HOUSTON - One of the first things many people rescued from the floodwaters in the Houston area might want to do is wash their clothes-- but don't. Clothes soaked by the nasty floodwaters are like super petri dishes for toxic mold.
You have only one option, and it isn't the washing machine. Throw those clothes away.
"It's not safe," said Dr. Noreen Khan Mayberry, a toxicologist.
The problem? Strains of pathogenic mold spores grow in clothes contaminated by floodwaters. You can't get rid of those mold strains by washing your clothes.
"Anything you were rescued in, you pretty much should throw away," Dr. Khan Mayberry said.
Floodwaters are full of runoff, chemicals, sewage and more. When your clothes and shoes are soaked by them, mold spores take over. You might not see them, but washing flood-soaked clothing even multiple times won't get rid of them.
Despite what you may have heard, hydrogen peroxide and vinegar won't kill the spores, either. Bleach might, but you'd have to use so much of it to get rid of the mold spores that you would likely ruin your clothes in the process. The only safe option is to throw them away.
What if you've already washed your clothes, or volunteered to wash someone else's? Clean your washing machine. You'll need to run a cycle with bleach to get rid of any mold spores that might have been transferred from the dirty clothes during the wash process. If your clothes went into the dryer, you'll need to wipe that out with bleach as well.