Mold and mildew are fungi that can start growing within 24 hours after a flood. These harmful microbes lurk throughout any surface of an office space and dwell in crawl spaces.
Mildew is essentially mold in the early stages, and can grow on wood products, ceiling tiles, cardboard, wallpaper, carpets, drywall, fabric, plants, foods, insulation, decaying leaves and other organic materials.
Mold growths, or colonies, reproduce by spores that travel through the air, destroying the material they grow on while spreading to adjacent organic material. Mold growth can also cause mild to severe health problems.
Mold is visible on walls or ceilings by dark spots or a graying discoloration. It has a musty earth smell in the beginning but if left unattended, can result in a foul stench.
Removing this stubborn organism requires a few safety precautions. First and foremost, turn off the main power circuit if the wiring is wet or already moldy. Before proceeding, make sure the area is well ventilated. Protect hands with latex or rubber gloves and invest in respirator masks and eye protection to avoid breathing in mold spores or direct contact.
You’ll need some equipment as well. Wet/Dry vacuum and brooms, large buckets, trash bags, rags, mold removal cleaner, dust pans and air dryers, and dehumidifiers. Make sure the area is well ventilated and have an electrician check the electrical system before turning the power on again.
Remove all wet items such as furniture, rugs, carpeting, etc. Discard soaked or moldy carpeting immediately. Clean and disinfect other items with mold removal cleaners. Throw away any food if you think it may be contaminated and anything not in a water tight container. Remove all wet or contaminated porous materials like ceiling tiles, drywall, and wood by-products. For walls, remove it a foot above the water mark and throw it away. If you need to drain the walls, remove the baseboard and drill holes near the floor.
Dry panel-type walls by pulling the bottom edge out from the studs. Check the interior of the wall for hidden mold.
Remove all wet insulation from floors and exterior walls. Discard everything except rigid insulation, which can be reinstalled after disinfecting and drying.
Open the windows or doors in the area if possible so fresh air can speed drying. Use fans and dehumidifiers to remove excess moisture unless mold has already started to grow (fans may spread existing mold). Use the furnace only if the ducts have not been inundated (any forced air central heating ducts that have come in contact with water or mold should be professionally checked).
Wash hard surfaces such as metal, glass, solid wood, plastic, and other non-porous materials with a non-ammonia mold and mildew cleaner. You’ll need a stiff brush to clean concrete and a wet-dry vacuum to remove water and clean studs or wood framing.
Disinfect all cleaned surfaces with a 10% bleach-mold cleaner solution and let it sit for at least 10 minutes before rinsing.
Porous materials like upholstered furniture, rugs, curtains, books and papers, and furniture made of pressed particle materials, can be cleaned, but look at the extent of the mold build up to decide if it’s worth keeping. If it’s been wet for less than 48 hours, clean and disinfect with a phenolic or pine-oil cleaner.
It should then be completely dried and monitored for a few days to make sure no new mold growth appears. If it does - throw it away immediately.
- Exercise caution in cleaning and disinfecting molds because they release mold spores when disturbed
- Never mix bleach with ammonia; fumes from the combination are toxic
- When discarding items that are mold contaminated, wear protective clothing or hire a professional
- Allow cleaned and disinfected items to dry for 2-3 days, and check for any new mold growth
- Infants, children, immunocompromised patients, pregnant women, individuals with existing respiratory conditions, and the elderly are at higher risks for adverse health effects from mold
- Watch for subsequent respiratory problems like wheezing, asthma attacks, nasal and sinus congestion or dry, hacking cough, eye irritation , sneezing, bloody noses, skin rashes or hives, headaches, memory loss, mood changes, body aches and pains. More serious health problems are a result of regular exposure to toxic black mold, Stachybotrys atra.
To control moisture and mold growth in your home:
- Fix leaks in pipes, and any damp areas around tubs and sinks, so that biological pollutants don't have growing environments.
- Rebuild, or retrofit, with water-resistant building materials such as tiles, stone, deep-sealed concrete, galvanized or stainless steel hardware, indoor/ outdoor carpeting, waterproof wallboard, water-resistant glues, and so on.
- Prevent seepage of water from outdoors into your house. Rain water from gutters or the roof needs to drain away from the house. Ground around the house needs to slope away to keep basement and crawlspace dry.
- Cover dirt in crawlspaces with plastic to prevent moisture from coming from the ground. Ventilate the area as much as possible.
- Clean fabrics often and keep them dry. Soil promotes mildew growth. Store clean fabric items in well ventilated areas.
- Consider having air ducts cleaned if you suspect mold exists on the duct's inside surface, or if duct insulation has been wet. Keep it dry
- Reduce the moisture in the air with dehumidifiers, fans, and open windows or air conditioners, especially in hot weather. Do NOT use fans if mold may already exist.
- Try to keep the humidity in your home below 40%.
- In moisture prone areas, choose carpets of man-made fibers.
- Reduce potential for condensation on cold surfaces by insulating. Disinfect it
- Routinely check potential problem spots (eg. Bathroom, laundry, mechanical room, etc) for moldy odors, and disinfect often