Cleaning After A Flood - from CDC
Clean-up and Prevention
The most effective way to eliminate mold growth is to remove it from materials that can be cleaned and to discard materials that cannot be cleaned or are physically damaged beyond use (9,18,19,26--30). Persons with respiratory conditions, allergies, asthma, or weakened immune systems should avoid mold cleanup if possible or seek the advice of their doctor and determine what type of personal protective equipment is appropriate. Appropriate PPE (e.g., tight-fitting NIOSH-approved N-95 respirator, gloves to limit contact of mold and cleaning solutions with skin, and goggles) (13,26--30) should be used when performing clean-up or other activities in mold-contaminated homes or buildings after a flood.
Removing mold problems requires a series of actions (6,9,16). The order of these actions is sometimes important (6), but might vary on a case-by-case basis. Typically, the following actions are taken regardless of whether a problem is small and simple or large and complex:
Take emergency action to stop water intrusion, if needed.
Determine the extent of water damage and mold contamination.
Plan and implement remediation activities.
--- If needed, establish containment and protection for workers and occupants.
--- Eliminate or limit water or moisture sources.
--- Decontaminate or remove damaged materials, as appropriate.
--- Dry any wet materials, if possible.
--- Evaluate whether space has been successfully remediated.
--- Reassemble the space to prevent or limit possibility of recurrence by controlling sources of moisture.
Returning to Mold-Contaminated Homes or Buildings After a Flood
When persons return to homes or buildings after a flood, they should take the following steps (6,9,16,26--30):
Clean up and dry out the building quickly. Open doors and windows and use fans or dehumidifiers to dry out the building.
Remove all porous items that have been wet for >48 hours and that cannot be thoroughly cleaned and dried. These items can remain a source of mold growth and should be removed from the home or building. Porous, noncleanable items include carpeting and carpet padding, upholstery, wallpaper, drywall, ceiling tiles, insulation material, some clothing, leather, paper, some wood and wood products, and food. Removal and cleaning are important because even dead mold can cause allergic reactions.
Clean wet items and surfaces with detergent and water to prevent mold growth.
Temporarily store damaged or discarded items outside the home or building until insurance claims can be processed.
Removing and Cleaning Up Mold in a Building
After hurricanes and major floods, flood water is likely to be contaminated and, in this setting, mold can be removed with a bleach solution of 1 cup chlorine bleach per 1 gallon of water (26--30). Never mix bleach or bleach-containing products with ammonia or ammonia-containing products. If water damage is substantial or mold growth covers >10 square feet, consult the EPA guide, Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings (15).
Some companies specialize in water damage restoration and can assess the issues involved in cleaning up homes after a flood. Two professional trade groups that might be able to help locate such an expert are the Association of Specialists in Cleaning and Restoration (http://www.ascr.org) and the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning, and Restoration Certification (http://www.iicrc.org).
Contractors used for remediation should have experience in cleaning mold. Check references and ask the contractor to follow the recommendations in the guidelines of the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) or other guidelines from professional organizations or state agencies. Contact your state health department's website for information about state licensing requirements for contractors in your state. Examples of websites from states that have recently dealt with natural disasters include http://www.tdh.state.tx.us/beh/mold (Texas) and http://www.lslbc.louisiana.gov (Louisiana).
Cleaning Clothes, Textiles, or Stuffed Animals
Ensure that laundry is washed in safe water. Use only water that is properly disinfected or that the authorities have stated is safe. Before using a washing machine that was in a flooded building, run the machine through one full cycle before washing clothes. Use hot water and a disinfectant or sanitizer. Take clothes and linens outdoors and shake off any dried mud or dirt before washing them. Hose off muddy items to remove all dirt before putting them in the washer.
If the items are only wet, they can be laundered normally. Check the labels on clothes and linens and wash them in detergent and warm water if possible, or take them to a professional cleaner. Adding chlorine bleach to the wash cycle will remove most mildew and will sanitize the clothing. However, bleach might fade some fabrics and damage other fabrics. If the label reads "dry clean only," shake out loose dirt and take the item to a professional cleaner.
Do not burn or bury textiles that cannot be cleaned. Put them into properly sealed plastic bags and dispose of them as you would normal household garbage in your area.
Salvaging Household Items
When assessing or remediating mold contamination to a house, homeowners or clean-up personnel might decide to repair or clean household items (e.g., housewares or kitchen items) damaged or contaminated by flood waters. As with clothing and other textiles, make sure the water being used is safe. Use only water that is properly disinfected or that the authorities have stated is safe.
Nonporous items (e.g., dishes, pots, glass items, and hard plastic items) can be salvaged. However, because floodwaters are contaminated, nonporous items should be washed by hand in a disinfectant and then air-dried. Do not use a dish towel. Porous items (e.g., cloth, some wood and wood products, and soft plastic) must be discarded because they probably absorbed whatever contaminants were in the floodwaters.
Before using the dishwasher, clean and disinfect it. Then use a hot setting to wash your pots, pans, dishes, and utensils. Do not use the energy-saving setting.
Throw away canned foods that are bulging, opened, or damaged. Food containers with screw-caps, snap-lids, crimped caps (soda pop bottles), twist caps, flip tops, snap-open, and home-canned foods should be discarded if they have come into contact with floodwater because they cannot be disinfected. If intact cans have come in contact with floodwater or storm water, remove the labels, wash the cans, and dip them in a solution of 1 cup of bleach in 5 gallons of water. Relabel the cans with a marker.
Cleaning a Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning System
All surfaces of an HVAC system and all its components that were submerged during a flood are potential reservoirs for dirt, debris, and microorganisms, including bacteria and mold. In addition, moisture can collect in areas of HVAC system components that were not submerged (e.g., air supply ducts above the water line), and this also can lead to the growth of microorganisms. Therefore, all flood water-contaminated and moisture-laden components of the HVAC system should be thoroughly inspected, cleaned of dirt and debris, and disinfected by a qualified professional. CDC has prepared recommendations for professionals to help ensure that floodwater-contaminated HVAC system components are properly cleaned and remediated (21). If HVAC systems are not properly cleaned and disinfected to prevent the dissemination of mold and other debris throughout a building, bioaerosols of mold and other microorganisms might exists and can cause a variety of adverse health effects to the building's occupants. Ensure that the HVAC system is shut down before any remedial activities.
Prevention After the Flood
Limited scientific information exists on the efficacy and impact of prevention strategies. In addition, little of the practical knowledge acquired and applied by design, construction, and maintenance professionals has been subject to thorough validation (6). No generally accepted health-based standards exist for remediation (6).
If property owners decide to make extensive repairs or completely rebuild after a flood, they might consider designing and building in a way that will limit the potential for future mold growth (6,30). The key to prevention of mold is to eliminate or limit the conditions that foster microbial growth by limiting water intrusion and the nutrients that allow mold to grow (6,9,16,30). The two basic approaches are to keep moisture-sensitive materials dry and to use materials that are not easily biodegradable or which offer a poor substrate for mold growth.