Mold begins to grow after just 24 to 48 hours. If it is safe to enter your home before that timeframe, you will have the best chance at preventing mold. If it has been longer than 48 hours, you need to focus on removing mold to prevent your family from getting sick.
Assume all water is contaminated
Even if the water standing in your home appears clear, it could be contaminated with sewage or chemicals. You will want to wear waders, waterproof boots, and waterproof gloves as appropriate when entering your home. Also throw out ALL food that may have come into contact with the water, and if the flood was community-wide, it could have affected the city water supply, so boil all water until officials announce that water is safe.
Remove mud and water
You can’t start drying your home until all of the wet mud, water and any other debris has been removed. Remember, mud and water are both heavy, especially after removing big quantities, so you will also want to protect your back and physical health.
Mud and debris can be removed with shovels. For water, you will want a sump pump (which you can rent at many hardware stores), or buckets. Plus plenty of mops and a way to wring out the water. If you still have safe electricity, a Shop Vac can also help vacuum up the last remnants of water.
Dry the house
During your water removal process, make sure all doors and windows are wide open (unless the outside is very humid or still raining). After you have removed water, mud and debris, using things such as fans, heaters and dehumidifiers can help dry things out faster – just make sure electricity is safe to use.
The quicker you can get everything dry, the less likely you will be to end up with mold and the less damage that will be done to your home and possessions.
Move possessions out
Anything that is wet will need to be removed from your home. You won’t want to store wet items in another area and risk them growing mold which will then spread to other areas of the house. Large items such as upholstered furniture will most likely take so long to dry that mold will be an issue, and they should just be thrown away. Smaller items you can decide whether it is worth cleaning and disinfecting later.
Find professionals to help with cleaning in our Connections Network of Preferred Vendors.
Also remove all items from wet areas – whether or not these items are wet. If they are not wet and you are within the 24 to 48 hours before mold grows, you are probably okay storing the dry items in another dry area of the house. If it has been longer than that, even these dry items can be contaminated with mold, so you will want to remove them from the house until you can decontaminated them. Removing all of the items in a wet area will allow better air circulation which will help dry the area out, and allow you easier access to the area for cleaning.
If carpeting has been soaked through the pad, it takes a very long time to dry out, much longer than the amount of time it takes to begin to grow mold. Even when it seems that the top layer has dried.
Wet carpet needs to be removed or it will smell bad and lead to mold growth. If it is not yet moldy, you can easily remove it through normal carpet removal methods.
Find professionals to help with carpeting in our Connections Network of Preferred Vendors.
Other Building Materials
Mold can start to grow on or inside the walls of rooms that were flooded. For flooded rooms with drywall, you need to cut away the entire bottom section of drywall at least 12 inches above the flood line.
If any mold is growing on any drywall, the entire section will need to be removed. Mold cannot be properly cleaned from porous material like drywall.
Other porous materials that were wet, such as wall paneling, should also be removed. Wet wood is usually okay once it is completely dried with no mold. Insulation that was wet also needs to be removed and disposed.
Make sure the house, especially wall cavities, is completely dry before replacing any discarded materials.
Clean and Disinfect
Every surface in your home will need to be properly cleaned, including floors, walls, counters, shelves, and closets. Scrub surfaces with hot water and a heavy-duty cleaner. Then disinfect with a solution of 1/4 cup chlorine bleach per gallon of water or a product that is labeled as a disinfectant to kill germs. An anti-fungal can also help prevent the growth of mold.
Items you removed from your home also need to be cleaned and disinfected. Hard, non-porous surfaces can be cleaned using the above method, and once dry are safe to return to your home. Anything porous that absorbed water and which can’t be dried within 48 hours will need to be thrown away, as will any object with mold growing on it which can’t properly be cleaned.
Clothing and bedding can be washed in the washing machine with hot water and dried like usual. You may need to specially disinfect any items that have mold growing on them.
Appliances and other electrical items may need to be inspected and cleaned before further use or you risk electric shock or fire.
Find professionals to help with appliance repair and inspection in our Connections Network of Preferred Vendors.
Moving Back Into Your Home
Before you move back into your home it must be dried out and completely mold free. All possessions should also be completely dry and mold-free before replacing them inside your home.
Continually inspect your home for signs of mold. Any items with mold need to removed and properly decontaminated, or trashed if it cannot be. Mold on any surfaces needs to be properly disinfected.
Find professionals to help with mold inspection and remediation in our Connections Network of Preferred Vendors.
Flood water can remain in the ground around your house and affect the foundation. Water which seeps up through the foundation can end up in the walls and the floorboards and lead to hidden mold.
Pay attention to any musty or moldy smell, or any sign that you are suffering symptoms from mold. This may include cold or flu like symptoms such as coughing, sore throat or stuffy nose, or allergy-like symptoms such as sneezing, difficulty breathing, skin rash, or hair loss.
Black mold in particular can cause serious issues such as Mental and neurological, respiratory, or circulatory symptoms; vision, eye or skin problems; immune or reproductive system problems; tiredness, discomfort, or other illnesses.
It’s the best idea is to get a professional or an expert to inspect and mold test your home before you resume living inside.