Beating the mold after flooding

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)-If you live in house recently damaged by flooding, you’re in a race against mold and bacteria, which can grow quickly in damp environments.

Dr. H. James Wedner, Chief of Allergy and Immunology at Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Hospital, says mold is especially dangerous for those of you with allergies or asthma.

He tells us what we need to know to remain healthy.

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.

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.

Save or Toss?
The National Center for Healthy Housing recommends tossing the following items if they look or smell moldy or they`ve been underwater:

• Carpet, carpet padding, and rugs
• Upholstered furniture
• Computers, microwaves, window A/C units, or any appliances that have fans that were sitting in moldy rooms
• Papers and books
• Food items, including canned foods if they were in contact with flood waters
Items that can usually be cleaned and saved include:
• Hard, non-porous items like jewelry, china and dishes, glass, porcelain, and metal
• Wood furniture, even if it`s moldy, as long as it`s in good condition
• Some electronics and small appliances, depending on flooding conditions
• Photographs, books, and valuable legal documents with only small levels of mold
• Artwork, textiles, or clothing that has no physical damage