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Soaked by Sandy? Here's how to prevent a mold outbreak

Soaked by Sandy? Here’s how to prevent a mold outbreak

Storm Sandy is retreating but leaves behind a threat that can ruin home furnishings and pose problems for residents with allergies, asthma and compromised immune systems. Mold. To keep it in check, homeowners should attack the problem within 24 to 48 hours following advice from federal safety experts.

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that homeowners clean up minor mold outbreaks with a little elbow grease and a mixture of water and detergent but the agency doesn’t rule out the use of bleach or other biocides for larger problems. People whose homes have been soaked or affected by dirty water will likely need help from a professional mold remediation service, especially if their heating and cooling system has been submerged. Here are some tips from the EPA, Centers for Disease Control and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

  • Clean up and dry out the building quickly. Open doors and windows and use fans and dehumidifiers.
  • Remove all porous items that have been wet for more than 48 hours and that cannot be thoroughly cleaned and dried. These items can remain a source of mold growth.
  • Porous, non-cleanable items include carpeting and carpet padding, upholstery, wallpaper, drywall, ceiling tiles, insulation material, some clothing, leather, paper, some wood and wood products, and food. Removal and cleaning are important because even dead mold can cause allergic reactions.
  • Clean wet items and surfaces with detergent and water to prevent mold growth.
  • Temporarily store damaged or discarded items outside the home or building until insurance claims can be processed.
  • For mold that’s caused by flood waters, use a mixture of ½ cup of bleach mixed into a gallon of water.

If you’re attempting this task at home, the EPA recommends that wear the right gear. While you don’t have to wear a complete hazmat suit you should cover your eyes, nose and hands when attempting mold remediation. Here’s how to limit your exposure to mold and mold spores:

Wear a respirator. Use an N-95 respirator, available at many hardware stores and online. (They cost about $12 to $25.) Some N-95 respirators resemble a paper dust mask with a nozzle on the front, others are made primarily of plastic or rubber and have removable cartridges that trap most of the mold spores from entering. In order to be effective, the respirator or mask must fit properly, so carefully follow the instructions that come with it.
Wear goggles. To avoid getting mold or mold spores in your eyes, wear goggles that do not have ventilation holes.
Wear gloves. Long gloves that extend to the middle of the forearm are recommended. When working with water and a mild detergent, you can use ordinary household rubber gloves. If you are using a disinfectant, a biocide such as chlorine bleach, or a strong cleaning solution, you should select gloves made from natural rubber, neoprene, nitrile, polyurethane, or PVC. Avoid touching mold or moldy items with your bare hands.

When you’re done, there should be no visible mold and no moldy odors although there may be some collateral staining and cosmetic damage. For more information on mold remediation and removal read, A perfect storm for mold. If your basement is typically damp, use a dehumidifier to keep the moisture content down. And here’s a bit on good news, you might find closeout deals on dehumidifiers at your home improvement store.

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