Floods: Flood Damage - Cleaning Up

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When you are preparing to clean after a flood, start with safety.  

First make sure your building is safe to enter in regard to gas, electricity and building structure. Take extensive photos and video for insurance claims. Also, wear rubber boots, a safety mask and water proof gloves to handle contaminated items while photographing and cleaning. Wash your hands and face often - with soap and drinking-quality water. 

Using Cleaning Products

Before using any product, read the label. It's important to understand that cleaners remove dirt and disinfectants stop growth of disease causing germs.

NEVER mix chlorine bleach with ammonia. Together they make toxic fumes.

Experts suggest combining chlorine bleach at a ratio of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water to disinfect furniture and rugs. Trisodium phosphate cleans hard surfaces, walls, woodwork, linoleum floors and tiles.

Liquid cleaners can remove mud, silt and greasy deposits. Liquid detergents work on washable textiles. Use diluted bleach if item is safe for bleach.

Clean Up Your Home

Once you have cleared the standing water and removed the wet materials for further cleaning or disposal, you can begin the cleanup of the building itself.  

Walls, floors, doors, closets and shelves should all be thoroughly washed and disinfected. Many common household cleaners and disinfectants can be used for this process. In addition, if your ductwork has also been in contact with floodwaters, FEMA recommends that you also disinfect and sanitize them as well.  

Keep in mind that many household cleaning products contain substances that can either irritate some individuals or actually be toxic if used improperly. Make sure to always read and follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully. You can provide fresh air by opening windows and doors.

Remove Standing Water

Standing water is a perfect breeding ground for many microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses and molds. They can cause disease or trigger allergic reactions in many individuals.

Problems with infectious diseases can also occur if the floodwaters contain or have been contaminated with sewage. In addition, the longer the building materials stand in contact with water, the more structural damage that can potentially occur.

Therefore, it is important to remove all standing water from the home as quickly as possible after a flood. Even when the flooding is due to a fairly clean source, such as rain water, the growth of these microorganisms can cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. 

Dry Everything

Drying everything in a home after a flood is imperative. Excess moisture in the home poses an indoor air quality concern for the following reasons: Areas with this high level humidity and moist materials provide an ideal environment for the growth of microorganisms, which could result in additional health hazards such as allergic reactions.

Coming into contact with air or water that contains these microorganisms can make a person sick. Long-term high levels of humidity can foster growth of dust mites, which are a major trigger of allergic reactions and asthma.

Although the drying process can take a long time, homeowners should be patient because it is necessary to keep a home's air quality healthy. Some household items may take longer than others to dry, such as upholstered furniture and carpets. To avoid growth of microorganisms, however, household items should be dried completely before they are brought back in the house.

Sentimental Items

The National Archives Website has information on how to clean up your family treasures. Although it may be difficult to throw certain items away, especially those with sentimental value, experts recommend that if you can't clean it, you should dispose of it, especially if it has come into contact with water that may contain sewage.