Flooding is one of the most common types of natural disasters to strike homes in America. It may be caused by heavy rains, storm surges or tidal waves caused by larger events out at sea. While in some cases, homeowners may be able to defend their property from the resulting water damage, but in others, it is unavoidable. In the event that a home is damaged by a flood, it's necessary to clean and repair parts of the home that have been affected. These parts include the basement, furniture, appliances, the ceilings, walls and the floors.
In a flooded home, the basement is likely to be one of the first areas hit and the most heavily in need of cleaning. If there are windows in the basement, open them up to let fresh air in. If there are no windows, place fans in the basement to help the air circulate. Fans can also be used to help the room dry quickly. Turn off the electricity before entering and take a flashlight if needed. Remove any standing water from the area using a sump pump; ideally, one that is not gas-powered.
Once the water has been removed, the homeowner will need to shovel out any mud from the basement. A high pressure hose can be used to remove dirt stains, or a stiff brush and detergent may be used for hard-to-remove stains. Use clean water to completely wash everything that has been submerged under water. After everything has been washed using the plain water, repeat using a bucket of hot soapy water. Once again, the water that is left should be pumped away or sucked away with a shop-vac. After the basement has been washed, the next step is to disinfect. A mixture that consists of a gallon of water and 1/2 cup of chlorine bleach should be used. Scrub down all areas, dip small items or spray surfaces using a sprayer from the garden.
Using latex gloves, remove any undamaged items of furniture from the basement and place them outside to dry thoroughly to prevent mold and mildew from forming. Assess what is salvageable and what is not. Furniture that is made of porous materials should be discarded, as they will absorb contaminated water and/or develop mold that is difficult or impossible to remove. Furniture with stuffing, or made of leather or fabric, are examples of porous furniture items. Pillows and mattresses are examples of furniture items that should be thrown away. Other types of furniture should be placed outside, cleaned of mud or other debris by wiping down or spraying with a hose. The furniture should then be wiped down with a mixture of water and antibacterial soap.
Ceiling and Walls
After a flood, remove any wet drywall, paneling and plaster as it can act like a sponge. Any drywall that is not wet should be wiped with soapy warm water and sanitized with a mixture made of one tablespoon of bleach and one gallon of water. If the flood water is non-contaminated rain water, allowing air to dry the sills and studs can help in salvaging the plaster and panels in the wall. Insulation in the walls will also need to be checked. Throw away soiled fiberglass insulation. Replace cellulose and hose off fiberglass insulation. Do not replace the insulation until the interior of the wall is completely dry, which can take as long as six weeks. In terms of the ceiling, check for any swelling of the wallboard due to humidity. Insulation may need to be replaced and/or replacement of the ceiling may be called for.
How one cleans the floors in a flooded home depends on the type of flooring. If the home is a carpeted one, both the carpet and the pad must be removed as flood water will have saturated it. Bacteria in the flood water can create problems that may affect the health of people who live in the home. Tiles that are made of clay or ceramic typically withstand flood conditions. They should be cleaned using warm soapy water and then sanitized with a solution that is made of one gallon of water and one tablespoon of bleach. People will also need to check the subflooring to see if it is wet. If wet, the tile may need to be removed to aid in the drying of the subfloor. This can result in problems that will eventually lead to the removal of the tiles. Wood flooring generally does not fare well when subjected to flood waters. Water can cause swelling and be extremely difficult to dry. Keep in mind that if flooring has asbestos, even as little as one percent, then it will need to be removed according to certain laws.
Great care should be taken when handling appliances following a flood. Because of their proximity to the floor, damage is a possibility and the need for proper cleaning a necessity. People should not turn on their appliances until they have been thoroughly dried, clean and sanitized and maintenance has been performed. Ideally, homeowners should not attempt to clean their own appliances. Take items such as dishwashers, washing machines, electronics and more to qualified professionals for cleaning.
- Cleaning Up Your Flood-Damaged Home (PDF)
- How to Salvage Flood-Damaged Appliances
- Cleaning Up After a Flood
- Act Quickly to Beat Mold After a Flood
- Flood Cleanup and the Air in Your Home (PDF)
- Repairing Your Flooded Home (PDF)
- Flood-Damaged Walls, Ceilings and Floors (PDF)
- Entering and Cleaning Up Flooded Homes
- Home Clean-Up and Sanitation (PDF)
- After The Flood: Emergency Stabilization And Conservation Measures
- Clean It - Dry It - Disinfect It: Mold and Mildew Control
- Salvaging Household Furniture (PDF)