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UF/IFAS Experts: How to clean up mold after storm, flood

If your home has been flooded or has experienced water damage, such as after a storm or hurricane, chances are mold and mildew are not far behind.

UF/IFAS Extension family and consumer agents Samantha Kennedy and Katherine Allen answer some frequently asked questions about cleaning up mold in the home. Kennedy and Allen are based in Walton and Suwannee counties, respectively.

  1. How do I know if I have mold?

Allen: Moldy areas often smell musty. Mold may be many different colors and usually looks like spots or splotches on surfaces that have been exposed to moisture.

  1. Is mold a health concern?

Allen: That depends on the type of mold and how it affects those in your household. However, the CDC does not recommend mold testing, because no matter what kind of mold you have, the best thing to do is remove it and prevent it from coming back.

  1. What should I use to clean up mold?

Remember: Never mix household cleaning products, as this can create dangerous chemical reactions.

Kennedy: It’s important to remove the mold, not just kill it. For mild cases, you may not have to use bleach. Instead, use an all-purpose cleaner or soapy water to wipe or scrub away mold.

To kill mold, use cleaning products containing bleach or create your own bleach solution by mixing no more than 1 cup of household laundry bleach with 1 gallon of water. Let stand for 15 minutes and wipe away with a clean cloth.

  1. Does bleach expire?

Allen: Yes. Bleach degrades after a while and becomes less effective. Check the expiration date on the container before using. Diluted household laundry bleach is usually only effective for about 24 hours after the solution is made.

  1. What should I wear when I’m cleaning up mold?

Kennedy: When cleaning more severe mold problems, wear protective gloves, goggles, long sleeves and pants, and an N95 mask.

For mild mold cases, the use of an N95 mask is not necessary, though gloves and goggles are still recommended.

If you have one or more areas of mold damage larger than 10 square feet, it is best to work with a professional mold remediation service.

  1. What should I do if mold keeps coming back?

Allen: Even if you remove mold from a surface, new mold might start growing again. In these cases, determine the source of moisture, which may be a leaky roof or pipe. Also, limit the moisture in the area by increasing ventilation and airflow and cleaning more frequently.

  1. Do I need to throw away moldy items?

Kennedy: After a catastrophic event such as a hurricane or flood, many moldy materials may not be salvageable. Even if surface mold is removed, there may be mold inside the item that continues to grow. While drying items out as soon as possible and giving them a thorough cleaning may work on some items, do a thorough inspection of each mold-damaged item to assess whether it is safe to salvage.

For more detailed information, consult online resources from the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/mold) and EPA (https://www.epa.gov/mold).

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