Flood Clean Up: What to Do

Flooding. It’s a horror show. The monstrous waters either come at you so quick you can’t prepare. Or the waters rise slowly but menacingly, inching higher and higher, often overcoming sandbags or other defenses. Either way, water does what it wants – and there’s not much you can do to stop it.

But when the floods finally recede, there is a lot you can do to clean up and get your life back. And as tempting as it is to jump right in and start cleaning your flood-damaged home, take a breath, and do three important things first.

  1. Record the damage. Take detailed photos and videos. Document what has been lost or damaged.
  2. Contact your insurance agent to find out what’s covered.
  3. File your claim immediately.

Remove water and circulate air

A major concern after flood is mold growth. Mold can be deadly, and it develops very quickly. If it’s safe to do so, FEMA recommends heat, fans, and dehumidifiers be used to accelerate the drying process.

  • Open windows and doors, and set up fans to get air circulating. If vents weren’t exposed to water, turn on the HVAC system. If vents were exposed, have ducts cleaned by a professional before using.
  • Wearing rubber boots, use a wet-dry shop vac and/or sump pump to remove standing water and dry out area. The Shop-Vac 16 gallon Wet-Dry Pump Vac combined with the Shop-Air Air Mover are powerful tools in your quest for a dry, mold-free home.

Floors

  • If carpet is saturated, it is not salvageable, so tear it up along with padding and discard. Not only will wet carpeting lead to mold growth, it can ruin the subflooring.
  • If your floors are hardwood, remove a board every few feet to reduce buckling from swelling.
  • Once they’re dry, assess vinyl floors. If you see areas that have popped up, remove and replace those areas.
  • Outdoor carpeting laid over concrete can usually be allowed to just dry out.
  • All wood subfloors must be thoroughly dry before replacing flooring.

Furniture and other belongings

  • Discard saturated items like mattresses, rugs, upholstered furniture, books, and any other fabric, foam, or paper items.
  • Disinfect all other belongings, such as kitchen utensils and other non-porous items.

Saturated walls

  • Remove and discard water-soaked drywall and fiberglass or cellulose insulation. Styrofoam insulation may be salvageable.
  • Using fans, circulate air inside walls to dry out studs.

Basement

  • If standing water is less than 1 inch deep, use a wet-dry vac to remove.
  • For deeper water, pump out just 2-3 feet per day, to reduce chance of walls and floors cracking.

Protection and Disinfection is vital

FEMA recommends wearing rubber gloves, eye protection, and a mask rated N-95 or higher if you fear mold might already be present. FEMA also suggests “using a non-ammonia soap or detergent to clean all areas and washable items that came in contact with floodwaters.” Using a solution of 1-1/2 cups of household bleach in one gallon of water, clean all water affected areas. FEMA cautions to never mix bleach with ammonia as the fumes are toxic.