Got mold? Here’s what to do to protect yourself and your home
Here's how to prevent mold at home.
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Mold is inherent in the natural world, but it poses a significant health hazard when it forms in your home due to excess moisture.
Aside from being unsightly, mold contains allergens and other toxic substances that can cause irritations to the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and even lungs. Prolonged exposure to mold can kick off allergic reactions in healthy people and severe reactions in those who suffer from asthma.
If your home sustained water damage due to a plumbing mishap, flooding from severe weather, or any other reason for excessive moisture, time is of the essence to get the space cleaned up and restored to combat mold growth.
“Flooding causes more damage to a home than you might realize,” says Bailey Carson, home care expert at Angi. “Everything from your flooring to drywall can be ruined by mold and mildew within the first 24 hours, so it’s important to act as quickly as possible.”
If you have sustained water damage in your home, and you’re wondering how to prevent mold, here are five expert tips that can help.
1. Cut the power in case of a flood
If you are dealing with a flood, Carson says make sure your power is turned off. You shouldn’t attempt to turn it off, though, if the breaker box is near or under water, of course—that’s a recipe for electrocution. Instead, call your power company to have it shut or contact an emergency electrician who is better equipped to handle such a situation.
2. Call a water damage restoration pro
These professionals are used to emergency calls, and you should take them up on that as soon as possible. Once they arrive on site, they’ll be able to give you an idea of the damage and what needs to be done to ensure your home is livable.
3. Attempt to remove standing water in the meantime
Provided the current conditions are not dangerous—for example, the water level is not so high that you can’t safely wade through it—you should attempt to remove as much standing water as you can.
If you’ve got a wet-dry shop vacuum, a water transfer pump, a sump pump—Carson said buckets will work, too—you should start using any or all of them to remove as much water as possible while you wait for your water damage restoration professional to arrive.
Our favorite wet/dry vacuum is the 12-gallon VacMaster, which has eight different attachments and a detachable motor for easy cleaning.
Any items that have gotten wet should be relocated to a place where they can dry out, though it’s likely that some things will have to be discarded.
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4. Dry out the space
“Water damage can kick in as little as one hour of a flood, so your next step is to dry out the space,” says Carson.
When it comes to how to prevent mold from water damage, open windows to let some fresh air in—this will also help combat stale odors stemming from the saturated objects in the room. Provided that electrical outlets are not in danger of water, Carson says it’s time to turn on some fans and a dehumidifier do some of the work of drying out the flooded space. To get the job done, you need one of the best dehumifiders, like the 50-pint LG PuriCare.
“Dehumidifiers are a great way to monitor and control moisture levels, which helps since mold thrives in moist conditions,” Carson says. A hygrometer, which is likely available at your local hardware or home improvement store, will help you determine the humidity level. She notes that in the summertime, you want to aim for less than 60% humidity level in your home; in winter, the ideal level is anywhere between 25% to 40%.
Carson says that if the humidity levels remain high, a whole-home dehumidifier might be a better option. Consult with an HVAC pro for recommendations on the best device for your size of home.
Carson says that it takes at least two days to dry out a space that’s been flooded, though the exact timeline could be longer depending on where you live and the location of the flood in your home.
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5. Assess the damage
Depending on how much water was involved and how quickly you were able to put a restoration process in motion after a flood, you’ll need to see what items, including flooring, might still be salvageable.
“Unfortunately, if your carpets were exposed to water for more than 24 hours, you’ll need to replace them,” Carson says. If you’ve got tile flooring, she recommends mopping the surface with a mixture of 1 cup of chlorine bleach diluted in a gallon of water to sanitize the surface.
How to get rid of mold from water damage
Keep in mind that if mold does result from water damage, you might be able to take care of it on your own. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that if the mold is covering less than 10 square feet of surface, you can clean it on your own.
Scrub moldy surfaces with detergent and water—or use the bleach/water solution that Carson suggested to clean tile floors—then let dry.
To avoid breathing in airborne mold, wear an N95 respirator. A pair of mold safety goggles is suggested to protect your eyes—make sure they don’t have ventilation holes—as well as a long pair of rubber gloves to protect your skin from mold and from the cleaning solution.
Use gloves when removing any moldy items as well.
Carson says that just because you can’t see mold doesn’t mean that it’s not lurking somewhere.
If you still smell a musty odor after cleaning out the flooded space or the water level was there for a long time before it was able to recede or be removed, call in a certified mold removal specialist for an expert evaluation.
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