As many New Jerseyans are being allowed back into their water-logged homes, they're dealing with a new problem they many not have anticipated: mold.

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But, there are a few simple steps homeowners can take to prevent thousands of dollars in structural damage.

"In order to grow, mold has to have moisture," said Doug Hoffman, executive director of the National Organization of Remediators and Mold Inspectors. "It can get its moisture from an on-going water event, from material that has been soaked or from relative humidity in the air. Whatever steps can be taken to first stop the source of moisture, that has to be a major step in the right direction."

"You never know what kind of mold you're dealing with so you want to protect yourself by using a good mask and gloves," said Hoffman. "Once you are protected, you need to remove standing water, wet carpets, rugs and personal belongings and start up some fans and heaters. If you can use heat along with the movement of air and dehumidification, it will dry out the area much, much quicker."

When starting the cleaning process, you should never use bleach. "Bleach doesn't actually kill the mold. It simply makes it go clear. When it comes back, it may be worse than it was before. We recommend highly that people use good enzyme cleaners that don't have volatile organic compounds," said Hoffman.

Hoffman offers the following tips:

1. Remove standing water-remove wet carpets, rugs, draperies, personal belongings (if possible) and exterior mulch against the foundation walls, etc., to allow the subflooring and foundation to dry.

2. Dry the structure out as quickly as possible-this is the most important thing you can do as structural mold will begin to form in the first 24-48 hours. Remove water-saturated sheetrock 18 inches above the highest watermark to increase structural drying.

3. Turn up the heat and use a dehumidifier-when drying out a structure and/or its contents, reduce the indoor humidity to less than 60% and use heat to speed the drying process. Hot, dry air dries things faster than cold moist air.

4. Circulate the air-turn on fans and dehumidifiers or open windows if there is no electricity to get air moving around to increase drying.

5. Don't seal it up until its dry-siding, sheetrock, and flooring repairs should be done only after the substrates are completely dry. Only use plastic to prevent further water damage.

6. Don't use bleach. It is an effective sanitizer but will not remove mold at its root. The mold will look like its gone but it won't be.

7. Check your attic. Undetected roof leaks can become big structural mold problems later

8. Inspect windows on the outside of the structure-check for possible water seepage through the caulking/seals.

9. Remove all mold growth on building materials by mechanical means-such as sanding or complete removal.

10. Use sanitizers on any portion of the structure contaminated by sewage or flood waters.

For more information on water damage and flood resources, visit or to locate a certified mold inspector or remediator in your area, log onto or call 1-877-251-2296.