How to prevent mold after a flood: 5 key steps

Thu Sep 24 2020

A woman wearing yellow gloves wiping down a shelf

Hurricane season is the time to be vigilant. Even passing storms can cause significant flooding, and even an inch of water in the home can cause extensive and expensive water damage.

How to prevent mold after water damage

Any amount of water left unattended can cause mold in the house, and mold can cause a lot of health-related problems, like allergies, asthma, and lung irritation. Mold can spread once water starts evaporating into the air, especially in humid or rainy conditions. That’s why it’s so important to immediately clean water damaged areas.

Ideally, you should work with a water damage restoration company after a flood that can help dry out your home and prevent mold from spreading. The Kin Managed Repair Network connects you with these professionals automatically if you have a covered water damage claim.

But there’s work you can do to mitigate damage and prevent mold on your own, too. These tips can help.

1. Clean and dry the flooded areas right away

Time is of the essence when it comes to water damage. The longer water sits, the harder it is to repair. Make a plan to start cleaning within 48 hours of the flooding (if you can safely do so).

Before you embark on cleaning and drying everything, make sure that you have the right safety equipment to do so. Here are some safety tips when dealing with flood damage:

  • Wear an N-95 safety mask to toxic particles at bay.
  • Put goggles on to protect your eyes from dirty water.
  • Wear gloves and rubber boots to protect your skin.
  • Make sure that you only enter the area when you know it’s safe.

As soon as the storm stops, go through the house and check every room for water, spills, and leaks. Once you’ve identified the flooded areas, start cleaning and drying them up. Remove water with a wet and dry vacuum cleaner. If you don’t have one, you can rent one.

You can also hire a mold removal service company to help you, particularly if the area is big (i.e., a garage or basement).

If you have wet floor carpets or rugs, dry them first using the vacuum cleaner and then use a fan to complete the drying process. Keep the fan on for 24 hours or more. You can also steam-clean your carpet once it’s dry.

2. Check your home’s exterior

Check the outside of your home, too. If you see pooling water near the foundation, that can cause cracks and other damage, including mold growth. To prevent pool water, you might need to fix your grade, extend your downspouts, or add a French drain.

3. Dehumidify the house & watch the humidity levels

Right after a storm or flood, moisture in the air can lead to mold growth. Getting the house as dry as possible is key to keeping mold at bay:

  • Open all the windows in your home.
  • Turn on all fans.
  • Use a dehumidifying machine to keep the air dry, clean, and cool.

You can also use a humidity monitor to keep an eye on humidity levels. The ideal level is below 60 percent in the summertime, while 25 to 40 percent is normal for winter.

4. Sanitize everything

All water damaged areas, furniture, and things should be completely sanitized after cleaning. For your sofa, beds, and other furniture, use a steam cleaner or a wet and dry vacuum cleaner. For surfaces like floors and walls, use soap and water to clean and sanitize them using a water-chlorine bleach solution.

5. Throw away what can’t be cleaned (after your claim is approved)

Some materials can’t be thoroughly cleaned and dried. Others, like electronics, might be beyond repair if they’re waterlogged. Before throwing away these items, make sure they are accounted for in your insurance claim. Your claims professional will need documentation of all damage to your belongings to approve your claim.

Keep paying attention to your home and surroundings even after you’ve done all these steps, especially throughout flood season and hurricane season. If you smell something musty, err on the side of caution and start cleaning.

Frequently asked questions for preventing mold after a flood

How soon does mold grow after a flood?

Mold and mildew can start to form within 24 to 48 hours of exposure to water. Worse? It continues to grow until you take the necessary steps to remediate it.

What kills mold after a flood?

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), you can kill mold using bleach. However, the CDC emphasizes that you should only use one cup of bleach per gallon of water. Remember to also wear goggles, gloves, and an N-95 mask when working with bleach.

How long should I run a dehumidifier after a flood?

You may need to run a dehumidifier anywhere from two days to several weeks. The amount of time required depends on how bad your flooding was, how big of an area was flooded, and what materials were soaked.

When should I hire a professional mold remediation company?

In truth, a professional mold remediation company is usually a good idea. It’s safer than tackling the project yourself, and a professional team is likely to be more successful. That said, the Environmental Protection Agency says homeowners may be able to handle mold clean up if the affected area is less than 10 square feet.

About the Author

Rachel Anderson is the content marketing strategist of Arizona Fire & Water Restoration, Inc., a Phoenix-based company that provides water, fire, and smoke damage restoration as well as mold remediation and removal services. When not writing, she plays bowling and goes on trail hikes with her friends.