Intermediate Safety & Sanitation

If your home has sustained water damage due to pipes breaking, sink or tub overflows, sewage backup, or floods, some basic steps can eradicate the mold and mildew that may have built up as a result. Remarkably, mold and mildew will develop in as little as 24 to 48 hours after a water event and will worsen if not removed. Luckily there are some simple actions that will eliminate this superficial problem. All you will need is some basic Electric Equipment often found in the home or a construction equipment inventory such as a wet-dry shop vacuum, fans, or carpet blowers. You will also need gloves, brushes, masks, buckets, sponges, rags, and non-ammonia detergent and disinfectant chlorine bleach. If mold has penetrated deep into interior walls, heating ducts, and timber, more drastic action will need to be taken, which we will discuss in a future blog.

Determining the Extent of the Damage

rubber gloves hanging on stainless drawer handleThe first thing to do is turn all power off if you believe any wiring has been affected. Next, have an electrician check the electrical system before turning it back on. If any standing water remains, however slight, use the wet-dry vacuum to remove it. Now open the house to allow as much fresh air as possible as long as the humidity outside is low. If not, keep the house closed and use electric equipment such as fans, dehumidifiers, and the heater. Make sure you have a professional check your heating system’s ducts for mold or mildew before turning on the heat.

Remove any clothing, bedding, carpeting, toys, even furniture, essentially anything porous that may be water damaged as it can develop mold or mildew quickly. Throw out all damaged or contaminated food items that have not been stored in water tight containers. Once the affected area is dry and free of soaked items you are ready to remove the mold and mildew.

Removing Superficial Mold and Mildew

Before beginning, ensure the area to be cleaned is adequately ventilated. If you feel at any time your health may be adversely affected, hire a professional to do the job. Otherwise collect and use the following items:

  • Rubber or latex gloves
  • Nose/mouth mask
  • Safety glasses
  • Scrub brushes
  • Rags and towels
  • Phenolic or pine-oil cleaner
  • Non-ammonia detergent
  • Bleach
  • Buckets

Mix a 10% bleach solution as follows: 1, ¼ cup bleach to a gallon of hot water. Wash all items that are affected with this solution. This includes all metal, glass, wood, and plastics. You may need to use a stiff scrub brush on uneven or rough surfaces to remove any mold or mildew. Allow the solution to remain on item surfaces for at least 10 minutes before rinsing with clear water, then drying. If any item or surface has been wet under 48 hours you may be able to disinfect it with a phenolic or pine-oil cleaner instead. If you try this approach, check the area after cleaning over the next several days to ensure no mold or mildew has developed. If it has, either discard the item or clean with bleach solution per above. If any rebuilding is required in affected areas, allow it to completely dry (typically two to three days) before doing so.