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NDSU Extension Service Offers Water Damage Cleanup Advice

Cleanup needs to be done quickly to prevent mold growth.

Many North Dakotans are faced with cleaning buildings that are wet from seepage into basements or other water damage caused by flooding and saturated soils.

Here are tips from Ken Hellevang, North Dakota State University Extension Service agricultural engineer, to help the cleanup go more smoothly and safely:

  • Stay safe. When using wet/dry vacuums and other cleaning equipment, use an extension cord with a ground fault circuit interrupter or install a ground fault circuit interrupter in electrical circuits. Do not stand in water when using electrical equipment.
  • Sewer backup contains extensive biological contamination, so use care when doing cleanup. Wear boots, gloves and other protective gear. Overland flooding also may contain some biological or chemical contamination, so use personal protective clothing. Porous materials such as carpet or drywall that can absorb water need to be discarded if exposed to sewer backup or other water with biological or chemical contamination.
  • Wet materials will mold in one to three days, depending on the temperature, so cleanup and drying need to be done quickly. Mold in buildings is a human health hazard. Mold must be removed, not just killed by using a biocide, to eliminate the hazard. Open at least two windows for cross-ventilation to remove moisture in the house if outdoor air is dry, or use a dehumidifier. Adding heat without exhausting the air just creates a warm, humid environment that is more conducive to mold growth and does not aid drying. Use fans to circulate air across damp surfaces to speed up drying.
  • Clean and dry carpets and rugs quickly. For health reasons, discard carpet if it is exposed to sewage or if mold growth occurred. To clean, take carpets and rugs outside and hose them down. Use a disinfecting carpet cleaner to clean them thoroughly. Dry the carpet or rugs and floor rapidly and thoroughly before replacing the carpet. Use a moisture meter to assure that a wood floor is dry before replacing the carpet or rugs. Before placing carpet on concrete, tape a 3-foot-square plastic sheet on the concrete for a couple of days to make sure moisture vapor is not coming through to create damp conditions conducive for mold growth. Replace the padding.
  • If the carpet can't be removed, dry it within 48 hours of when it became wet to minimize mold growth; use a wet/dry vacuum, dry outdoor air and/or a dehumidifier. Use fans to circulate air above and underneath the carpet. Unless the carpet is very thin and does not have a pad, such as indoor/outdoor carpeting, lifting the carpet to expose both sides for drying is very important. Mold growth likely will occur unless the carpet can be dried within 24 to 48 hours, depending on the temperature.
  • Clean and sanitize nonporous materials. Scrub surfaces with hot water and a heavy-duty cleaner. Then sanitize for biological contamination with a solution of chlorine bleach and water or a product that is labeled as a disinfectant to kill germs. Follow label directions. Don’t mix cleaning products because a combination of chemicals can give off toxic fumes.
  • Dry ceilings and walls. Typically, water-soaked wallboard needs to be removed and thrown away because it loses its structural integrity and drying it may not be possible before it becomes moldy. Damp wallboard on a wall that does not contain insulation needs to be dried rapidly by circulating air onto the damp wall. It must be dried within a couple of days to prevent mold growth. Water will wick up drywall a couple of feet above the waterline. Frequently, a wall will need to be opened to dry rapidly. If the wall contains insulation, the wall needs to be opened and the insulation removed. The insulation retains moisture, and the paper on the interior of the wall will become infested with mold before it dries. Plaster and paneling may be saved, but air must circulate in the wall cavities to dry the studs and sills.
  • Clean appliances. Use a heavy-duty cleaner and hot water, then a bleach solution, to clean surfaces. Recondition or replace electric motors that were submerged in water.
  • Hire a professional to replace or recondition electrical wiring and equipment. Breaker panel boards, breakers, fuses, receptacles, switches, light fixtures and electric heaters that were submerged must be replaced. Electrical wiring also may need to be replaced.

For more information, visit the NDSU Extension Service website on coping with flooding at http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/flood or contact your local NDSU Extension Service office.


NDSU Agriculture Communication - June 27, 2013

Source:Ken Hellevang, (701) 231-7243, kenneth.hellevang@ndsu.edu
Editor:Ellen Crawford, (701 231-5391, ellen.crawford@ndsu.edu
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