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Cleaning Up After a Flood
During a flood cleanup, the indoor air quality in your home or office may appear to be the least of your problems. However, failure to remove contaminated materials and to reduce moisture and humidity can present serious longterm health risks. Standing water and wet materials are a breeding ground for microorganisms, such as viruses, bacteria, and mold. They can cause disease, trigger allergic reactions, and continue to damage materials long after the flood.
Avoid Problems from Microbial Growth
Remove Standing Water
Standing water is a breeding ground for microorganisms, which can become airborne and be inhaled. Where floodwater contains sewage or decaying animal carcasses, infectious disease is of concern. Even when flooding is due to rainwater, the growth of microorganisms can cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. For these health reasons, and to lessen structural damage, all standing water should be removed as quickly as possible.
Dry Out Your Home
Floodwaters affect a home three ways:
- The water damages materials. Wallboard will disintegrate if it remains wet too long; wood can swell, warp, or rot; electrical parts can short out, malfunction, and cause fires or shock.
- Mud, silt, and unknown contaminants in the water not only get everything dirty; they also create a health hazard.
- Dampness promotes the growth of mildew, a mold or fungus that can grow on everything. The following steps work on all three of these problems. It is very important that they be followed in order.
Lower the Humidity
Everything will dry more quickly and clean more easily if you can reduce the humidity in the home. There are five ways to lower the humidity and stop the rot and mildew. But you’ll have to delay using some methods if you have no electricity.
- Open up the house. If the humidity outside is lower than indoors, and if the weather permits, open all the doors and windows to exchange the moist indoor air for drier outdoor air. Your body will tell if the humidity is lower outdoors. If the sun is out, it should be drier outside. If you have a thermometer with a humidity gauge, you can monitor the indoor and outdoor humidity. On the other hand, when temperatures drop at night, an open home is warmer and will draw moisture indoors. At night and other times when the humidity is higher outdoors, close up the house.
- Open closet and cabinet doors. Remove drawers to allow air circulation. Drawers may stick because of swelling. Don’t try to force them. Speed drying by opening up the back of the cabinet to let the air circulate. You will probably be able to remove the drawers as the cabinet dries out.
- Use fans. Fans help move the air and dry out your home. Do not use central air conditioning or the furnace blower if the ducts were under water. They will blow out dirty air, that might contain contaminants from the sediment left in the duct work. Clean or hose out the ducts first.
- Run dehumidifiers. Dehumidifiers and window air conditioners will reduce the moisture, especially in closed up areas.
- Use desiccants.Desiccants (materials that absorb moisture) are very useful in drying closets or other enclosed areas where air cannot move through. Desiccants like those listed below are usually available at hardware, grocery, or drug stores.
- Chemical dehumidifier packsused for drying boats and damp closets.
- Cat litter made of clay.
- Calcium chloride pellets used for melting ice in the winter. Hang pellets in a pillow case, nylon stocking, or other porous bag. Put a bucket underneath to catch dripping water. Close the closet or area being dried. Be careful. Calcium chloride can burn your skin. It will also make the air salty, so do not use this product near computers or other delicate equipment.
- Call a contractor. There are contractors who specialize in drying out flooded buildings. They have large fans and dehumidifiers that can dry out a house in a few days. Look in the yellow pages under Fire and Water Damage Restoration or under Dehumidifying. Be careful about contractors who inflate prices after a disaster and about out-of-town contractors who inflate prices after a disaster and about out-of-town contractors who request payment in advance.
Be patient. Drying your home could take several weeks. Until your home is reasonably dry, damage caused by mildew and decay will continue. The musty odor will remain forever if the home is not thoroughly dried out well.
RainSoft Air Purification Systems
RainSoft air purification systems treat the entire home, not just one room. Our systems mount directly into the ductwork of your home, providing cleaner, fresher air throughout the entire house. With advanced UV light and ozone lamp technology, the AirMaster Ultra system eliminates airborne contaminants in your home.