First District Health Unit is trying to get the word out on how to clean up basements after all the recent storms. Ignoring water problems or cleaning up improperly can lead to health problems for affected homeowners.
Proper cleaning is key to preventing mold growth. Moisture control efforts should begin immediately by removing or drying out all wet items including ceiling tile, sheetrock, carpet, insulation and furniture. After drying and removing items, a 10 percent bleach solution can be used as a disinfectant to prevent and clean up mold.
"If you haven't gotten things dried out, the wet carpet needs to come out as soon as possible, because mold can start growing within 48 hours. If you have damage to the walls, the sheetrock or the paneling, you need to dry that out," said Jim Heckman, director of environmental health for First District Health Unit.
After unsalvagable materials have been disposed of, homeowners can work to prevent mold growth after the drying process is complete. Homeowners should first scrub surfaces with hot, soapy water and dry out the materials using fans. They should then treat the materials using a bleach solution, mixing one cup of bleach per gallon of room temperature water, Heckman said.
"When working with this high concentration of bleach you should wear eye protection and gloves and have good ventilation in your working area. You should also be careful using this concentration around people with respiratory illnesses," he added.
For sheetrock that has begun to mold, Heckman said people should cut it out a foot above any indication of mold when they are discarding it. When replacing sheetrock, if water is a continuing problem, people might consider putting the sheetrock two to three inches above the concrete floor and putting a high baseboard on it, because water damage usually occurs within one to three inches in a basement, he explained.
"If you do have mold on your sheetrock and you're removing it, you need to use personal protective equipment, at least an N95 mask and rubber gloves, and try to seal off the area," Heckman said.
"These are all guidelines that we give to people. If people have extensive mold, they might consider a professional clean up," he added.
In removing items that have been exposed to moisture, people should discard anything upholstered if it has been exposed to raw sewage. If the water was the result of sump pump overflow and is thought to be clean ground water, people can steam clean the items at the least and make a decision whether they want to keep them or not.
Removing mold from the home is important, as mold can cause allergic reactions to those exposed. Symptoms of exposure go away when the person is no longer exposed, but they can become sensitized to exposure in the future and react more severely; according to Dr. R. Jethwa of First District Health Unit.
For more information on clean up, people can visit www.fdhu.org or http://www.ndhealth.gov/flood/FloodCleanupGuide.pdf.