Environmental Issue & Sick Building Syndrome Blog

The Most Frequently Asked Question After a Flood or a Mold Problem is: What Happens to My "Stuff"?

July 6th, 2016 4:59 PM by Dan Howard

                 Imagine picking up the flood water soaked baby blanket, your parents wedding picture or the family bible. The question of what to do with possessions, furnishing and contents is important to the financial and emotional recovery after a flood water or mold disaster. When talking about items that have a sentimental value, the understanding of “what to clean or throw out” can also a deeply emotional question.

                The short story is if it has porous surfaces and is already moldy or was under flood water, it will probably need thrown away. This includes cardboard, carpet, padding, stuffed animals and upholstered furnishings. Mattresses and box springs are on that list.  

                  Most paper products including books will need thrown out once they are moldy.  For very valuable items such as a wedding album, important picture or family bible, there is an expensive, but effective freeze drying process that can preserve those items. Place those items in a freezer as soon as you can and then get them to the preservation freeze drying contractor.

Food items that have been in contact with mold or flood water should be thrown away. 

              Materials that have a solid surface such as plastic, glass or metal are easily cleaned and preserved. Soap and water is the simplest cleaning method. A mixture of ½ cup of Clorox to a gallon of water is a great way to disinfect the hard surfaced materials. Do not use a higher concentration of Clorox as it can result in injury to people, pets and the items the mixture contacts. 

                Fabric clothing is readily saved by washing in regular laundry detergent unless the fabric has been damaged. The sooner the material is cleaned, the less chance of irreversible damage to material. Mold and flood contaminants will clean out of cloth material, but damaged clothing is not restored to its original condition by washing. Leather is difficult to properly clean and should be handled by a cleaning professional as soon as possible.     

                The paper and cloth materials that did not get wet or damp and do not have visible mold or damaged may be preserved by simply HEPA vacuuming.


                Larger appliances that have some mold exposure but have not been under water may be saved with cleaning.  The exception can be the electronic systems of appliances that can be damaged by moisture or mold. Consult a professional about these items. As an example, a hard drive may be removed from a computer and salvaged, but the drive could be damaged if it is powered on while in a computer with damaged circuitry.  


                 Food preparation appliances that have been exposed to flood water or mold will probably need replaced. The cost of cleaning some of these items will often exceed the cost of replacement. Failure to clean these can result in recontamination of the home or illness to residents.

                Forced air furnaces can distribute mold, flood water disease and bacteria through an entire home. These need professionally addressed as serious health problems can be caused by airborne biological contaminants  

                Mold and flood water biological contaminations can and will live behind walls. Removal of building surfaces or contents may be required to get rid of the contaminations. It is critical to known that demolition or moving of contaminated materials can also spread nasty biological threats throughout a building. Tearing open walls and other enclosed areas can raise the amount of these in the air by factors of hundreds or thousands. The elevated biological contaminations places people and pets at serious health risk. If you do this work yourself, learn and follow the principals of containment, negative air and air scrubbing. Be careful. The life you save could be your own.

                Any handling of contaminated materials should be done with personal protective equipment such as gloves, eye protection and masks. Some contaminants can enter through the eyes and skin, especially if there is an open cut or wound. Use proper protective equipment as appropriate for the conditions.   


                There are some building materials used in the construction that, in all circumstances, will require replacement as opposed to cleaning. Fiberboard ductwork is one such example. Insulation is another common example.  


In Summary

                To minimize loss, begin the effort to protect your home and possessions as soon as it can be done safely.  If attempting the work, yourself, learn about safe methods and follow proper safety precautions.

               Consider consulting a professional for work beyond your comfort zone or background. Good health is priceless and improper handling of contaminated materials can result is serious health problems. Proper remediation cleaning may also protect materials from requiring replacement and save more money than the cost of the services. 

              Go to www.Envirospect.info for more links and additional information about Sick Building Syndrome and its effects on your health. To download a PDF copy our Article “The Top 6 Questions After Flooding”, go to:  http://goo.gl/vMIU9s


For information about mold testing professionals across the country, go to www.Testall.com     Email questions to: DanH@Testall.com Like Envirospect on Facebook or connect @DanHoward251



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