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Hurricane season means mold

Hurricane season is still in full swing and, with it, the danger of flooding—and the problem of mold. That’s because dampness promotes growth of this fungus in temperatures between 40 degrees and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. But one in 20 Americans are allergic to mold, and people with asthma, allergies or other breathing conditions are particularly sensitive to it.

With that in mind, here’s what you should know about how to prevent mold from developing in your home after a flood and what to do if the stuff has already started to grow.

General basics

First things first. Check for structural stability to make sure it’s safe to enter your home. If the house has been closed up for several days, open doors and windows for at least 30 minutes to let the air out.

If the area is less than 10 square feet, homeowners or renters can clean it up themselves. For larger spaces, consider hiring a certified remediation professional. Keep children away while work is being done. Wear eye protection that doesn’t have open vent holes, a respirator with a high protection level, hard hats and goggles. And use gloves that are non-latex, vinyl, nitrile or runner, as well as coveralls.

Preventing mold

Mold can grow on just about any material that’s wet for more than about 48 hours. Plus the longer the mold is there, the faster it can spread. So it’s important to dry areas where water pools as quickly as possible after the flood.

If it’s safe to turn on the electricity, use a “wet-dry” vacuum, an electric-powered water transfer pump or sump pump to eliminate standing water. Otherwise, try a portable generator to power the equipment, making sure not to turn on the engine of any gasoline-powered tools inside the home. In addition, fans and dehumidifiers can remove additional moisture, but place fans at a window or door to blow the air outwards. You can also turn on your HVAC system to eliminate excess moisture, but not until after you have it professionally cleaned. To prevent water from re-entering your home, make sure you have good drainage of rainwater away from your house and that basements and crawl spaces also have proper drainage.

You’ll probably need to discard items that can’t be washed and disinfected. In particular, such things as carpeting, padding and stuffed animals are likely culprits, because they absorb water particularly quickly and dry slowly.

Cleaning up mold after it’s formed

Bleach is useful for killing mold on nonporous surfaces, such as tile. But it’s not effective on wood, drywall and other porous material. In fact, bleach can encourage more mold growth. When using bleach, it’s best to use no more than one cup to one gallon of water. Also, never mix it with ammonia, because that can create toxic fumes. And make sure to open windows and ventilate the area.

Because dead spores can still cause health problems, you also need to remove mold after you’ve killed it. Wipe or vacuum the area. Then use a non-phosphate cleaning solution and hot water.

Finally, using a smart air purifier with a HEPA filter, like Coway Airmega, can help clear the air of mold and other particles.