Preventing Mildew, Mold in the Home Post Natural Disaster

Hurricane Irma dealt a devastating blow to homeowners along Florida’s western coast last fall.  Property damage and losses are estimated to be as high as $65 billion across several states.

Flooding from storm surge and flash floods caused by heavy rains destroyed homes from the Keys to the Panhandle, creating optimal growing conditions for mildew and mold behind walls, under floors, and on water-soaked furnishings.

Left unchecked, airborne mold can threaten the health of your family  and end up costing tens of thousands of dollars to clean up. Below are a few tips for preventing mildew and mold in storm-damaged properties:

– Know what mildew and mold look like.

Before the cleanup begins, it’s important to recognize the difference between mildew and  mold.

Mildew is an easily recognizable fungus that appears in grey or white patches on moist surfaces – or on organic material that’s been damaged by floodwaters. It can be removed using common household cleaners and a scrub brush.

Mold, on the other hand, is often distinguished by its green or black color, and can appear fuzzy or even slimy. Mold spores can thrive in extreme conditions, and they’re harder to get rid of. Surfaces covered by mold usually show signs of rot.

– After floodwaters recede, everything below the waterline should be thrown away.

Once the flood damage has been assessed thoroughly and it’s safe to begin the cleanup, it’s critical to remove any building materials, furniture, and fixings that were underwater.

Inspect areas and objects above the waterline for discoloration, and check to see if they have a musty odor,  a sign of contamination.

Once all standing water has been mopped up or pumped away, remove all wet wallboard materials, insulation, finished flooring, and carpeting. Keep those materials piled as far away from the home as possible.

– Dry and clean all surfaces within 24 to 48 hours.

Vacuum up any loose debris, and create sufficient ventilation so that all moist areas inside the home can dry thoroughly. Use a dehumidifier to maintain dryness.

Wall studs and framing should be cleaned with a mild detergent, such as dish soap, and rinsed with a pressure washer. Other surfaces should be wiped with a bleach solution (up to ¼-cup of bleach mixed with one gallon of water) and re-wiped with clean water about a half-hour later.

– When in doubt, hire an expert.

Sometimes, mold will continue to grow despite your best efforts; hiring an expert will help ensure your home is safe for years to come. Be sure that the individual or company you hire is a state-licensed mold assessor.


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