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8 tips for mould prevention after a flood

Mold can be a big indoor air quality problem after a flood. Here are 8 tips for preventing mold from growing after a flood.

A catastrophic storm slammed into the US state of Louisiana in early 2016 Louisiana in early 2016, dumping up to 80 cm of rain in less than 15 hours. By the time the storm ended, Louisiana had been drenched with 25 trillion liters of water – more water than landed on the state during Hurricane Katrina. As many as 60,000 homes were damaged by the storm and 13 people were killed.

For the residents of homes damaged by the rainfall, the effects of the storm prevailed long after the rainfall ended. Tens of thousands of southern Louisiana residents were forced to either vacate or live in homes that were seriously damaged by flooding. For them, mould and mildew were a constant threat.

With precipitation intensity and total rainfall likely to continue increasing, it’s important to know what to do for optimal mould prevention after a flood.

Mould prevention: the first 24-36 hours are critical

Mould and bacteria quickly thrive and spread in damp environments. Mould feeds on water. And bacteria spreads quickly if a flooded home was soaked by sewage, as often happens.  

Cleaning up quickly after a flood is essential for keeping a home safe and healthy, especially for those living with asthma and allergies. Mould and mildew can start growing within just 24-36 hours after a flood. And often it lurks in the areas easily forgotten about, such as the attic, basement, and crawlspaces.

It’s critical to stop any additional water intrusion before cleanup efforts begin. A thorough, top-to-bottom cleaning follows.

Eight tips to prevent mould

Here are eight tips that can help with the cleanup efforts.

  1. Get started quickly. Mould and mildew begin growing right away, so begin the cleanup process as soon as possible.

  2. Ventilation will help. Clean and dry out the home as soon as possible. Open windows for ventilation. Fans and dehumidifiers may also help.

  3. Wear a mask. Protect yourself when cleaning by wearing rubber gloves, eye protection, and a mask. Masks rated N-95 or higher are best for situations in which mould is present.

  4. Use the right cleaning solution. Mix 350 ml of household bleach with 4 liters of water to wash and disinfect areas. Never mix bleach and ammonia. The fumes are toxic.

  5. Consider removing carpets. Carpets will likely have to be removed completely. Even if they dry out, that doesn’t mean that the mould spores have gone away.

  6. If you can’t clean it, remove it. Remove porous materials such as wallboard, fiberglass and cellulose areas because they can’t be cleaned.

  7. Wear an air pollution mask when pollutants are unavoidable. Use a KN95-certified pollution protection mask, such as the IQAir Mask, to protect yourself from inhaling mold spores or other airborne pollutants. A KN95 or NIOSH N95-compliant mask can prevent up to 95% of particle pollutants from entering your airways. 

  8. Use an air cleaner. A high-performance air purifier for mould spores can help clean the air, even as work progresses. For example, the IQAir HealthPro 250 can dramatically reduce airborne particulates including mould, and can also reduce or eliminate any musty odors.

  9. Know when to call the pros. This is especially true if damage was caused by sewage or contaminated water, or if mould is already extensive. Make sure any contractor has experience cleaning mould and is following EPA mould remediation guidelines.

One of the most difficult parts of the mould-cleanup process might not be the physical labor, but the emotional toll of having to throw out favorite chairs, toys or family heirlooms. If there is a chance these items might be contaminated, though, it’s best to let them go. By acting quickly and taking the right steps to control mould after a flood, your home and your indoor air quality will soon be safe and healthy again. For more information, visit www.epa.gov/mold.

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