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Fire & Water - Cleanup & Restoration

Archived Blog Posts


4/6/2021 (Permalink)

This picture shows the AC unit with the fan removed, the vacuuming of the fins, and the water-hose cleaning method.

Now that spring has arrived, you should be thinking about getting your HVAC’s external unit (Condenser and Compressor) ready for our hot summer days.

Preventative maintenance for HVAC systems

Regular maintenance can help you save a substantial sum of money.   Properly maintained, an HVAC system, interior, and exterior can last over a decade without any need to replace major components.

Just like your interior HVAC system, the HVAC’s external unit (Condenser and Compressor), needs a regular air conditioning service schedule to keep it in top condition. The condenser is one of the most critical parts of the air conditioner system, and you need to keep an eye on it for faults and mishaps.  It is suggested to periodically hire a professional to have the AC inspected.  A well-trained technician will find and fix problems in your air conditioning system.


The technician should:

  • Check for the correct amount of refrigerant
  • Test for refrigerant leaks using a leak detector
  • Capture any refrigerant that must be evacuated from the system, instead of illegally releasing it into the atmosphere
  • Check for and seal duct leakage in central systems
  • Measure airflow through the evaporator coil
  • Verify the correct electric control sequence and make sure that the heating system and cooling system cannot operate simultaneously
  • Inspect electric terminals, clean and tighten connections, and apply a non-conductive coating if necessary
  • Oil motors and check belts for tightness and wear
  • Check the accuracy of the thermostat.


You can do some maintenance of your own.  The following are some of them.  You can go beyond what is listed by googling DIY AC maintenance.  Here you will find many sites that will give you more maintenance suggestions.

Cleaning the external unit (Condenser and Compressor)

Step 1 – Power Off the Unit/Mains

Safety first. You need to make sure that power is not running through the unit when you are going to clean it. You can get this done either by removing the breaker/block or by moving the switch to the off position. If you think that is hard to do, you can also turn off power to the air conditioner condenser at the main electrical panel.

Step 2 – Clear debris and areas around the unit

Keep the area around the condenser free of plant growth.  Clean the surrounding area by removing all loose dirt, leaves, and other debris with at least a 2-foot radius around the unit.

The condenser fins are where most of the debris will get stuck, and you need to carefully clean this away. Ideally, you could use a rough paintbrush to remove the debris that is easy to dislodge. After this, you could clean the finer debris with your vacuum cleaner and the brush attachment.

Step 3 – Cleaning the Condenser Fan

This is also an area where a lot of dust and debris can accumulate over time and it needs to be cleaned at regular intervals. There are chances for leaves also to get stuck here. The easiest way to get it cleaned is by wiping it down with a damp cloth and then letting it dry in the sun.

Step 4 – Cleaning Fins Inside Out

Use the brush attachment on a powerful shop vacuum to remove all outside dirt. Then, using a gentle stream from a garden hose, spray through the fins from the inside out to remove any built-up dirt or debris from between them.  Never use a pressure washer, since the pressure can damage the fins.

If the fins are particularly dirty, use a commercially available fin cleaning spray available at home improvement centers.  Read and follow manufacturer directions.

How far you want to go with DIY maintenance is up to you.  It all depends on how handy you are.  If the unit is under warranty, verify that any maintenance you do is not going to cancel the warranty.

Now you can have a cool summer! Enjoy!

Source: Hgtv.com, Energy.gov, Acdesigns.net, and A Ryan

Mold Types and Classifications

1/8/2021 (Permalink)

This picture gives you a view of the various common molds and where they can grow. It also shows what the spores look like under a microscope.

There are three- (3) classifications of mold and various types in our world. This is a listing of the most common molds that can be found in our homes.


