How to Clean Up Mold After a Flood

Housecleaning tips for allergy, asthma sufferers

black mold on baseboards

It only takes 24 to 48 hours for mold to develop in a flooded home. For most of us, the symptoms of short-term mold exposure may be mild, such as a stuffy nose and throat or eye irritation.

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But for those with asthma related to mold allergy, exposure to mold can be a serious health threat.

“Mold can be a cause of serious complications for patients with asthma,” says David Lang, MD, who leads the Department of Allergy and Clinical Immunology in Cleveland Clinic’s Respiratory Institute. “It can result in increased symptoms and greater reliance on medications, and even flares of asthma which could require emergency department management or hospitalization.”

That’s why Dr. Lang advises all homeowners who have experienced a flood to act fast to remediate any mold that may have developed.

Mold is everywhere

“Mold is ubiquitous,” says Dr. Lang. “There are molds in the air you’re breathing right now. But they are present in much higher levels when there has been water damage to carpeting, drywall or other parts of a home.”

Mold growth has been a particular concern this summer, when some parts of the country have experienced unusually high amounts of precipitation and flash flooding.

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It only takes an inch of flood water in your home to cause damage to your property, according to the U.S. National Flood Insurance Program.

There’s much debate over how much mold must be present to cause health effects, says Dr. Lang, and it depends widely on the type of mold and a person’s overall health.

Clean up quickly

Here are a few tips for cleaning up mold after a flood, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency:

•  Open your home to fresh air. Do this only if humidity is lower than indoors. Use fans and dehumidifiers to dry excess moisture.

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•  Remove all wet items. This includes furniture, toys and bedding. Discard soaked carpeting, insulation, wallboard and ceiling tiles. When in doubt, throw it out!

•  Clean up standing water and surfaces. Use a wet/dry vac to clean up standing water and clean hard surfaces with a 10 percent bleach solution.

•  Protect yourself. Individuals sensitive to mold exposure should wear masks or respirators during clean-up.

•  Let water to dry. Allow your home to dry for two to three days before beginning to rebuild or replace items.

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