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Extension > Environment > Housing Technology > Moisture Management > Cleaning up after a flood

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Cleaning up after a flood

Diane Corrin

Reviewed by Dick Stone April 2011

English | Spanish

When you are preparing to clean after a flood, start with safety. Check the gas, electricity, and structure of the building to ensure that it is safe. Wear water proof gloves when handling flood contaminated materials. Also, wash your hands and face often with soap and drinking quality water.

For insurance claims, it is necessary to take photos before you start cleaning. Wear the appropriate attire (work boots, a safety mask or goggles, and/or water proof gloves) while you are moving damaged items. Check with your insurance company for other requirements needed to make your claim.

When you start cleaning, you should have two goals: to clean and to disinfect household items. Household cleaners help remove dirt after a flood. Disinfectants help stop the growth of disease causing microorganisms carried in flood water. Powdered or liquid cleaners are more practical and much less expensive than aerosol products. Since large areas will probably need to be cleaned, buy cleaners and disinfectants in the largest size available to reduce their costs.

All products are not suitable for all uses. Before using any product, refer to the label for specific directions. Household ammonia and trisodium phosphate work well on hard surfaces, such as walls, woodwork, linoleum floors and tile. Liquid household cleaners such as Top Job, Ajax, Spic n Span, and others remove mud, silt and greasy deposits from hard surfaces. Chlorine bleach disinfectants, used in diluted form, may be used to rinse carpets and furniture. All purpose detergents such as Tide, Wisk, and Cheer, work well on moderately or more heavily soiled washable textiles. Use a diluted solution of chlorine bleach (10 parts water to 1 part bleach) to disinfect textiles that are safe for chlorine. Use Lysol or pine oil disinfectants such as Pine Sol to disinfect all other washable textiles. If items made of wool or silk are damaged, confer with a professional dry cleaner.

One safety tip to remember when cleaning is to never mix chlorine bleach with ammonia. The fumes are toxic.

Depending on the level of water damage you received, you may need to throw carpet, furniture, and/or other textiles because of the level of damage.

It may take several month to clean and do the necessary reparations. Because the humidity is very elevated, it is best to wait at least six months after a flood before doing remodeling.


U of MN, Dept. of Design, Housing & Apparel; Disaster Recovery Series, Iowa State University; and "Cleaning Up Your House After a Flood," Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

Related Resources

Moisture in basements: Causes and solutions

Managing water infiltration into buildings

Disaster Quick Tips: Personal Protective Equipment

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