Health officials caution about cleanup

Published 9:03 am Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Now that the skies have cleared from last week’s storms and the drying out has begun, county officials are warning residents to be careful when cleaning out flooded basements.

“There’s more to it than just drying it out with a fan,” said Freeborn County Emergency Management Director Mark Roche. “Even if it was clean water, it’s not clean water.”

Freeborn County Public Health Nurse Lois Ahern advised wearing protective rubber gloves and boots along with long-sleeved shirts and pants to protect bare skin from mold and bleach. An N-95 respirator worn over the face is also recommended.

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“You need to follow a process when cleaning up,” she said.

Ahern said to throw out any items that have soaked up water. Furniture, carpets and pads, drywall, sheet rock, wood paneling and pressed wood are all susceptible to mold, as mold can grow within 12 to 24 hours after a flood. “Most things should probably be thrown out,” Ahern said.

Ahern recommended power washing affected areas once everything has been removed.

After removal and power washing, the cleaning begins. The Minnesota Department of Health recommends cleaning surfaces touched by flood water or sewage, by using one-quarter to one-half cup of bleach per gallon of water. It also advised cleaning surfaces that are not water-soaked, such as hard plastic, concrete, glass and metal.

After cleaning, MDH advises drying your home and items quickly using fans and dehumidifiers, so mold will not begin to grow. MDH advises that drying can take a long time, and it may take months before redoing a basement.

The MDH also cautions on rebuilding before basement areas are thoroughly dry, as mold can grow inside the walls if remodeling occurs while the basement walls or studs are still damp.

Ahern also recommends those cleaning out flood water to pick up cleanup kits, available through the Freeborn County Red Cross and the Salvation Army, which give specific directions on cleaning the water out of houses.

A handy checklist

The Minnesota Department of Health recommends throwing out any of the following items if they are water soaked:

  • Carpet and pad
  • Linoleum or laminate flooring
  • Sub-floor/underlayment (pressed-wood, plywood, OSB)
  • Drywall, OSB, pressed-wood paneling on walls or ceilings
  • Insulation
  • Upholstered or particle board furniture
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Wallpaper and inexpensive wall coverings
  • Paper materials
  • Non-metal materials in ductwork
  • Anything else that has soaked up water
  • If structurally sound, the following may be cleaned, disinfected and dried:
  • Flooring (stone, tile, vinyl, concrete, wood, rubber)
  • Subfloor/underlayment (concrete or solid wood)
  • Walls (concrete, brick, solid wood, lathe and plaster)
  • Furniture (wood, metal, plastic, glass)
  • Laminated furniture if undamaged
  • Foam insulation
  • Unlined, uninsulated metal ductwork.