Dealing with mold

A hurricane’s lingering calling card

Its spores begin to bloom 24 to 48 hours after contact with water, warmth and darkness — three of the only items in abundance after a storm has turned South Florida into a giant powerless petri dish.

Mold grows on the interior walls of a  hurricane devastated home in suburban Lantana in 2007. (Lannis Waters / The Post)

Mold grows on the interior walls of a hurricane devastated home in suburban Lantana in 2007. (Lannis Waters / The Post)

Mold ruins walls, ceilings, carpets and clothing. It makes our houses smell and can cause health problems in susceptible people. If your roof leaks during a hurricane, expect mold to move in shortly afterward, say experts.

CHECKING FOR MOLD

The sniff test: If you detect a fusty, mildewy odor, you likely have mold. But some mold passes the sniff test.

The next step is to inspect your house with a flashlight. You’re looking for any blotchy growth that starts out white and turns black. Black mold can be an indication that spores have been festering for a while. If you have allergies or a compromised immune system, wear a protective mask with a NIOSH N95 rating, available at hardware stores.

Check your attic first, especially if you’ve had a roof leak.

Check the sides of furniture, the undersides of area rugs, and walls and ceilings.

GETTING RID OF MOLD

Caught early, mold outbreaks can be stopped. Walls, ceilings and floors should be washed with a diluted bleach solution or trisodium phosphate as soon as possible then primed and repainted. Use rubber gloves.

Mold on wooden furniture can be removed with isopropyl alcohol (test the finish first). Furniture polish will also destroy mold microbes.

On leather furniture, wipe with diluted alcohol (1 C. denatured alcohol with 1 C. water.) If stain remains, use saddle soap or mild detergent. Dry in sun, if possible.

Mold covers the walls of a ruined Kings Point condo in Delray Beach following Hurricane Wilma in 2005. (The Post)

Mold covers the walls of a ruined Kings Point condo in Delray Beach following Hurricane Wilma in 2005. (The Post)

Mold that has been growing for weeks requires more extreme measures. Mold-infested drywall must be cut out and discarded. Fiberboard furniture or cabinets infested with mold should also be thrown away.

Be sure to check attics. Soaked insulation may need to be thrown out.

Clean your air conditioner or have a professional do it, since the units frequently harbor mold microbes.

There is no license for mold clean-up firms, so ask for someone with certification from an agency such as the Association of Specialists in Cleaning and Restoration, the National Association of Mold Professionals or the International Air Quality Control Commission.

A DEMON TO DRYWALL

Mold’s favorite food appears to be wallboard, also called drywall. Its paper or cellulose backing contains a smorgasbord of organic treats that mold spores crave. A nasty black mold called Stachybotrys chartarum is particularly fond of drywall. The most insidious aspect of mold-infected drywall is that spores usually begin to grow on the back, where they can reproduce in the warm dark.

The mold isn’t visible until the colonies accumulate in such numbers that they grow through the wallboard. New chemical sealants can make homes more resistant to mold.

— Barbara Marshall