Recent natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina have once again put mold in the spotlight. And since flooding can occur in the winter due to the abundance of melting snow and heavy rains, homeowners need to familiarize themselves with the steps to eliminate mold from their homes.
First, it is important to understand the reasons to keep your home mold free. According to the Centers for Disease Control, exposure to mold poses a potential health risk. People with mold sensitivity can find themselves with a stuffy nose, irritated eyes, wheezing, or skin irritation. Those with mold allergies can have difficulty breathing and experience shortness of breath. If someone with a weakened immune system or chronic lung disease is exposed to mold, they can develop mold infections in their lungs. The point is to eliminate the problem before it becomes a health issue.
As we know, mold develops because of excessive moisture, so the key to prevention is to identify and eliminate moisture from developing in the first place. The Insurance Information Institute recommends that homeowners take the following precautions:
Reduce humidity in your home
· Keep the humidity level in your home between 30 and 60 percent by using air conditioners or dehumidifiers.
· Use exhaust fans in kitchens and bathrooms.
· Never install carpets in damp areas, such as basements or bathrooms.
· Never let water accumulate under houseplants.
Use mold-reducing products
· Clean bathrooms with bleach or other mold-eliminating products.
· Add mold inhibitors to paint before application.
Keep your home and belongings dry
· Fix leaky pipes, faucets and hoses.
· Keep gutters free of leaves and other debris.
· Maintain your roof to prevent water from seeping into your home.
Be careful after a flood or other water damage
· Properly dry or remove soaked carpets, padding and upholstery within 24 to 48 hours after a flood to prevent mold growth. Anything that cannot be properly dried should be discarded.
· Remove standing water as quickly as possible. Standing water is a breeding ground for microorganisms, which can become airborne and inhaled.
· Wash and disinfect with bleach, or other mold-eliminating products, all areas that have been flooded. This includes walls, floors, closets and shelves, as well as heating and air-conditioning systems.
If you find that despite your best efforts you have mold problems, there are two options to remediate the situation. The first is to clean it yourself. If you choose this option, you should limit your own exposure to the mold and its spores. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that you wear certain protective gear during cleanup, most importantly an N-95 respirator, which can be purchased at most hardware stores. Some N-95 respirators look like a paper dust mask with a nozzle on the front, while another popular style is made of plastic or rubber and has a removable cartridge that traps the mold spores. No matter what style you use, in order to be effective, the respirator must fit properly.
The second item the EPA recommends is a pair of long gloves that extend to the middle of your forearm. If you are using a mild detergent, ordinary household rubber gloves are fine. If you are using a disinfectant, chlorine bleach, or other strong cleaning solution, you should use gloves made from natural rubber, neoprene, nitrile, polyurethane, or PVC. The third protective piece of equipment you should wear are goggles without ventilation holes.
If there are still signs of mold after cleaning or if the mold returns, you should choose the second option and have the area cleaned by professionals who specialize in mold removal.