When you are preparing to clean your floors and woodwork after a flood, personal safety comes first. Wear waterproof gloves when handling flood-contaminated materials. Wash your hands and face often with soap and drinking quality water.
The first task in the cleanup process is to shovel out the worst of the mud and silt before it dries. Use a hose if necessary. To prevent mildew, scrub floors and woodwork with a stiff brush within 48 hours of the flood. Use plenty of hot water, an ammonia-free detergent and a disinfectant. Remove the mud and silt from corners, cracks and crevices. Give floors a final and thorough washing using a non-sudsy cleaning product.
Heat the room to 50 degrees to facilitate drying of wood with mildew. Scrub mildew stained floors and woodwork with an alkali solution such as washing soda or tri-sodium phosphate (4 - 6 tablespoons to 1 gallon of water). An alternative scrub is a mixture of borax and water using the instructions on the borax label. Again, do not use a product that contains ammonia.
Rinse all surfaces with a disinfectant such as a solution of one-half cup chorine bleach to one gallon of water. Allow the wood to dry thoroughly. Where necessary, apply a mildew-resistant paint. Replace badly infected wood.
If stained wood remains remove paint or varnish with a paint remover. Apply a solution of 3 tablespoons oxalic acid dissolved in a pint of water to the stains. Use caution, as oxalic acid is poisonous. Rinse the wood with clear water and allow to dry thoroughly.
For more information, contact the Minnesota Department of Health at 1-800-789-9050 or check their website at http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/emergency/index.html.
Reviewed by Dick Stone April 2011
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