  • Allergenic 
  • Pathogenic 
  • Toxigenic



  • Classification: Pathogenic and Toxigenic mold type that evolves in its appearance over time
  • Found: Typically grows in humidifiers, cooling coils, drain pans, and window sealants


  • Classification: Allergenic
  • Found: Carpets, wallpaper, window frames, and air conditioning systems

ASPERGILLUS (Fumigatus – Flavus – Terreus - Niger – Nidulans)

  • Classification: Allergenic and Toxigenic. There are over 185 species that appear in many different colors
  • Found: Common mold found in American households’ walls and surfaces


  • Classification: Allergenic
  • Found: Can sometimes be found growing behind wallpaper or on painted or wooden surfaces, grout and/or caulking


  • Classification: Allergenic or Pathogenic. Has a cotton-like texture and usually changes colors over time
  • Found: Commonly found in water-damaged homes and buildings.


  • Classification: Allergenic or Pathogenic. Can grow in both warm and cold conditions
  • Found: Areas with no sunlight and poor ventilation. Often found thriving in indoor materials such as fabrics, upholsteries, and carpets


  • Classification.: Allergenic form of mold that usually grows in thick patches
  • Found: Grows near air conditioning, HVAC systems. and ducting due to moisture from condensation, dust, carpets, and mattresses


  • Classification: Allergenic form of mold that is easily recognizable by its blue or green colored surface with a velvety texture
  • Found: Often found in water-damaged buildings


  • Classification: Toxigenic. Also known as the nefarious “black mold”
  • Found: Thrives in damp, wet areas with high humidity levels. Such as bathrooms, ceilings, wet carpets, laundry rooms, and basements


  • Classification: Allergenic mold type that is generally white with green patches
  • Found: Commonly grows in the home on wet surfaces and moist areas. Such as Carpets, wallpaper, wooden furniture, and floors


  • Classification: Allergenic
  • Found: Thrives in the air and damp places. It is usually black.  Can be found in kitchens, bathrooms, basements, and around windows with high condensation levels

It is always best to have a professional to test the structure and air quality.  The professionals are called Environmental Hygienist.  They can determine which mold and will give you a protocol on how to proceed with the mitigation process.

We are SERVPRO of Winnetka/Wilmette/Skokie are the professionals that will mitigate the mold and make your home safe again.  We are here to put your mind at ease and walk you through the entire process. So call us at 847.600.0102. 


12/23/2020 (Permalink)

2020 is nearly gone. With 2021 coming in, we will need to be vigilant in making it the best year ever!

2020 has been an extremely rough year for everyone.  COVID-19 has destroyed people's lives in more ways than one.  Sickness, death, lockdowns, civil unrest.  Small business owners are struggling and a majority of them have or are going out of business.  Most schools are shut down and replaced with eLearning.  Our children are no longer getting the education they so need.

HOWEVER, let’s hope that 2021, with the help of the vaccine, will be a better year.  We all must support our local small businesses so they can rebuild and become prosperous once again.  We can do it.  With love in our hearts, we can make anything happen.

Here’s to a New Year!  We will make it the best!


Water Damage Categories – What do they mean?

12/22/2020 (Permalink)

This picture shows three- (3) sources of water damage. CAT 1 - Bathtub and Sink, CAT 2 - Sump Pump, and CAT 3 - Waste Line Stack.

Water damage comes from various sources. From pipes and toilets to sewer backups.  According to IICRC standards, there are three- (3) types of water categories: Category 1, Category 2, and Category 3.

Category 1 is considered "Clean Water". This category is from a source that poses no substantial harm to peopleAs examples, these sources could be from an overflowed bathtub and/or sink a broken water supply line to your refrigerators’ ice maker, or a leaking dishwasher water supply line. 

  • After 48 hours, a Category 1 can become a Category 2.

Category 2 also known as "Grey Water" poses health risks due to significant levels of contamination of bacteria, mold, and/or chemicals. This includes dirty water from washing machines, as well as leaks from water beds, broken aquariums, and sump pumps.   

  • Due to rampant bacterial breeding and mold growth, Category 2 becomes a Category 3 situation if left untreated for 2 days or more.

Category 3 is considered "Black Water".  Black Water contains disease-causing organisms, toxins, and is grossly unsanitary. It may also contain 100s of bacteria and virus types, including HIV. Typical black water conditions occur from a sewer backup, a broken waste line stack, and rising floodwaters. Tetanus and other serious diseases are likely to be present in rising floodwaters.

