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After the Water -- Mold

Environmental Health

If you were unlucky and had a basement full of water during the recent heavy storms, you may have an ideal habitat for mold to grow.  Mold needs water to survive and begins to grow when spores land on a wet or damp surface.  While molds are part of the natural environment and are everywhere, they have the potential to cause health problems such as an allergic reaction or aggravation of asthma symptoms when they begin to grow indoors.  So if your basement was flooded, it is very important to dry it out as fast as possible and monitor for mold growth. 

To reduce the opportunity for mold growth, you can:

  • Completely dry affected areas but do not rely on evaporation alone.  Use a dehumidifier and provide good air circulation for fast, adequate drying. 
  • Carpets, furniture, drywall, and anything absorbent that got wet should be discarded.  (Hopefully these first two steps have already been completed.)
  • Make sure the moisture problem is eliminated and repair any cracks in the basement walls.
  • Regularly clean and empty the drip pans in the dehumidifier.
  • Be sure your home has adequate ventilation.
  • Clean hard surfaces with detergent and water to prevent mold.  Bleach is used for mold removal.

If you have already noticed some mold growing and have eliminated the source of moisture, you can begin the cleaning efforts.  However, if the mold covers a large area, you may want to consider professional mold removal.  If it is a small area and you are tackling the job yourself, you can:

  • Be sure to control any dust associated with clean-up.  You don't want mold spores to spread over a wider area and begin to grow.
  • Open windows and doors to ventilate.
  • Wear non-porous gloves and protective eye wear.
  • Use a solution of one cup of bleach to one gallon of water to remove visible mold from hard surfaces.  Use a stiff brush on rough surfaces such as concrete.  Leave bleach solution on affected area for 15 minutes before rinsing.  Do NOT mix bleach with ammonia or other cleaning products as this may produce a toxic vapor.
  • Discard food contaminated by flood water.  Undamaged cans can be washed in a bleach solution of one cup bleach to five gallons water and relabeled with a marker.

Additional information on mold and its removal is available at the following websites:

http://dhfs.wisconsin.gov/eh/mold          http://www.epa.gov/mold/moldresources.html          http://www.epa.gov/mold/flood/index.html

http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/floods          http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/mold/protect.asp     

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