feet you may want to consult with a professional cleaning service.
Learn how to prepare before clean-up and repair.
- If you choose to hire a contractor (or other professional service provider) to do the cleanup, make sure the contractor has experience cleaning up mold. Check references and ask the contractor to follow the recommendations in EPA's Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings, the guidelines of the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), or other guidelines from professional or government organizations.
- If you suspect that the heating/ventilation/air conditioning (HVAC) system may be contaminated with mold (it is part of an identified moisture problem, for instance, or there is mold near the intake to the system), consult EPA's guide, Should You Have the Air Ducts in Your Home Cleaned? before taking further action. Do not run the HVAC system if you know or suspect that it is contaminated with mold - it could spread mold throughout the building.
- If the water and/or mold damage was caused by sewage or other contaminated water, then call in a professional who has experience cleaning and fixing buildings damaged by contaminated water. To access lists of consultants, laboratories, remediation firms and trade groups who provide various environmentally-related services click here.
- If you have health concerns, consult a health professional before starting cleanup.
HAZARDS OF MOLD INFESTATION
Do not spend time in houses with mold. Nasal stuffiness, throat irritation, coughing or wheezing, eye irritation, or, in some cases, skin irritation may occur.
People with mold allergies may have more severe reactions. Immune-compromised people and people with chronic lung illnesses, such as obstructive lung disease, may get serious infections in their lungs when they are exposed to mold. These people should stay away from areas that are likely to have mold.
TIPS AND TECHNIQUES TO REMOVE MOLD
The tips and techniques presented in this section will help you clean up your mold problem. Professional cleaners or remediators may use methods not covered on this page. Please note that mold may cause staining and cosmetic damage. It may not be possible to clean an item so that its original appearance is restored.
Before you begin
Use fans at open windows or doors to dry a flooded residence, but be sure they blow outward, not inward, to avoid spreading the mold. Accelerate the drying process by using a dehumidifier to extract moisture from the air and the contents of your home. Do not use an air conditioning system until it has been checked by a professional. Using a system contaminated by mold will spread the mold throughout the house. Instead, open windows and doors to provide fresh air.
Discard porous materials such as carpet, mattresses, upholstered furniture insulation and ceiling tiles which are infected by mold. Wallboard, drywall and particle board are also porous and should be discarded. Workers should wear masks, protective eyewear and non-porous gloves while handling anything that is suspected of containing mold.
Immediate actions you can take to remove mold:
- Clean the area to remove, as much as possible, the mold and the material on which it is growing
- Clean with a non-ammonia detergent in hot water
- Scrub the entire area affected by the moisture
- Use a stiff brush or cleaning pad on block walls or uneven surfaces
- Rinse the area with clean water
- Thoroughly dry the area as quickly as possible
- Repeat cleaning as necessary to remove mold
- Disinfect with a 10% bleach solution (1 cup of bleach to 1 gallon of water), by applying a thin coat of bleach solution to the entire area, ensuring that the entire area is cleaned, not just the area where the moisture problem occurred. Use a sprayer or a sponge to apply the solution liberally, but avoid excessive amounts of runoff or standing pools
- Allow the area to dry naturally. Drying time is important for the disinfectant to be effective at killing mold and bacteria
- Never mix bleach and ammonia. The fumes are toxic!
- Do not paint or caulk moldy surfaces. Clean up the mold and dry the surfaces before painting. Paint applied over moldy surfaces is likely to peel.
- If you are unsure about how to clean an item, or if the item is expensive or of sentimental value, you may wish to consult a specialist. Specialists in furniture repair, restoration, painting, art restoration and conservation, carpet and rug cleaning, water damage, and fire or water restoration are commonly listed in phone books. Be sure to ask for and check references. Look for specialists who are affiliated with professional organizations.
Learn more about mold clean-up, and prevention here.
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Page last modified on 2.18.13