 With any of these categories, it is best to contact your professionals at SERVPRO of Winnetka/Wilmette/Skokie 847.600.0102.  We are always here to help and our goal is to make it "Like it never even happened!"

Winter is Coming and so are Frozen Pipes

12/16/2020 (Permalink)

This photo shows what happens to a pop can that is left in the freezer, and a household pipe that is exposed to freezing temperatures too long.

Have you ever left a can of pop in the freezer too long?  If so, you have a good idea as to what happens when your pipes freeze.  

Typically, your home's pipes begin to freeze when the outside temperature is at least 20° F, and the pipes are exposed to that temperature for a prolonged period of time.  Once the water freezes, it expands in volume.  If this is allowed to go on for too long, the pipe will burst.

When a water pipe bursts, water will come pouring out and will not stop until the water is shut off at the water main.  This should be down as quickly as possible. Be mindful of any nearby electronics or electrical wiring that may have gotten wet and be sure to steer clear of them.  It is suggested that you attach a tag to your water main so you can always find it in an emergency.

Once the water has been shut off, call a plumber to have it repaired.  And contact SERVPRO of Winnetka/Wilmette/Skokie at 847-600-0102 to start the clean-up and drying process.  Time is of the essence.  The longer the water sits, the more damage will occur to your walls, ceilings, floors, and contents.  We at SERVPRO of Winnetka/Wilmette/Skokie are here to make it "Like it never even happened."

Got Sewage?

12/11/2020 (Permalink)

This photo a before/after of sewage in a crawlspace. The Entry is through the Laundry Room floor. The sewage is to the top of the entrance.

Sewage backing up into a home, office, or business, can happen to anyone at any time. Many things can cause a sewage backup, from a pipe clogging, broken drain stack to a flood overfilling a local sewer system. Sewage can be hazardous to your health and can cause extensive structural damage to both your property and your plumbing system. Sewage can be a mixture of waste from both household and industrial sources. The waste can contain anything as harmless as soap to more harmful things such as human or industrial waste.

A sewage loss can seem like a relatively easy cleanup to tackle alone, but it should not be handled by anyone other than specialists. Due to the dangers and health risks of cleaning up a sewage loss, it is a much safer choice to leave the cleanup and restoration to the professionals. Sewage can release toxins or even infected dust, the risk of breathing in the toxins is very high. Once inhaled, the toxins can attack your upper respiratory system, causing asthma-like symptoms and shortness of breath. These fumes are often released into the air during the cleaning process, which is why it is especially important to hire specialists. Our highly-trained water/sewage damage restoration technicians will inspect your property to determine the extent of the damage. SERVPRO of Winnetka/Wilmette/Skokie trained technicians will create customized solutions to remove the sewage, damaged materials, such as baseboards and drywall, clean, and disinfect.

Do you need sewage cleaning services? Call SERVPRO of Winnetka/Wilmette/Skokie at 847-600-0102.  We provide fast, effective sewage cleanup services to get your property dry, sanitary, and looking, and smelling, fresh once again.  We work to make your home or office safe again.

Sources: Antoinette Ryan


12/10/2020 (Permalink)

This shows what the room looked like before cleanup, the resulting damage to the floor, and the room after the floor removal and cleanup is complete.


Hoarding is the persistent difficulty to discard or part with possessions, regardless of their actual value. The behavior usually has detrimental effects—emotional, physical, social, financial, legal, and possible loss of their home. This not only affects the hoarder but family members as well.

Common hoarding cleanup hazards

For those who hoard, the quantity of their collected items sets them apart from other people. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, about 40 percent of object hoarders also keep animals and more than 80 percent of animal hoarders have diseased, dying, or dead animals on the premises. The animal waste, including fecal matter and urine, are biohazards and spread disease. This creates a situation that is just as dangerous to cleanup as infected blood. droppings and urine residue is a biohazard and can spread disease.

