Safety, Effectiveness Key Issues For Flood Damage Clean Up

Disaster Response
Contact: Anna Briseno
Senior Director, External Communications
(202) 266-8132

Flooding devastates the home owners who face cleaning up the mess left behind. If you are faced with flood damage, it is important to know the safe and effective methods for cleaning and repair.

Before beginning cleaning and repairing your home, be sure that there is no further danger of flooding. Inspect the house from the outside to assess how safe it is to enter. Follow any guidance or orders from your local municipality regarding entering the area. Homes that have been deemed structurally unsound should never be entered. Always avoid stepping in or wading through any standing flood waters if still present, as these waters can be contaminated with harmful chemical or biological agents.

Taking Safety Measures

Wear protective clothing including rubber or work gloves, long-sleeved shirts, long pants and sturdy shoes or boots to provide protection from contaminated water, vermin and debris. A dust mask or respirator may also be required for work around dust or mold.

Managing Utilities

Make sure that all utilities, such as electric, gas and water service have been shut off before entering a structure for the first time. Do not plug in any items to flood-compromised electrical system as the system may be unsafe. Consult a professional and licensed electrician for thorough tested prior to any use.

Unless you have received official word that the water supply is safe, purify all water for drinking, cooking and washing. Sterilize cookware, dishes and utensils before using them.

Contacting Your Insurance Company

Contact your insurance adjuster as soon as possible, but you do not have to wait for the adjuster to arrive before you start your clean up efforts. Take photos and clearly document any damages to your home or personal belongings as these could be needed when filing a claim. Cleaning should begin as soon as it is safe to do so, but permanent repairs should not be attempted until the home is thoroughly dry and professionally sanitized. This process may take several weeks.

Hiring a Professional

If you need to hire a contractor to perform repairs or restorations on any part of your home, find out if the contractor has a permanent business address and can provide references. Find out how long the contractor has been in business and whether the Better Business Bureau has any record of unresolved complaints. Make sure you get a complete, clearly written contract for the work to be done. Do not pay any cash up front unless you have signed a valid contract.

Cleaning Surfaces and Flooring

To thoroughly clean walls and woodwork, use a water solution with a commercial-grade anti-microbial disinfectant, and use a stiff brush to scrub away mud and dirt. If the electrical system is operating safely, a dehumidifier, fan, or air conditioner can cut drying time.

Remove the interior surface of damaged, insulated walls to above the water height. Depending on the level of the flood waters within the home, when removing interior walls, consider that damages can extend 3-4 feet above the high water mark. Discard any wet drywall and insulation, and wash interior studs with disinfectant to inhibit mold or mildew growth. Keep the area well ventilated. Before replacing the insulation and the wall material, the open walls should be allowed to dry thoroughly. This process may take a month or more.

If you decide to clean the carpets yourself, pull up all water-soaked carpets and pads. Hose them off and scrub them with a solution of detergent and water if heavily soiled. Rinsing with a mild solution of water and chlorine bleach can retard odor and mildew, but chlorine bleach should not be used on wool and certain other types of fibers. Be sure the carpet is thoroughly dry before relaying it. Rubber and waffle-weave pads can be reused.

If water has seeped beneath sheet flooring, the entire sheet should be removed and replaced. For tile floors, loose tiles may be re-cemented if the floor is otherwise acceptable after it dries. Check that the subfloor is thoroughly dry before applying any new floor coverings. The drying process may take weeks or months.

Managing Furniture and Appliances

Take flood-affected wood furniture outdoors to hose off. All drawers and other detachable parts should be removed for cleaning. Dry the furniture slowly to prevent warping, and be sure not to dry it in direct sunlight. As wood is porous, watch closely for any mold growth in the days and weeks after the flood and discard should any growth appear. Discard mattresses and any fibrous furniture that have been soaked in flood waters.

Most motorized appliances can be saved. Turn off the electricity or other power source, unplug the appliance and open it as much as possible to wipe it clean. Use extreme caution when opening flood-damaged refrigerators, as rotten food and foul odors can attract varmints and pests. If possible, tilt the appliance to drain any standing water. Let the appliance dry and have it checked by an appliance repair professional before you plug it in.

Cleaning up after any disaster is never easy or fast, but it can be safe and effective.