Editor’s note: Jim Judge is a member of the American Red Cross scientific advisory council, and is an expert on preparedness,including post-disaster safety. With thousands of people still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Sandy, we thought that Jim’s tips on safely cleaning up homes could be helpful.
How do you identify mold or potential for mold when coming back to your home after a disaster?
Things that stayed wet for 2 days have mold growing on them even if you can’t see it.
Sight – are the walls or ceiling discolored or do they show signs of mold growth or water damage?
Smell – Do you smell a bad odor, such as musty, earthy smell or a foul stench?
If yes to either it’s mold!
- Mold can look grey, black or even brown. Mold colonies may appear cottony, velvety, granular, leathery or glassy.
- Mold will begin to grow on most surfaces after just 24 hours in a damp environment.
- Certified/licensed mold inspectors are available in most communities.
- The color of mold does not impact the choice of mold cleaner, the cleaning methods are the same.
Red Cross gives out clean up kits to help with recovery. These kits often include bleach. Does bleach help kill mold?
Yes. Use bleach to clean mold off hard things, like floors, sinks, countertops, flatware, plates and tools. Items soaked with water such as clothes, carpet, etc. have to be discarded.
- Never mix bleach with ammonia or other cleaners.
- Mix no more then 1 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of water.
- If the surface is rough, scrub with a stiff brush.
- Rinse with clean water.
- Dry the item or leave it out to dry
- Take out items that have soaked up water and that cannot be cleaned and dried, carpet, clothing, mattresses, furniture, all other items that cannot be disinfected. Flood waters generally have sewage so take protective precautions.
How do you dispose of ruined furniture, carpet, clothing, etc. safely?
Generally, in an area where many homes have been affected, by taking the contaminated items to the curb for a solid waste pick-up. Disposal at the local landfill or local solid waste facility is the safest method. Even calling the local solid waste office for information on having the items safely removed if the damage only affects a single home.
Wear protective boots, gloves, mask, and eye protection during this phase and all phases of cleanup to removal.