Dearest Sybil, We opened our house on Fire Island last week and walked into a disaster! It seems that with the very long, very cold, and very, very wet Winter this year, our place flooded from the roof and there was water and mold everywhere. Where, oh where do we even start??? HELP!! Mrs. Fuzzy Slippers.
Dear Mrs. F.S., You know it’s so funny! Folks always come up to me on the boardwalk, on the beach, or in a bistro and tell me that they think I float unharmed and never inconvenienced by life’s troubles and tragedies…and I have to reassure them that I get knocked around just as much as everyone else waiting for their clam chowder… even out here in beautiful Fire Island. And I TOO have walked into a house completely trashed by life’s merry little pranks! (Remind me to tell you about the Manson Family wannabes who broke into a place I had in the Pines and lived for maybe 4 months without any running water but still used the toilet!.... Yes! YOU do the math on that one!!). When you walk into a house that has been thoroughly soaked and is becoming a finalist for the Miss Hazmat-Most-Contaminated-Places-To-Visit-Before-You-Die Contest, there are definite rules and protocols to follow to get your home OUT of the running!!! Many of us learned a lot about this after Hurricane Sandy wreaked such havoc all over the Northeast, and the hew and cry over and over again was “MOLD”!!! Suddenly, perfectly healthy folks were coming down with strange skin and respiratory problems; rashes and sores that itched and might not heal quickly, coughs and sinus infections that got worse and worse, and then a whole list of other even scarier symptoms involving digestive and neurological problems. When it was discovered that houses were molding, especially with the “new” building materials like sheetrock and plaster board being more vulnerable than the “old-fashioned” wood paneling of the 1950s, Fire Island turned from a sweet little sandbar into one huge hospital ward of health bulletins, hype, and hysteria….. and much of it well-founded! For the very young, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems mold in the home and work place can be terribly serious and even deadly. Now that we look back through news reports from the past, we see that “mysterious outbreaks of illnesses” may very well have been mold-related following hurricanes, floods, and other disasters involving water damage in locations that remained wet and possibly warm after the initial catastrophe. SO!...with all that in mind, what do we do?? First of all, the internet can answer tons of questions and give us referrals to the right solutions and the people that can provide them… Also, ask your neighbors! Kevin Bacon is right about the whole 6 degrees thing. You can’t throw a slice of moldy pumpernickel in any direction without hitting someone who’s had some experience with solving a mold problem in their place. Your friendly neighborhood contractor (and there are dozens up and down the length of the island!) have all been involved and perhaps even received extra training! Yes, you could do all the home-made cures like opening the entire house up to fresh air and sun, putting fans in all the rooms blowing furiously, and washing everything down with a mixture of bleach and hot water and “scrubby” sponges!…. In addition to bleach, folks have used borax, vinegar, ammonia, hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, common household detergent, and even grapefruit seed extract and tea tree oil. And then of course, there are now dozens of special moldicide products on the market. But everything needs to be handled very carefully, and if you’re put in the position of having mold inside walls, ceilings, and under the floor, there’s only one solution; and that is the professional one. Call an expert! Do nothing on your own! I’m telling you you haven’t lived till you’ve had a wall pulled down, or a floor pried up and seen mold in black, green, and every shade between mounding into veritable throw pillows of Edgar Allen Poe horror!! Above and beyond the sad smell of a dead basement greeting your recoiling nostrils, the sight of that much mold swallowing up the innards of a house sends some folks right over the edge…. (Did you know that some folks actually have a phobia of mold! I’m not sure what it’s called, but fear of mushrooms is “mycophobia”, and perhaps that’s close enough, because sometimes there are mushrooms growing in all that gunk along with everything else!) The one and only rule I can give you is that the faster you get the water stopped, the place open, airy and drying out, and the contractor called, the easier and cheaper it will be. Period! A lot of white clothing, slip covers, linens, and other fabrics can be rescued with several washings of Oxyclean combined with bleach and detergent….colored fabrics like Grandpa’s favorite bowling shirt may be less easy to rescue because chlorine bleach really works the wonders. If you’re willing to spend some money on the non-white items, take them to a reliable neighborhood drycleaner. They’ve managed miracles for me, and you don’t necessarily have to drop another mortgage at Madame Paulette’s just because the Met’s Costume Institute does!! Now, before one of you reading this over his eggs Benedict mutters that Mummie is pontificating from a lofty perch and knows nothing of whence I speak….I have a confession to make; I AM "MRS. FUZZY SLIPPERS"!!! ….and I’m the one going through all of this myself. You see? Mummie cares so much about you, dear reader, that she even uses her own stubbed toe to help you with yours!! Mold, stuffed up noses, surprise visits from in-laws at the beach, dead raccoons inside the eaves, and day-old French bread and a fondue pot you got from the flea market; yep! Just ask Mummie what to do, and she’ll dig up something from her glamorous misadventures!! …and now?....Well, back to the laundry and a cup of coffee with my wonderful God-sent contractor Mr. C.B.!!!! Xoxoxox!! Sybil.
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