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Be Safe, Don't Stay in a Home Infested With Mold or Mildew

Release date: 
September 18, 2011
Release Number: 

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The thousands of individuals and families whose residences sustained water damage as a result of Hurricane Irene may now be confronting another threat to their homes and health -- mold.

North Carolina Emergency Management and the Federal Emergency Management Agency stress that no one stay in a mold-infested home. Mold can cause serious health problems, as well as structural damage to a home when a property has experienced flooding.

Mold is a simple microscopic organism. When present in large quantities, mold can cause respiratory problems, burning or watery eyes, skin irritations or nervous system disorders such as headaches and memory loss.

When waters flood a home or business it may cause mold to grow on walls and flooring within 24 to
48 hours. Even worse, mold will continue growing until steps are taken to eliminate the problem.

Dry out quickly

Drying out thoroughly may help prevent immediate and long-term health problems. Allow areas to dry two to three days before replacing damaged materials.

Open the windows to fresh air. The humidity level inside a home or business can be lowered with a fan or dehumidifier, unless the mold has already begun to grow. Fans can spread existing mold. Closets and cabinets should be aired by keeping their doors open. Special drying materials that absorb water also are useful in drying out closed areas.

Remove all water and fix any leaks before cleaning. If wiring is wet or moldy, an electrician needs to check the entire system before turning the power on again.

Porous materials such as paper, rags, wallboard and rotten wood can trap molds and should be thrown out. Harder materials such as glass, plastic and metal can be cleaned and disinfected.

Cleaning Tips

To remove moldy materials you will need:

  • Buckets and trash bags
  • Scrub brush, sponges, and rags
  • Gloves (latex, rubber) and a painter's or respirator mask
  • Broom, mop, and wet-dry shop vacuum
  • Non-ammonia soap or commercial cleaner (phenolic or pine-oil based)
  • Disinfect with liquid chlorine bleach (1 cup of bleach to 1 gallon of water)

Wear a filter mask and gloves to avoid contact with the mold. Remove porous materials such as ceiling tiles, wallboard and wood products. If wallboard is flooded, measure and cut at least one foot above the high water mark and more if deemed necessary.

Carpeting can be a difficult problem, because drying does not remove the dead spores. If there is heavy mold, consider disposing of the carpet.

After thorough cleaning and rinsing, disinfect the area with a solution of household bleach and water
(1 cup of bleach per gallon of water). Never mix bleach with ammonia - the fumes are toxic!

Let disinfected areas dry naturally overnight to kill all the mold. For a large mold problem or if you are highly sensitive to mold, an experienced professional should do the work.

Download FEMA's mold and mildew cleanup brochure, FEMA B-606, Mold & Mildew; Cleaning up your Flood Damaged Home. To order a free copy, call 800-480-2520 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Publications can also be ordered by e-mail at: or fax: 240-699-0525.

Housing assistance

FEMA's first priority remains safe and sanitary housing for the survivors affected by Hurricane Irene. There is assistance available for those whose homes are unlivable. For more information on housing or other disaster assistance, register with FEMA one of three ways:

  1. Call 800-621-FEMA (3362). Help is available in most languag...
Last Updated: 
January 3, 2018 - 12:17