Dealing with the aftermath of a flood is very stressful. In addition to the damage from floodwaters, there is also the potential for contamination. Groundwater may contain bacteria, parasites, and mold. Plus it can contain fertilizers and other chemicals from the ground as well. However, it is possible to restore your home or business after a flood. Flood cleanup is labor and time intensive, but it is possible to do on your own. From what to do after a flood to the steps of flood cleanup, we take a look at restoring your home after a flood. Flooded house cleanup includes removing standing water, drying out affected areas, cleaning and disinfecting, and then rebuilding that damaged area.
The 7 Steps to Flood Cleanup
Use these seven steps to clean up after a flood. Before beginning these flood cleanup steps, review the safety tips below as well.
- Remove Furniture and Personal Items – Whenever possible, begin by removing the furniture and personal items in the flooded area. This increases the chances of saving these items and will aid in the flood cleanup process.
- Extract Standing Water – If there is less than two inches of water, use towels or a mop to soak up water. For deeper water, use a pump or bail water out with a bucket.
- Vacuum Up the Remaining Water – Use a wet/dry vacuum to suck as much remaining water from flooring, walls, and other surfaces as possible.
- Remove Damaged and Remaining Items – Remove as many items from the area as possible. This includes remaining possessions and furniture as well as damaged materials.
- Dry Out the Area – Use fans and dehumidifiers to dry out the affected area. Open cabinet and closet doors and prop carpeting up to improve airflow and decrease drying time.
- Clean, Disinfect, and Deodorize – Clean hard surfaces with a mild detergent, then sanitize them with a non-bleach disinfectant. Deodorize carpeting and fabrics with baking soda. Allow porous materials like area rugs and furniture to air out outside. If necessary, use commercial disinfectants and deodorizers on other surfaces.
- Rebuild – Repair or replace damaged materials like walls, flooring, and cabinets. You may need to hang new drywall, install new carpeting, or replace cabinetry and furniture.
Tips for Staying Safe After a Flood
- Avoid entering a flooded area if the water is near or above electrical outlets until you can turn off the power to that area. If you cannot safely reach the electrical panel, contact your electric company to have the service shut off at the street.
- Bandage all open wounds with water-resistant bandages. Clean wounds and replace bandages regularly to prevent infections.
- Wear long pants and rubber boots or waders when walking through flood waters. Wear rubber gloves and cover your eyes, nose, and mouth while cleaning up after a flood.
- Keep young children and pets away from floodwaters for their own safety.
- Never drink, cook with, or bath in floodwaters due to concerns of contamination by bacteria, mold, and parasites.
- Dispose of food saturated by floodwaters. For cans and airtight plastic containers, clean and disinfect the exterior prior to use.
- Follow all boil alerts issued by local authorities after a flood to prevent contamination and illness.
- Report downed power lines to both the local authorities and the utility company and never attempt to touch or move these lines.
- If you smell gas or hear a hissing noise, evacuate your home and report the issue to the fire department and your natural gas company.
If you evacuated your home, review these other safety considerations:
- Do not return home until local officials or emergency management services have given the all-clear.
- Never drive through flood waters. Just 12 inches of water is enough to move a vehicle.
- Avoid entering your home until you evaluate the structural integrity. Look for damage to your foundation, walls, and roof as well as issues with utility connections.
- Inspect the area for wild animals as well, as they may have taken refuge in your home during or after the storm.
The 7 Steps for Cleaning Up a Flooded House
1. Remove Furniture and Personal Items
If possible, you should remove your furniture and personal items first. Save personal items, antiques, heirlooms, and other priceless items first. Unless it’s raining, move furniture outside. If it is raining, store furniture in the garage or on tarps in other areas of your home. Wipe personal items and furniture down quickly with towels or blankets to limit damage until after you have addressed the floodwaters. You can dry, clean, and disinfect them later.
2. Extract Standing Water
Begin flood cleanup by extracting the standing floodwaters. For less than a few inches of water, use a mop, towels, or blankets to soak up the water. If there are several inches of water, it will be faster to bail water out with a bucket or use a pump. You can rent a pump from your local equipment rental company and even some hardware stores.
If the flood was caused by heavy rains, groundwater, or sewage, avoid wringing, pumping, or dumping water down drains. Adding more water to sewers can result in more flooding or a sewage backup. When dumping water outside, pour it as far away from your foundation as possible. Otherwise, it may leak back into your property.
