How to clean your home after a flood

If you're one of those whose homes have been affected, flood damage cleanup can be tough. You have to pull yourself together, making sure your family members are safe. You also have to check your home and see what you can save or restore. For any flood predicament, contact state emergency services for help.

If you deem it safe to go back to your home after a flood, here are some pointers for cleaning up the damage.

What things do you need to clean up flood damage?

  • A portable generator for powering high-pressure drying equipment

  • Spare towels, old newspapers, and big sponges for absorbing water

  • Bleach, muriatic acid, or vinegar for removing mould and mildew

  • Air fresheners and purifiers for eliminating bad odours

  • Wax and brushes for polishing water-stained floors

How do you clean up flood damage at home?

a man preparing to use a pressure washer

Heavy tools and equipment might be necessary during flood damage cleanup. You can hire housekeepers and cleaning services if you don’t want to do this on your own. Here are the tools you need to ensure a thorough house cleaning:

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1. Wear protective equipment before going inside

You can’t start a post-flood cleanup project empty-handed. You need to wear the right gear, which includes watertight boots, a hard hat, a long-sleeved shirt, a mask, safety goggles, and gloves. You can also wear sunscreen or insect repellent to protect yourself from UV exposure and itchy bites.

2. Ensure adequate lighting or visibility

Depending on the effects of the flood, electricity might not have been restored in your area yet. Without electricity, accessing the darker parts of your place can be difficult. So bring battery-powered flashlights to help you move around. Adequate lighting also enables you to spot signs of water damage.

traces of mould on a water-damaged ceiling

3. Identify and set aside salvageable items

While some of your valuables are beyond repair, others might be worth saving. For example, check if your contracts and other important documents are intact. 

  • If you sealed and stored your papers well before the flood, drying or freezing them upon discovery can do the trick. 

  • The same goes for your family photographs. Look at them carefully before giving up and just throwing them away. 

  • As for food items, you can discard those exposed to floodwater, except sealed ones like canned goods. 

  • Disinfect all the salvageable items you find and practice proper hygiene. Leave the items in the sunlight for a while or spray them with alcohol.

4. Use pumps, blowers, and dehumidifiers to dry out puddles and excess moisture

You can use these tools to extract water and dry your interiors, particularly the floors, walls, and carpets. Be careful when going to your basement, which might be the most damaged part of your home. All the floodwater aboveground likely flowed into the space and leaked into the foundation. 

a woman setting up a dehumidifier

Don’t attempt to dry your basement on your own if it’s too risky. Also, prepare yourself for unpleasant smells. Wearing a mask is a simple way to avoid them, but you can book a service for odour removal.

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5. Remove the damaged layers of your flooring

If your floor has too much water damage, a floor stripper is an easy way to remove old layers and replace them with new ones. Check the label before buying a floor stripper to ensure it's safe to use. Use a floor finish stripper with the same brand as the floor wax you previously applied.

For concrete or wooden flooring, stripping isn’t the only solution. You can restore it with the help of a floor cleaner or polish it using floor wax, which often removes stubborn water stains. But for flooring with deep cracks, you might need to ask a professional to fix or replace it.

6. Check the nooks and crannies of your home and remove mould buildup

Mould isn’t always easy to spot. On the floor, it can cause slips and falls. Mould could be anywhere, like in your closet and behind your refrigerator. You can DIY mould removal by using a mixture of borax and water. White vinegar is also an option, including water and detergent. If the mould-affected area is bigger, hiring someone to remove the mould is a smart move. 

7. Use a high-pressure washer to remove tough surface stains

A high-pressure washer is useful for removing difficult stains left by the flood. You can use it on concrete surfaces, like wall corners, floors, and even furniture. If you don’t own a high-pressure washer, you can rent one. However, if you want to save time and energy, you can find a high-pressure cleaning service for your place. 

8. Remove your damaged wallpaper with a steamer

Your wallpaper might peel or remain stained even after a thorough cleaning, so it might be better to replace it. Instead of peeling off each loose layer by hand, you can use a  wallpaper steamer to remove everything smoothly, including the glue residue.

9. Clean your dirty carpets

One of the most difficult things to clean after a flood is your carpet, as it can be very heavy when wet. You can choose between a steam cleaner or carpet shampoo. If you don’t want to stress yourself, consider hiring a carpet cleaning service to make things easier for you.

a mouldy carpet on white flooring

10. Use a shovel to get rid of mud piles

When floodwater dries up, it leaves mounds of dirt, particularly in your front yard. Hidden debris can cause cuts, so be careful when cleaning the exterior of your house or your driveway. You can hire a driveway cleaner right away if you’re too busy fixing the inside of your home.

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Safety protocols during flood damage cleanup

There are risks or health hazards when returning to flood-hit homes. With that in mind, follow these crucial tips:

  1. Shut off gas valves and electrical panels. This might be too technical, so it’s wise to hire an electrician if you don’t know which buttons or valves control what.

  2. Check the structure of the house. If you spot significant damage (e.g. cracks and holes) to the foundation, you might need to postpone your cleanup project and consult a construction expert for your peace of mind. 

  3. Avoid contaminated water and exposed cables. Wearing rubber shoes and gloves might not be enough to save you from electric shock.

Ultimately, cleaning and disinfecting your house or apartment after a flood takes a lot of effort. It’s important to do it correctly to prevent further damage to your property. Things like bad odours, mould, and insect infestations cause sickness in the family. Thankfully, you can remove or address them before moving back into your home. 

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