Living Smart: 6 steps to prevent carpet mold after water damage

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Homeowners who experience even a small amount of water seeping into their homes either from flooding or a broken pipe should be concerned about mold.

It doesnít take much water for mold to grow and do a lot of harm.

"All it needs is a little moisture and a little dark space, and it can grow so quickly," contractor Danny Lipford tells KTRK-TV in Houston.

Homeowners who experience a double whammy of flooding and power outages from spring or summer storms are especially susceptible to mold growth.

These situations can create warm, dark and humid environments ó conditions in which mold and mildew thrive.

"It can be there, and you wonít know it at all," says Lipford, who owns Lipford Construction in Mobile, Ala., "Especially very porous materials ó carpet, carpet pad and insulation thatís in walls."

The sooner you start cleaning up after water damage, the sooner you can stop mold from growing under your carpet.

The tools are simple: fans, bleach and cleaners.

Red Cross officials say many homeowners can get rid of the mold just fine after a flood, but it will require a bit of elbow grease.

"Itís mainly a matter of scrubbing," says Ken Garcia with the Red Cross Tulsa chapter. "Itís kind of getting down on your hands and knees and really scrubbing."

Exposure to mold can cause health problems for some people by irritating the nose, eyes throat or lungs. Breathing airborne mold may trigger symptoms in those with hay fever, asthma and allergies.

The best way to keep mold from spreading is to act fast when you know water is present. If you follow these six steps from Ayoub Carpet Service in Chantilly, Va., you should stay mold free.

1. Remove water as quickly as possible

Use a wet/dry vacuum to clean up as much water as soon as possible. These machines are the most effective tools for removing water and can be rented or provided by water- and smoke-damage remediation companies that specialize in repairing residential flood damage.

2. Use fans to speed up carpet-drying process

It can take several days for fans to completely dry a water-damaged area. The good news is that they also help circulate fresh air.

"When you think itís all nice and dry inside, itís not," Lipford adds. "Keep the fans going 24 hours a day for at least another week or so."

Homeowners can rent high-power drying fans from local home improvement stores with tool rental service.

3. Use a dehumidfier to dry out the room

These machines remove excessive moisture, which makes the air feel cooler and limits mold and mildew growth. Any equipment that helps dry out the air and the ground will speed up the drying time for your damaged floors and coverings.

4. Steam clean carpet and flooring

Steam clean all carpets to properly sanitize and deodorize. Typically, water-damaged carpet padding must be replaced.

Replacing just the padding is much less expensive than having to re-carpet your entire home.

5. Sanitize walls and baseboards

Anything touched by storm water should be sanitized. Clean all walls, hard-surface floors and other household surfaces with soap and water.

Sanitize them with a solution of 1.5 cups of chlorine bleach to one gallon of water. Remember to wear rubber gloves during cleanup.

6. Check furniture

Look for water damage and remove furniture from wet flooring.

Water damage can easily be hidden underneath rugs or carpet, so be sure to give your home a thorough inspection if you suspect water damage.

Cleaning water-soaked carpets and floors is difficult under any conditions, but in the aftermath of a storm or flood, contamination by mud, silt, sewage and mildew, can compound the problem. The Institute for Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification recommends that in such cases, a certified mold restoration service provider should evaluate water damage and remove mold.