The following materials are common hazards found in a hoarding home:

  • Human waste – Toilets, tubs, and sinks are usually unusable or inaccessible
  • Mold/Mildew
  • Sharps (needles, medical instruments, and sharp objects)
  • Asbestos
  • Rotting food - major appliances are broken or inaccessible
  • Paper/Plastic - newspapers, magazines, paper, cardboard boxes, photographs, and plastic bags
  • Heavy dust – poor air quality
  • Stressed property – damaged flooring, ceiling, walls, etc.
  • Electrical hazards
  •  Tripping and the possibility of contents falling

Importance of safety gear during a hoarding cleanup

It’s not uncommon for hoarding cleanup technicians to be exposed to a cocktail of human and animal waste, hypodermic needles, broken glass, and black mold. The bacteria transmitted through animal and human waste can cause infections and respiratory complications that have long-term effects.

SERVPRO of Winnetka/Wilmette/Skokie technicians are properly equipped and trained to handle biohazard materials and hazardous working conditions. Our technicians wear personal protective gear that meets the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Bloodborne Pathogen Standard, including:

  • Disposable mask
  • Purifying full-face respirator
  • Chemical and Puncture resistant gloves
  • Biohazard suits
  • Steel Toe Boots

 We at SERVPRO of Winnetka/Wilmette/Skokie are here to make the process as quick and painless as possible.  You can count on us.

Sources: adaa.org, aftermath.com, and ARyan

CORONAVIRUS a.k.a. COVID-19 Biohazard

4/3/2020 (Permalink)

Fogging of an unaffected office as a precautionary measure. All Biohazards were eliminated.

What is coronavirus?

The 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new virus that causes respiratory illness in people and can spread from person-to-person.

Symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath 

The symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. Reported illnesses have ranged from people with little to no symptoms to people being severely ill and dying. 

Coronaviruses spread just like the flu or a cold:

  • Through the air by coughing or sneezing;
  • Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands;
  • Touching an object or surface with the virus on it;

For your health and peace of mind.  Have your home and/or business disinfected.  Call the professionals at SERVPRO® of Winnetka/Wilmette/Skokie 847-600-0102. We can take care of your disinfecting needs. 

SERVPRO has a specialty formulated disinfectant that kills H1N1, Influenza B, Hepatitis A, B & C, as well as feline and canine coronavirus, and much, much more. It is an EPA registered, stabilized chlorine dioxide-based disinfectant and sanitizer. It is designed to kill harmful bacteria, viruses, and mold on hard surfaces and is an effective sanitizer for soft surfaces. It carries the EPA’s lowest toxicity rating making it safe for everyday use.

The areas of use:

Homes, Daycares, Schools, Laboratories, Hospitals, Nursing Homes, Restaurants, Refrigerated Storage Units, Vehicles, Ambulances, Buses, Airplanes, Trains, Boats, Cruise Ships, Gyms, Locker Rooms, Sports Gear, Veterinary Clinics, Carpeting, Fabrics, Natural Stones, Plastics. NSF rated (D2). No rinse required on food contact surfaces at full strength.

The key to this particular virus is “dwell time” or how long does the surface stay “wet”.  This virus has a fatty layer around it and the chemicals need time to get through that layer to kill the virus.  We use an electrostatic fogging system, along with SERVPRO’s specialty formulated disinfectant, which is an effective way to get proper coverage on surfaces. We would come in and electrostatically fog and wipe down the “high touch points”. 

This is an unusual situation, but we do “fog” spaces for clients during the “flu” season on a regular basis, and they have found that it helps cut down the spread of the cold or flu within the office or other public spaces.

There is no “protective shield” that we can apply that will stop this particular virus but with preventative fogging and good cleaning practices, we can all hopefully limit the spread of a potential outbreak.


  • HANDS Wash them often
  • ELBOW Cough and/or into it - Do not use your hands!
  • FACE Don't touch it
  • SPACE Keep a safe distance - at least 6 ft
  • HOME Stay if you can
  • GUIDELINES-Federal and State Follow them

Source(s): Steve Syreggelas, Antoinette Ryan, and the CDC