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Act Quickly to Beat Mold After a Flood

Getting Started

  • Start hauling wet things, especially plush items like pillows, upholstered furniture, or curtains out of the house to a place like the garage or the driveway where they can dry. “They are going to be the more challenging things to salvage,” Morley says.
  • Use a shop vac or wet vac to suck water out of soggy carpets.
  • Fans can help get air moving in enclosed spaces, but they may not be enough.
  • Consider renting or buying a dehumidifier to keep moisture levels low in the air in rooms you’re trying to dry. Basements and big areas may require larger, commercial-sized machines. “You want to get as much air movement as possible over the wet areas,” says Arthur Lau, a certified microbial investigator for Microecologies, a national restoration and cleanup company.
  • Remove baseboards and moldings from flooded walls, especially if the walls are made of sheetrock. “Baseboards really prevent the lower few inches of wet walls from drying out, no matter how much air you put on it,” Lau says.
  • Cut small openings along the bases of walls to let air into the wall to dry the back as well as the front of the sheetrock. “The paper covering on sheetrock is on the front and back sides. So you may see nothing on the room-side surface, but you don’t know what’s happening on the backside,” Lau says.


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.

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