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Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Preventing, cleaning mold and mildew after natural disasters

Disaster Mold.jpgCleaning up after a natural disaster can be a big job, and one of the first priorities is taking steps to prevent mold and mildew in your home.

“After a natural disaster such as a tornado, severe storm or flood, lots of surfaces in your house can mold and mildew. Moisture control is the key to mold control,” said Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension housing and consumer specialist. “Mold can grow almost anywhere, but porous materials, such as carpeting and drywall, are especially vulnerable.”

Mold and mildew also may prove challenging to people with asthma, allergies or other breathing conditions. Those with suppressed immune systems may be especially sensitive, as well.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (www.epa.gov), to avoid the growth of mold, wet building materials and furnishings should be cleaned and dried within 24 to 48 hours.

“Weather permitting, open the house to help dry it out. Leave the doors to all rooms and closets open, along with any drawers and cabinets,” Peek said. “Curtains should be left open to take advantage of circulating air and sunshine.”

It also is important to thoroughly clean all hard, nonporous surfaces with soap and water. Inside the home, use a mild detergent and water to cleanse surfaces.

“As a precaution while you’re cleaning, think about wearing an N-95 respirator,” Peek said. “Gloves will protect your hands, especially when cleaning with soap and water, while goggles will protect your eyes.”

When possible, consider leaving damp items in the sun, which will help speed up the drying process.

If the damage is excessive or if the mold covers more than 10 square feet, consult the U.S. Environmental Agency’s “Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings” (http://www.epa.gov/mold/mold_remediation.html).

In cases where flood or storm waters are contaminated with sewage, for example, contact a professional with experience in this area.

For more information about acting quickly to avoid mold and mildew during natural disaster recovery efforts, contact the county Extension office.

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Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, OK 74078
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Email: leilana.mckindra@okstate.edu

Oklahoma State University - Stillwater, OK 74078
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