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Act Quickly to Beat Mold After a Flood

After Mold Starts Growing

If the power has been off for a few days, mold may have already gotten the upper hand by the time you’re really able to start cleaning. Both the CDC and the EPA recommend bringing in a trained professional to clean up mold that covers more than 100 square feet or a 10-foot-by-10-foot area. Some states require contractors that clean up mold to be licensed. At the minimum, anyone you hire should have experience getting rid of mold, references you can call, and liability insurance.

If you’re cleaning a smaller area, you can wash mold off most hard surfaces with a mixture of detergent and hot water. The EPA doesn’t recommend using chlorine bleach or other biocides -- chemicals that kill living organisms -- to clean up mold unless there are special circumstances, such as a person living in the home who has a weakened immune function.

If you prefer to use bleach to clean up mold, the CDC recommends mixing a solution of no more than one cup of bleach for every gallon of water. And be careful not to mix it with ammonia or cleaners that contain ammonia.

Save or Toss?

The National Center for Healthy Housing recommends tossing the following items if they look or smell moldy or they’ve been underwater:

  • Carpet, carpet padding, and rugs
  • Upholstered furniture
  • Computers, microwaves, window A/C units, or any appliances that have fans that were sitting in moldy rooms
  • Papers and books
  • Food items, including canned foods if they were in contact with flood waters

Items that can usually be cleaned and saved include:

  • Hard, non-porous items like jewelry, china and dishes, glass, porcelain, and metal
  • Wood furniture, even if it’s moldy, as long as it’s in good condition
  • Some electronics and small appliances, depending on flooding conditions
  • Photographs, books, and valuable legal documents with only small levels of mold
  • Artwork, textiles, or clothing that has no physical damage

Keep in mind that undamaged items may need to be stored away from the house while you dry it out.

Clean hard surfaces that have small amounts of mold with detergent and “as little water as possible,” Morley says. “The most important thing is to keep things dry,” she says.

Protective Clothing

Also, if you can see mold growing, you should take precautions to keep from breathing it in. Wear an N95 respirator mask, which can be purchased at hardware stores. You may also want to consider heavy work boots and puncture-resistant gloves to protect your hands and feet from sharp objects if you’re also dealing with debris.


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