In many ways, your home is your life, which is why it hurts so much when anything damages your home.
Water damage is especially annoying because it can quickly cause mold, delaying repairs and adding to the cost of restoration.
However, we put together a quick guide on how to prevent mold after water damage. Use these tips wisely in your fight against mold!
The key to mold prevention following water damage is speed. Mold can begin to develop in as little as 36 hours, so it is important to begin evaporation as quickly as possible. Allowing water to sit for even 24 hours can greatly increase the cost of water mitigation–as water sits on structural material, bacteria begin to grow and fester, and previously dormant mold colonies (they are everywhere!) begin to grow.
It is in the homeowner’s best interest to call an accredited water restoration company quickly. However, in the event that a company cannot respond in a timely manner (unlikely), there are steps that you can take to help mitigate mold growth.
A word of warning: if you have a sewage backup, or flood waters entering the home, please call a professional. The toxins and diseases present in this type of water is extremely toxic and can lead to severe sickness and death if proper precautions are not taken.
Remove Wet Items
Once the standing water is removed, typically, we have contents sitting on top of wet flooring. In order to prevent damage to your furniture, get out some tin foil and place small squares under the legs of your furniture. Remove rugs to a place where they can hang to dry. Pick clothing and toys up off the floor. Use coat hangers to lift curtains off the floor so they don’t bleed and become further damaged.
Be cautious about removing carpet. If you decide to do so, insurance companies may not pay for replacement unless the carpet was already damaged. Take a look at the carpet backing and see if it is pulling away from the carpet. If it is, take some pictures of the damage.
It is best to allow a trained water damage professional assess whether or not carpet, or other flooring, should be removed. However, as stated above, if dealing with sewage or flood waters–for your safety, please allow a trained professional to perform necessary removal of affected materials.
The first step, and likely the most obvious, is to stop the source. This may mean shutting off water at the street. Don’t have a water key? Not a problem–use a pair of pliers. Most homes also have a main water shutoff in the house; this may be located in the laundry or utility room, however older homes may have this in the entry closet or pantry.
The second step is to remove what we refer to as “unbound water” or standing water. A wet/dry vacuum, or use of bath towels can be an effective means of removing standing water. Using bath towels can be tedious, as it involves constantly wringing them out, however doing so can make a world of difference in preventing mold growth.
Simply removing the standing water is not enough. At this point, we have “bound water” or water that is trapped in building material. The only way to remove this type of water is through evaporation. In the same way a hair dryer works, industrial strength air movers create a vacuum and heat at the wet material. This effectively allows water to evaporate into the air.
Please take note that, although material may FEEL dry, it is unlikely to have dried after only 24 hours. These steps are provided as a way to mitigate water damage and delay the onset of mold growth. Call a professional to assess drying–many companies will come assess at little to no charge.
So now we have water leaving structural material and entering the air through evaporation. Remember that mold likes warm, moist environments–by putting water into the air, we are increasing humidity in the home, and giving mold a wonderful environment in which to grow.
We need to remove the water from the air through dehumidification. Unfortunately, most of the in-home dehumidifiers found at the local hardware stores (or the big chain stores) are not enough to handle the amount of dehumidification needed for most water damage situations. However, if you need something in a pinch, these will do until you can get a water damage professional to your home to assess the situation.
Area rugs that become soiled or wet from water damage should be cleaned by a trained professional. Using a rental unit from one of the local grocery stores is not a good idea. The chemicals that are used for those units leave a residue and will result in further soiling of the rug within weeks. Trained cleaning professionals are best for cleaning rugs.
Take special care if you have a hand-made Persian or Oriental rugs. These HAVE to be cleaned very specifically, or the colors will bleed. Most major cities have 2-3 companies that specialize in cleaning Oriental rugs. When you are calling for an initial interview with a rug cleaning company to assess cleaning for an Oriental rug, ask them to text or email you pictures of their bath setup. If they don’t know what you are talking about, hang up and try the next on the list. Feel free to look up oriental rug wash pit online–once you see a picture, you’ll understand what is needed.
Clean What’s Left
Here’s a simple way of looking at it: if water touched the area, then it needs to be cleaned. First, a warning–bleach is the WRONG product to use. In the industry, the only time we use bleach is when there are bloodborne pathogens involved (i.e. crime scenes, suicides, etc). Antimicrobial agents are a good starting point and can be purchased at your local carpet cleaning supplier (the products found at the large hardware chain stores are generally not sufficient). Alternatively, use of hydrogen peroxide can help clean affected areas–the type purchased at your local supermarket is generally not concentrated enough for a proper cleaning, but it IS a start.
Whenever you are using chemicals, it is IMPERATIVE that proper safety precautions are taken–wear pants (not shorts), a long-sleeved shirt, shoes (NOT flip-flops), wear a mask, and rubber gloves. It is also a very good idea to open some windows or doors for ventilation.
Most importantly, and as mentioned previously, whenever you are involved in a water damage situation, call a professional to assess the job.
How do you KNOW it’s Mold?
Simple answer? You don’t. Call in a mold testing company–there are many out there. Best course of action is to call in an unbiased party, one who only performs testing, but does not get rid of mold. They can also direct you to a company that specializes in mold remediation. If you’re trying to find one online, look up IEP (Indoor Environmental Professional) or Industrial Hygienist in your area.
Need a referral to an unbiased mold-testing company in the Charlotte metro area? Give us a call–we’d be happy to provide a referral.
Call in a Pro
Here, we’ve provided some steps you can take yourself regarding how to prevent mold after water damage; since speed is crucial, it is likely that you will need to follow some of these steps.
As mentioned several times, it is best to have a water damage restoration company assess the situation any time you have water damage. Restoration One of Charlotte has a team of water damage experts who are just a phone call away and can deploy to your home in short order to assist with water damage restoration and mold prevention–the first steps in getting your home back in order following a disaster.
The moment water damage happens to your house, whether it is as simple as a leaking appliance or roof, or sewage has backed up into the home, or even if you suspect you have mold, give us a call–we are here to help you through how to prevent mold after water damage.