Hurricanes, Rain, and Mold
What happens to a city when a storm system dumps an entire year’s worth of rain in just 3 days? In late August of 2017, Hurricane Harvey devastated the city of Houston, Tx and surrounding areas. The storm left 33 trillion gallons of water on U.S. soil before finally weakening. As you can imagine, the flooding experienced in Houston was intense. Many lives were lost. Homes were ripped apart, bridges collapsed and dams gave way. Even though the hurricane is now in the rear-view mirror, the health catastrophe continues to unfold in slow motion. While the focus of the news was on the shear amount of rainfall in the city (upwards of 50 inches in some locations), mold will be an issue for months and potentially years to come.
So, the question remains: after the wrath of a big storm has passed, what should a homeowner or renter do to keep mold from growing in their homes? Here are the essential steps to consider after your home has been flooded.
Proceed with Caution
After being displaced from your home, most people instinctually want to get back to their house as soon as possible. You are curious about the damage and want to get back to a normal life as soon as possible. However, if the situation was dire enough to leave your house, you should return with caution. The home could have been structurally damaged, the electricity and water may not work properly and seeing your damaged home may be emotionally overwhelming. And mold may already have started growing.
The best option is to hire a professional to perform the cleanup and restoration. Not only is this the best way to keep your house and family safe, but you will have the peace of mind that comes with knowing there will be no mold left behind. If you choose to perform some or all of the cleanup yourself, the steps below may help you determine what needs to be done.
Remove the Flood Water
If you go back into your home after a flood, there may still be water present. This water needs to be removed so that the cleanup process can begin. You can use buckets and mops, or you may need to use pumps if the water is excessive. Depending on the situation, you may end up with a bunch of debris in your home as well which also needs to be removed.
Always remember to wash your hands and any body part that comes into contact with potentially contaminated flood water.
If in doubt, take it out. Perhaps the most critical step in disaster recovery from a mold perspective is to remove all porous items in your home that cannot be completely cleaned and dried. Mold grows very quickly so the quicker you remove wet items, the better. This includes drywall, carpet, some types of hard flooring, furniture, insulation, clothing, leather, wood and any other porous materials. If you are unsure whether or not an item is susceptible to mold growth, err on the side of caution. After all, no item is worth the cost of your health.
Many homeowners are cautious about touching a flooded home before an insurance adjuster makes a visit. Waiting more than 24 hours could allow mold to take hold, and you should start as soon as possible. Take digital pictures and document everything you remove for insurance purposes before you start the cleanup process. The insurance adjuster can easily see the items removed from outside as well as from your pictures.
Dry it Out
After all the wet contents from your home have been removed to the extent possible, the next step is to dry your house. The quicker your home dries out, the less opportunity mold will have to take hold and grow. Drying a home can be accomplished with fans, dehumidifiers or a combination of the two.
- Crank down your air conditioner if it still works properly. Your air conditioner will act as a dehumidifier for your home.
- Turn on all ceiling fans to the highest setting.
- Place large floor fans in every room. Periodically rotate the fans to ensure full coverage.
- Purchase or borrow dehumidifier units and run them 24 hours a day for at least a week. If you have found a contractor to work on your home, they typically will be able to rent dehumidifiers and fans to you for a daily charge.
- Physically dry out any standing water that has accumulated on the floors or items remaining in the home.
Clean and Sanitize
Once the surfaces in your home have dried, you can start the essential process of cleaning and sanitizing. There are a number of antifungal and mold killer solutions available for purchase. Every surface in your home needs to be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized including walls, floors, shelves, closets and any items that were not thrown away.
Hard surface items that didn’t absorb any water are generally safe once properly cleaned. You can wipe them down with a proper cleaning solution, hose them down outside or soak them in a bath of diluted cleaner. After cleaning, it is critical to let all of the items dry completely before bringing them back into the house.
How to Clean Mold
If your home remained wet for longer than 24-48 hours, mold may have already started to grow. If you see signs of mold in your home, the best way to stop the growth is to contain it before it spreads to more areas of your home. If you are wondering how to clean mold, the best possible solution is to hire a professional mold removal service. There are also mold killer solutions that you can purchase. If you choose to remove the mold yourself, ensure the cleaning solution is a designated mold killer.
The mold remediation process shouldn’t begin until the home has been cleaned and dried. If mold is present in your home, resist the urge to move back in.
If you have been through a hurricane or a major flood, mold may understandably be the last thing on your mind. But after the dust has settled and your family is safe, it is a topic that you must remember to address. When flood water enters your home, mold can begin to grow almost right away. Take the proper steps to clean, dry and prevent mold in your home after a flood and ensure the continued safety of your family.