How do I properly clean up my home if it has been flooded or has water damage?
First, make sure electricity and natural gas or propane tanks are shut down. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that electricity and natural gas or propane tanks be shut down when returning to a flooded home — affected residents should use battery-powered flashlights instead of candles after dark in case a gas leak has occurred. Avoid wading in standing water.
I’m concerned about mold. Is it a hazard after water damage?
Molds can produce toxins. There is always a little mold everywhere – in the air and on many surfaces. However, when mold spores drop on places where there is excessive moisture, especially from flooding, they will attach themselves to many things and grow. Many building materials such as wallpaper, insulation, drywall, carpet, and fabric (and others) support mold growth.
Who is at risk for reacting to molds?
Mold exposure doesn’t always present health problems indoors. People who have allergies or those whose immune system is compromised are most at risk. Symptoms may be minor irritations such as nasal stuffiness or eye irritation or more severe reactions such as fever, shortness of breath or infections.
How do I disinfect my home?
Fully disinfecting a home after it is flooded is critical, particularly where small children will eventually crawl on or touch affected surfaces. The CDC recommends that all walls, hard-surfaced floors and household surfaces be cleaned and disinfected with soap, water and bleach (check CDC's Cleaning and Sanitizing with Bleach after the Flood and Get Rid of Mold for specific instructions). Most household cleaning products will do the job if used correctly. Check the label for directions on which materials it can safely be used on and how much to use. Follow all directions and safety precautions. If possible, ventilate the area while using any cleaning products.
Belongings that cannot be washed in hot water or dry cleaned, such as mattresses or upholstered furniture, should be air-dried in the sun and sprayed with disinfectant. Carpets should be steam-cleaned and residents should wear boots and rubber gloves while cleaning, especially if any kind of sewage backflow occurred during flooding.
Can I salvage everything?
No. Not everything is going to be salvageable and capable of reuse. Certain building materials (drywall, paneling, carpet , furniture) damaged by prolonged exposure to moisture may have to be discarded.
How do I know what to clean first?
Start with one room at a time beginning with a wall at the bottom or wherever the worst damage occurred. The American Red Cross suggests the following two-bucket approach: use one bucket for the cleaning solution and the other for the rinse water. Replace the rinse water frequently.
What supplies will I need?
You may need rubber gloves, cleaning products and disinfectants, buckets, hose, rags, plastic trash bags, brooms, mops or sponges, hair dryers or fans. Use caution when using electrical items in a damp or wet area.