10 ways to fight mold growth when you’re dealing with flood aftermath

BATON ROUGE, La. (WGNO) – Mold growth is one of the biggest concerns when coping with the aftermath of a flooded home. The Louisiana State University AgCenter shares these tips for mold removal and prevention:

1. Remove wet carpeting, curtains and other soaked materials ASAP.

Water damaged carpet must be removed as soon as possible.

Water damaged carpet must be removed as soon as possible.

Mold colonies grow fast and you need to be meticulous if you want to prevent them from taking over your flooded home.

Rip out wet carpets and remove wet floor rugs — as well as bath mats, curtains, drapes and basically any wet material in your home. Moisture encourages mold growth, so if it was wet, it must go.

2. Wall warning: watch for wet insulation.

Wet faulty ceiling insulation.

Wet faulty ceiling insulation.

Even if the wall appears to be dry, pay special attention to the insulation. Cut into the wallboard and remove any insulation that shows signs of moisture.

According to the LSU AgCenter, “Wet insulation will stay wet far too long, leading to the growth of hidden unhealthy mold and decay fungi inside the walls.”

3. Bleach is not the answer.

This bottle of bleach should stay on the shelf!

This bottle of bleach should stay on the shelf!

Bleach is often mistaken as the best warrior against mold, but it won’t go deep into the wood to prevent mold growth. Disinfectants can kill molds but do not prevent new growth on damp wood or other materials.

Whatever type of cleaner you choose, read the directions and follow them carefully.

Never mix bleach with ammonia, vinegar or lemon juice.

4. Homes built before 1978 could contain extra health hazards.

Recovery from a flood is a lengthy process.

Recovery from a flood is a lengthy process.

Homes built before 1978 are at risk of containing lead-based paint and asbestos. If you have reason to believe your home contains these potentially hazardous materials, wear protective gear and clothing (such as masks and gloves) — or consider waiting for experts to handle the situation.

Check out these websites for more information:  For info on lead, click here. For info on asbestos, click here.

5. Do everything possible to speed up the drying process.

Water damage in kitchen with industrial fans and dehumidifier running to dry out leak damage.

Water damage in kitchen with industrial fans and dehumidifier running to dry out leak damage.

Air conditioners, heaters, industrial fans and dehumidifiers can all come to the rescue at this time! Use whatever resources you can to speed up the drying of slabs, subfloors and wall framing before you replace insulation, wallboard or flooring. Mold growth happens when moisture is overlooked.

If you’re working in a home where mold has already invaded, isolate the area where you are working and if possible, use a fan for ventilation — sending the spore-filled air outdoors.

6. Do not feed the mold!

A room damaged by a flood, showing the water line and the sediment left on the furniture.

A room damaged by a flood, showing the water line and the sediment left on the furniture.

When choosing a detergent to clean with, opt for a non-phosphate one, because any phosphate residue is mold food.

Some common non-phosphate detergent brands include: Seventh Generation, Zep and Mrs. Meyer’s.

7. Use a moisture meter.

This is a wood moisture meter, an important tool to have after a flood.

This is a wood moisture meter, an important tool to have after a flood.

A reliable moisture meter is a tool you will need in order to make sure the wood is dry. The meter can tell you the moisture content of sheathing and studs before insulation is replaced.

There are various types of moisture meters, ranging from $24 to hundreds of dollars.

Before you close a wall, be sure that the wood is below 16 percent moisture content to prevent decay and mold growth.

8. Disinfectant is not a substitute for cleaning.

Fungus on the corner of the wall.

Fungus on the corner of the wall.

The key is to make sure that you clean and disinfect thoroughly, and make sure everything is dry. If mold appears, that could mean the material was not dry enough — or that it needs to be replaced.

Rebuilding should wait until you are certain that everything has dried completely.

9. Treat exposed wood while you can.

Builder with drill repairing a home.

Builder with drill repairing a home.

Another suggestion from the LSU AgCenter: “Consider borate treating wood. While walls and subfloors are exposed is a great time to treat them with a penetrating borate solution to provide safe protection from termites and decay. The coating may also help to deter mold growth during the drying time.”

10. Dead spores can still cause health problems.

Mold is dangerous and needs to be prevented.

Mold is dangerous and needs to be prevented.

Concrete, glass, solid wood, metal and hard plastic are non-porous materials where mold can appear. Clean surface mold with a non-phosphate cleaner and makes sure you remove the mold — don’t just kill it. Dead mold spores are still a health hazard.

Get more advice from the LSU AgCenter here.