3. Vacuum Up the Remaining Water
Once the majority of the standing water is gone, use wet/dry vacuum to suck the remaining water. Use the vacuum to remove water from flooring, walls, furniture, and other surfaces.
When vacuuming water from carpeting, limit the amount of traffic on the carpeting to prevent damage. Start in one section and then move across the carpeting. When sucking water from drywall or cabinets, start at the top. Work left to right, top to bottom.
Regardless of the material or surface involved, go over each area several times to remove as much water as possible. Empty the wet/dry vacuum regularly to maintain the best suction. Dump the water outside and away from your foundation.
4. Remove Damaged and Remaining Items
After extracting as much water as possible, remove the remaining items in the room. This includes both your possessions as well as damaged materials. Move your possessions to other rooms and wipe them down with a towel before laying them out to dry.
Dispose of water damaged items in heavy-duty bags. Avoid overloading the bags, as items saturated with water are quite heavy. If you need to replace carpeting or carpet padding, cut them into long sections and roll them up. Use tape, rope, or twine to tie them into bundles. Carry larger items like cabinets and mattresses out of the area.
Contact your trash collection agency or the municipal offices for disposal instructions. If the flooding affected the entire street or large portions of your city, local authorities may issue bulk collection instructions. In some cases, you may need to rent a dumpster or hire a private trash collection services for large amounts of water-damaged items.
5. Dry Out the Area
Once the area is clear, begin drying with fans and dehumidifiers. Consumer-grade fans and dehumidifiers will dry out after a flood, but they are not intended for this purpose. If you are using consumer equipment, check them frequently to prevent them from overheating.
A better option is to rent commercial equipment from your local equipment rental company. Some hardware stores may also rent equipment as well. Commercial blowers, air movers, and dehumidifiers are specifically designed to dry out after water damage. They are more efficient than consumer gear, which will dry the area faster and use less energy overall.
Regardless of the equipment, you use, position fans to maximize airflow and decrease drying time. Check wet areas every few hours and reposition equipment as necessary. Empty dehumidifiers regularly to keep them running. Dump the water outside and away from your foundation to prevent it from reentering your home.
For cabinets and furniture, open doors and remove drawers. For wet carpeting, lift the carpet off the subfloor for faster drying. Review our drying flooded carpeting guide for more tips on dealing with wet carpet.
6. Clean, Disinfect, and Deodorize
After drying the entire area, you need to clean everything. From structural items like flooring, walls, and ceilings to personal items like furniture, lamps, and clothing. Start by cleaning structural items with a mild detergent. Depending on the cause of the floor, you may need to use a wet/dry vacuum to remove dirt, mud, or sand first.
Start at the top of the room and work down, cleaning every surface with a mild detergent. Mix up small batches of detergent in a bucket and use a rag or sponge to wipe items down. Allow them to dry completely before moving on to disinfecting. Dump the cleaner regularly and mix up a new batch.
Bleach is a common disinfectant, how it is prone to staining fabric, carpeting, and many other materials. For that reason, we recommend using either a solution of isopropyl alcohol or a hospital-grade disinfectant. When using isopropyl alcohol, make a disinfectant solution using equal parts sterile 70% isopropyl alcohol and water. Apply the disinfectant with either a spray bottle or use a commercial sprayer.
For odors, the best options are baking soda and fresh air. First, open up windows and downs to improve ventilation. Then sprinkle baking soda on porous items like upholstery, fabric, and carpeting. All it to sit for an hour, then vacuum up. Repeat this process as necessary. In some cases, you may need to use commercial deodorizers to remove severe odors.
Reconstruction will vary by the extent of flood damage. For small floods, you may only need to repaint walls. However, more severe damage may require a complete remodel. Flood damage often requires hanging new drywall, replacing carpeting, and installing new cabinets and countertops.
Get Professional Flood Cleanup Services
DIY flood cleanup is time and labor-intensive. If you want professional assistance, Restoration Local can help. We are the #1 network of restoration contractors and we have a contractor in your area that can dry out and restore your property after a flood. Find a local water damage restoration company in your area now or call 1-888-443-3110 to speak with the on-call contractor nearest you. Our on-call contractors offer 24-hour emergency services, 30-minute response time, and a free estimate.