1. Remove standing water and dry out affected areas thoroughly
2. If you suspect mold, clean the area thoroughly with mild soap and water or household cleaning supplies
3. Wear gloves, close-toed shoes, goggles and a respiratory mask when cleaning or dealing with mold
4. When in doubt, throw it out
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Boulder County Public Health
While living in London three years ago, Boulder resident Betsy Anderson experienced firsthand the dangerous effects of mold on her health.
After coming home from vacation, Anderson and her husband noticed water damage to their house. They pulled up the floorboards and unleashed a "toxic mess" of mold all over the house, she said.
"Mold is like a substance from hell," Anderson said.
Anderson, who moved to her home in north Boulder two years ago, said she lost her voice, experienced chronic eye infections and foggy vision, had migraines and trouble breathing. The house was a "total loss," she said, because of the mold.
Though her Boulder home didn't suffer any damage from last week's heavy rains and flooding, Anderson, 53, worried about her neighbors and other Boulder County residents who might begin to see or smell mold in their homes or on their belongings.
Boulder County Public Health air quality coordinator Pam Milmoe said residents who are getting back into their homes for the first time this week should begin the clean-up and drying out processes immediately to prevent mold from growing.
"Mold is problematic and people should be doing everything they can to dry out wet areas in order to prevent mold from growing," Milmoe said. "You have standing water, you remove the water, it goes down and then what you do is actively air dry. Don't allow (wet areas) to sit without a fan on it."
Milmoe said mold can grow within 48 hours of water damage, though it's not a "given" that everyone in Boulder County will experience mold in their home. Milmoe added that it might be days or weeks before residents of affected areas notice signs of mold.
When it comes to drywall, Milmoe said even if the wall itself doesn't appear to be damaged, there might be water inside or behind it. If drywall, carpet or other items simply aren't drying, Milmoe said either throw it out or cut it out.
"If odors are continuing, signs of staining, it can't be cleaned off, it needs to be removed," she said.
During general clean-up efforts, Milmoe recommended a bleach solution. For mold, Milmoe said residents should use mild soap and water or regular cleaning products. Wash clothes in the washing machine with regular detergent, she said.
Get plenty of fresh air when cleaning or dealing with mold, she added, and wear a respiratory mask.
"People need to be vigilant," she said. "Is it dry? Is it musty smelling? If you think you have a problem, you probably do."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that after a flood, residents should clean and dry out their homes and belongings within 48 hours of water damage. They suggest leaving doors and windows open, and using multiple fans to dry out the affected areas.
If items, especially porous items, have been wet for more than 48 hours, the CDC recommends throwing them out. Some of those items include carpet, carpet padding, upholstery, wallpaper, drywall, floor and ceiling tiles, insulation material, clothing, leather, paper, wood and food.
According to the CDC, people with asthma, allergies, breathing conditions or compromised immune systems are especially sensitive to mold. Symptoms can include a stuffy nose, irritated eyes, wheezing or skin irritation.