Isaac in all its guises—hurricane, tropical storm, tropical depression—dropped a lot of rain on residents of the Gulf Coast leaving behind a soggy mess. The next threat for affected homeowners is mold, which can ruin home furnishings and pose problems for residents with allergies, asthma, and compromised immune systems. To keep it in check, homeowners should attack the problem within 24 to 48 hours.
The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that homeowners clean up minor mold outbreaks with a little elbow grease and a mixture of water and detergent but the agency doesn't rule out the use of bleach or other biocides for larger problems. People whose homes have been soaked or affected by dirty water will likely need help from a professional mold remediation service, especially if their heating and cooling system has been submerged.
- Clean up and dry out the building quickly. Open doors and windows and use fans and dehumidifiers.
- Remove all porous items that have been wet for more than 48 hours and that cannot be thoroughly cleaned and dried. These items can remain a source of mold growth.
- Porous, non-cleanable items include carpeting and carpet padding, upholstery, wallpaper, drywall, ceiling tiles, insulation material, some clothing, leather, paper, some wood and wood products, and food. Removal and cleaning are important because even dead mold can cause allergic reactions.
- Clean wet items and surfaces with detergent and water to prevent mold growth.
- Temporarily store damaged or discarded items outside the home or building until insurance claims can be processed.
- For mold that's caused by floodwaters, use a mixture of ½ cup of bleach mixed into a gallon of water.
If you're attempting this task at home, the EPA recommends that you cover your eyes, nose and hands. Wear long gloves, goggles and a respirator—ask for an N-95 respirator at your local hardware store and follow instructions on how to get a good fit.
—Mary H.J. Farrell