Flood Damage >> Flood Prevention Ideas

The walls, floors, closets, shelves,

contents—every flooded part of

your house—should be thoroughly

washed and disinfected. Some projects, such as washing clothes, may

have to wait until all the utilities

are restored. Others may be best

done by professionals. This section

offers suggestions on the best way to

clean flooded items.

Clean up supplies

The Red Cross will often distribute cleanup kits after a disaster.

These contain many useful items

such as a broom, mop, bucket,

and cleaning supplies.

In most cases, household cleaning products will doe the job if

you use them correctly. Check the

label on the products to see how

much to use. Some products

shouldn’t be used on certain materials; the label will tell you that.

Apply cleaner and give it time to

work before you mop or sponge it

up. Follow directions and all safety precautions on the container.

After cleaning a room or item,

go over it again with a disinfectant

to kill the germs and smell left by

the floodwaters. You may also

need to get rid of mildew, an

unwelcome companion to moisture that shows as fuzzy splotches.

Cleaning tips

Tackle one room at a time. A two

bucket approach is most efficient:

use one bucket for rinse water and

the other for the cleaner. Rinse

out your sponge, mop, or cleaning

cloth in the rinse bucket. Wring it

as dry as possible and keep it

rolled up tight as you put it in the

cleaner bucket. Let it unroll to

absorb the cleaner. Using two

buckets keeps most of the dirty

rinse water out of your cleaning

solution. Replace the rinse water

frequently.

Walls

Start cleaning a wall at the bottom

or where the worst damage was.

If you did not have to remove the

wallboard or plaster, you may find

it the wallboard or plaster won’t

come clean and you will want to

replace it rather than clean it. If

you have removed the wallboard

or plaster, wash the studs and sills

and disinfect them.

Windows

If you taped your windows before

the storm, clean the tape off as

soon as possible. The sun will

bake the adhesive into the glass.

If glass cleaners don’t remove the

adhesive, try tar remover, acetone,

nail polish remover, or a razor

blade. And next time, don’t bother taping the windows. You don’t

get much protection for all that

effort.

Furniture

Don’t try to force open swollen

wooden doors and drawers. Take

off the back of the piece of furniture to let the air circulate. You

will probably be able to open the

drawers after they dry. Solid wood furniture can usually be repaired and cleaned, but

wood veneer often separates and

warps. Wood alcohol or turpentine applied with a cotton ball

may remove white mildew spots

on wood. Cream wood restorers

with lanolin will help restore good

wooden furniture parts.

Upholstered furniture soaks up

contaminants from floodwaters

and should be cleaned only by a

professional. This is also true of

carpets and bedding. Unless the

piece is an antique or especially

valuable, upholstered furniture

soaked by floodwaters should

probably be thrown out. Get a

cost estimate from a professional

to see if furniture is worth saving.

Appliances

There’s an unexpected danger of

shock with some electrical appliances such as TV sets and radios.

Certain internal parts store electricity even when the appliance is

unplugged. Check the back for a

warning label. Appliances with

such labels will need professional

cleaning. But first, get a cost

estimate to see if they are worth

saving.

You’ll need appliances such

as the washing machine, dryer,

dishwasher, and vacuum cleaner

to help clean your home and

contents. The motors or heating

elements can usually be cleaned.

If you can’t wait for a professional

cleaning job, unplug, disassemble,

and hose off the appliances thoroughly (with hot water, if possible). Then clean and disinfect

them, but do not use detergents.

Clean and disinfect dishwashers, washing machines, and dryers

only with water that has been

declared safe for drinking. Make

sure the sewer line is working

before starting a dishwasher or

washing machine.

You can speed up the drying

process for motors and parts by

using a blow dryer using a moisture displacement spray. Moisture

displacement sprays, such as electronics parts cleaners or WD-40

lubricating and penetrating oil, are

available at hardware or automotive parts stores. The sprays can

also stop rust and corrosion until

the appliance can be disassembled

and cleaned. One word of caution: the spray is flammable. Read

and follow label instructions and

precautions.

Moving parts such as motors

and pulleys will need oil or grease.

Contacts and electrical switches

can be cleaned with a moisture displacement spray or an aerosol contact cleaner available at electronics

or auto parts stores. Allow a

motor to run for 30 minutes with

no load before you use it. For

example, run the vacuum cleaner

without connecting the belt.

Watch for stripped or damaged

wire insulation. Be sure all appliances are properly grounded.

This is most important if there was

damage to the wiring from the flood

or during cleaning. Appliances that

must be grounded have a round

third prong on their plugs. Review

the information on your electrical

system in Step 5. Refrigerators and freezers are

more complicated. They may

have foam insulation and sealed

components that suffered little

water damage. But those appliances hold food, so they should be cleaned, disinfected, and checked

by a professional, or replaced. If

your repair person says an expensive appliance should be replaced,

get the opinion in writing and discuss it with your insurance

adjuster before you spend money

for another one. hoice: Non-sudsing household

cleaners

2nd choice: Laundry soap or detergent

Disinfectants

1st choice: Commercial disinfectants or sanitizers, such as the

quaternary, phenolic, or pine oil

based ones. (Check labels for the

contents).

2nd choice: 1/4 cup (2 ounces) of

laundry bleach for 1 gallon of

water.

Mildew Removers

1st choice: Commercial mildew

removers or mildewicides

2nd choice: Washing soda or

tri-sodium phosphate (available at

grocery or paint stores). Use 5

tablespoons per gallon of water.

3rd choice: 1/4 cup (2 ounces)

of laundry bleach for 1 gallon of

water. See below on using bleach.

Bleach

Liquid chlorine bleach, such as

Clorox or Purex bleach, can do a

variety of flood clean up jobs.

Make sure that 5.25% sodium

hypochlorite is the only active

ingredient. Bleach that has a scent

added to improve its smell is

available. Scented bleach is fine

for cleanup jobs, but don’t use it to

treat drinking water. Don’t use dry

bleach or any bleach that does not

contain chlorine.

Be careful of fumes and wear

rubber gloves. Read the safety

instructions on the label. Do not

mix bleach with other household

chemical products, especially

ammonia or toilet bowl cleaner;

the chemical reaction can create a

poisonous gas. Do not use bleach

on aluminum or linoleum.

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