Prompt Flood Cleanup and Removal of Mold Can Help Prevent Health Problems

April 3, 2011  //  


Media Contacts:
FEMA – Josie Pritchard        (276) 973-0078
VDEM – Suzanne Simmons   (276) 973-0063

May 29, 2002

Prompt Flood Cleanup and Removal of Mold Can Help Prevent Health Problems

Wise – For Southwest Virginia flood victims there may be an invisible threat that is nearly as dangerous as the floodwaters. Standing water and waterlogged materials are a breeding ground for mold. Mold should be dealt with quickly in order to prevent illness, according to disaster recovery officials.

When airborne mold spores are present in large numbers, they can trigger allergic reactions, asthma attacks, infections and other respiratory problems. In addition, exposure can cause development of an allergy to mold, resulting in long-term problems.

If you can see or smell mold, a mold problem likely exists. (Mold has a musty or earthy odor.) The first step in the clean-up process is to identify the source of the moisture and try to stop it. Then clean, disinfect and dry the moldy area.

  • Use a non-ammonia soap or detergent and hot water or a commercial cleaner.

  • Thoroughly scrub all contaminated surfaces with the soap or detergent. (Use a stiff brush to clean masonry walls.)

  • Rinse all objects with clean water.

Moist, fibrous materials and stagnant water provide the ideal climate for mold growth. Molds can infiltrate sheet rock, carpeting and insulation. These materials generally should be discarded if they become saturated.

After cleaning, apply a disinfectant solution of household bleach to the surface (one to two cups bleach per gallon of water.) The bleach solution can be applied with a garden sprayer or wiped on with a sponge or rag. Be sure to wet the studs, wall cavities, and floors thoroughly. Use a wet-dry vacuum to collect extra bleach solution. Allow the bleach solution to dry naturally for six to eight hours. The bleach solution should not be removed or dried quickly because extended contact time is important.

Some points to remember when working with bleach:

  • Never mix bleach with ammonia because the fumes are toxic.

  • Wear eye protection and rubber gloves when working with bleach.

  • Ventilate the area well by opening doors and windows.

When working around moldy areas, use respiratory protection. People vary in their susceptibility, but almost anyone who breathes enough mold spores will have an adverse reaction. Such problems may include tightening in the chest, flu-like symptoms or even more severe reactions.

Anyone with questions about the cleanup of a water-damaged home can contact their local emergency manager, extension agent or health department.


NOTE TO EDITORS: Information on the Southwest Virginia disaster is also available on FEMA’s homepage on the Internet at, or VDEM’s homepage at Information also is available through FEMA’s 24-fax-on-demand service by calling (202) 646-FEMA. RADIO NEWS DIRECTORS: For recorded actualities on response and recovery operations call the FEMA Radio Network at 1-800-323-5248.


Be ready. Be willing to help.

Virginia Disaster Relief Fund