Homeowners with moisture damage from the rain and floods that have soaked much of Indiana in recent weeks should be on the lookout for mold, say members of a Purdue Extension team that helps residents solve mold problems.
"If you have moisture damage, you will have mold issues. Deal with the damage as soon as possible," said Mary Lou Elbert, Purdue Extension director for Warrick County and co-coordinator of the Purdue Mold Team.
Time is of the essence in treating mold because of the ease and speed with which it can spread. Mold can grow on nearly any material and in temperatures ranging from 32 to 100 degrees. A combination of dampness and heat is an ideal environment for mold.
Mold can begin growing 24-48 hours after water damage, said Terri Newcom, health and human services educator and Purdue Extension director for Tipton County, an area hit with floods.
Mold can be detected easily by sight and smell. It can appear in a variety of colors and is often accompanied by a musty odor.
Residents who spot mold in their home or even just suspect they have it should contact the Mold Team for help, Newcom said.
"The sooner, the better," she said.
The Mold Team cautions against repairing and rebuilding too quickly. Homeowners who do not wait for damaged areas to dry out thoroughly before reconstruction might have a recurring mold problem.
"If you rebuild too soon, mold issues will persist," Elbert said.
Homeowners who are unsure whether their home is dry enough to repair can ask the Mold Team to inspect their home with a meter that measures the amount of moisture in walls.
Besides damaging property, mold also can pose a health hazard. Inhaling spores or touching moldy surfaces can result in coldlike symptoms, such as congestion, coughing, wheezing and sore throat. Asthma symptoms may worsen, and people with respiratory problems may experience headaches or nausea.
Reactions to mold vary, however, and not everyone is affected. "It really depends on the individual," Newcom said.
Elbert and Newcom offered the following tips on how to prevent and remove mold:
* The best way is to keep your home dry. Make sure that crawl spaces aren't damp, and inspect for leaks or crevices where water or moisture can enter.
* Use a dehumidifier or air conditioning system to maintain a humidity level at 50 percent or below. Houseplants also can reduce humidity in the home.
* Wipe condensation off shower walls, and run a fan or ventilator in bathrooms and kitchens. "You need to exhaust that moist air to the outside," Elbert said.
* Don't leave water in drip pans.
* Check areas that are most susceptible to mold growth, such as the basement, corners, and under the refrigerator and washing machine.
* Tend to water-damaged areas quickly. "Get those areas dry as fast as you can," Newcom said.
* Ensure that any area damaged by water or moisture is dried out as soon as possible.
* Get rid of moldy carpet, ceiling tiles and drywall.
* To clean hard surfaces, use a detergent solution, followed by a bleach solution. Allow the area to dry for 15 minutes. Then rinse it and dry it with a hair dryer or heater. Exercise caution when using bleach, and never mix bleach and ammonia.
* To clean large areas, use a commercial fungicide.
When treating mold, be sure to wear rubber gloves, eye protection, a facemask, and long sleeves and pants.
A video with tips on how to clean your home after water damage is available at http://youtu.be/A8qYCNr4o24. The information also is available in the publication First Steps to Flood Recovery, available for free online in multiple formats at The Education Store of Purdue Extension.
The Purdue Extension Disaster Education Network also has information about mold at https://ag.purdue.edu/extension/eden/Pages/mold-overview.aspx.