How to Prevent Mold After Water Damage
Water damage from flooding or other sources can cause extensive destruction to homes and businesses. To add insult to injury, another serious problem can arise after the initial problem, due to the moisture itself: the growth of mold.
Many people don’t realize that mold can occur from something as simple as leaks in plumbing, rain water from the roof, damp basements or crawl spaces, or even events as seemingly benign as overflowing bathtub or shower water.
As little as a gallon of water can produce lasting effects.
With so many sources of water damage and potential mold, most people will experience one or the other at some point. To make matters worse, mold happens very quickly: it can grow from mildew within about 24-48 hours after water damage initially occurs.
Mold after water damage begins to form as mildew in colonies that appears on wood, ceiling tiles, pieces of cardboard, wallpaper fabric, carpeting, pieces of drywall, and even insulation. It can develop just about anywhere in your home where excess moisture is present for an extended period of time.
As you may already know, mold is a very dangerous substance that can result in significant human health problems, and certain people are at an even higher risk due to exposure.
“Some molds are a health risk to people with immune problems such as HIV infection, cancer patients taking chemotherapy and people who have received organ transplants,” writes the Alabama Department of Public Health. “People with asthma, allergies, or other breathing conditions may be more sensitive to mold.”
The best action plan when your home or office has experienced flooding of some kind is to figure out how to prevent mold as a result of water damage from occurring in the first place.
Solve your water damage emergency the right way by following the steps outlined below.
3 Simple Steps to Prevent Mold Growth After Water Damage
If you have recently experienced water damage in your home or place of work, then before the mildew and mold process even begins you’ll need to act quickly to prevent mold from growing in the affected area.
Luckily, three simple steps exist for people to stop mildew and mold growth in its tracks: dry, clean/disinfect, and remediate. We’ll walk through each of these three steps below to make sure you know exactly how to proceed in your own home or business.
Step #1 — Dry
When you hear us recommend “drying” the affected area, it probably sounds like a relatively straightforward process such as when you spill water or soda on the kitchen floor.
However, when it comes to serious water damage, you’ll need more than a few paper towels to fix the problem.
According to the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in addition to drying, you’ll also likely need to discard any “soaked or moldy carpeting” and “all possibly contaminated food products”.
Depending on the nature of your damage, there’s a chance that discarding the damaged materials will do much of the “drying” necessary.
That being said, remember that mold can grow just about anywhere that excess moisture sits unattended. Because of this and the severity of flooding itself, there are a number of tools that you’ll need on hand to ensure that you dry the water-damaged area as completely and thoroughly as possible.
- Towels — Use multiple towels to mop up all of the excessive water off the floor, walls, or other surfaces.
- Fan(s) — To kickstart the drying process, have at least one large fan directed at the affected area. The more fans you have, the better. NOTE: Please do not plug fans into sockets near water or that may have been affected by water damage. This can result in potentially serious bodily harm.
- Wet/dry vacuum — Most renters or homeowners don’t have one of these lying around. But, if you’re lucky enough to have quick access to a wet/dry vacuum, they can be an immense help after flooding and water damage.
- Dehumidifier — After you’ve mopped and dried up the water as much as possible, set up a dehumidifier in or near the affected rooms. This will wick even more moisture from the air and more difficult to reach areas.
Step #2 — Clean/Disinfect
Once you’ve completed the first step of drying out the area as much as you can, it’s time to clean.
Truth be told, anything that has come into contact with unclean water ought to be sanitized. With soap and water, make sure to scrub and clean every hard-surfaced wall and floor, as well as any other nearby surfaces that have been affected by flood water.
- Disinfectant (with 10% bleach)
- Non-ammonia detergent
- Phenolic or pine-oil cleaner
- Hot water
Now that you’ve dried the area, you can go about cleaning and disinfecting. The “clean and dry” approach further prevents mildew and mold from having the opportunity to grow.
Before you begin, remove any furniture from wet surfaces and play it safe by wearing a mask and gloves during cleaning. This creates extra space in the room, prevents you from breathing in harmful substances, and protects your skin from disinfectant solutions and abrasive materials.
FEMA recommends washing all non-porous items (wood, glass, metal, plastic, etc.) with hot water and a non-ammonia detergent. If the materials are especially hard and rough (like concrete), use a scrub brush instead of a towel.
Once an area or surface is clean, go ahead and disinfect it with a 10% bleach solution. Allow the bleach solution to remain in place for at least 10 minutes. Finally, you can rinse the cleaned/disinfected area with plain, clear water and allow it to dry.
For porous materials (pretty much anything made of fabric, textiles, or paper), you have a decision to make. On the one hand, you can attempt to dry it out and disinfect with a phenolic or pine-oil cleaner; that said, if it’s very badly damaged, you may simply have to throw the item out and replace it completely.
FEMA maintains that these items “should then be completely dried and monitored…for any fungal growth and odors — if any mold develops, discard the item.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention goes further to recommend that this happen within 48 hours of the water damage event.
Step #3 — Remediate
If you’ve got more than just an inch or so of standing water, the tools and steps outlined above may not completely do the trick.
When you’ve had extensive flooding in your home or business, you need to call in a professional water cleanup team that can take care of the problem for you — quickly, effectively, and, above all, safely.
Drying and cleaning/disinfecting is a great start to prevent mold growth after water damage. Naturally, some flooding can become so extensive and damaging that you just need a team of pros to come in and handle the rest of the situation for you.
This process is known as mold remediation, and it involves two primary steps.
Initially, a mold remediation team will spray the affected area with biocide, a liquid approved by the EPA for killing mold. Finally, the team will spray a second time (usually the next day) with whitewash or paint that can trap the mold spores in place.
Note that mold remediation teams often spray down entire rooms. Even though your particular water damage might be limited to a smaller section, this additional spraying makes it even less likely that mildew and mold have any opportunity to grow in your space.
Call in the Mold Professionals
Flooding and mold are no joke. Because of this, sometimes you just need a little extra help.
When this happens, call the professionals at Whitehall Carpet Cleaners. With twenty years of experience in the Midlands area of South Carolina, we know a thing or two about carpets, cleaning, and how to make sure your home or office is safe and sound (and dry!) following a water damage event.
We know that flooding and other major water damage situations often not only come as a surprise, but they can also destroy valuable property in the process. Just let us know what you’re dealing with, and we will ensure that you get back up and running in no time.
Get in touch with us at Whitehall Carpet Cleaners today. We look forward to helping you.