Cleaning After a Flood

The way you clean a flooded crawlspace depends on the type of flooding. If the crawlspace was flooded with concentrated sewage, you must remove the contaminated water and soil before you can do any other cleanup work. If you had overland flooding or groundwater seepage, remove the standing water and ventilate the crawlspace until the soil isn't muddy or overly damp. That reduces the chances of mold growth or structural damage.

Fans: The best way to dry the crawlspace is to place fans facing outward to draw the moist air out. Fans blowing into the crawlspace could force the moist air into the living space. Soils in crawlspaces may not dry completely. Cover the crawlspace floor with 6-mil polyethylene once the soil is no longer muddy. Ensure all seams are overlapped 6 inches and sealed or taped and that the polyethylene is attached and sealed extending up the crawlspace wall at least 6 inches.

If contaminated floodwater soaked your carpet, it must be discarded. Floodwater contains pathogens and other pollutants, so for health reasons, it must be replaced.

Only if carpet was wet or damp with clean water for less than a couple days can it be cleaned. Mold growth likely will occur unless the carpet can be dried within 24 to 48 hours, depending on the temperature.

Prevent mold growth in your home after a flood. Take furniture, rugs, bedding and clothing outside to dry as soon as possible. Ventilate the home and use fans to circulate air through the house. Mold may grow in only a couple of days if the temperature is right.

Dry Out Before Restoring: Flood-damaged buildings must be dried out before they can be repaired. Wood that was submerged can hold a lot of water. Rebuilding too quickly after a flood can cause the wood to deteriorate. It also can cause mold growth and insect infestations.

Electrical wiring and equipment that were exposed to floodwaters can be extremely dangerous if they aren't repaired or replaced. Household appliances such as dishwashers, ovens and washing machines that were flooded also must be reconditioned or replaced.

Some appliances may be salvageable after a flood. Electric motors must be reconditioned or replaced. Electronics in most appliances will be damaged due to short-circuiting. Have appliances checked by a technician. Ovens with foam insulation may have little water damage if components are sealed, but since they hold food, they should be cleaned and disinfected with a bleach solution.

Salvaging Water-soaked Bedding: You may be able to save water-soaked bedding after a flood. If the water wasn't dirty, you can clean the bedding. But if the water was contaminated with fuel oil or sewage and the bedding was heavily soiled, you should get rid of it.

Photos May Be Salvageable: While photos are still wet, remove them from albums and separate any that are stacked together. Rinse them in a pan of clear, cold water. Lay each photo face up on unprinted paper towels to dry. If you don't have time to clean and dry them now, rinse off mud, seal in a plastic bag with wax paper between and store in a freezer to prevent further damage until you have time to clean them properly.

Clean Flooded Papers & Books: Papers and books that have gotten wet in the flood may be able to be saved. Wet paper tears easily, so carefully rinse pages and lay each sheet out to dry. For books, rinse then place sheets of blotting paper or unprinted paper towels between the pages. When books are damp instead of wet, stand them upright and fan the pages regularly. Mold cannot be removed from paper, so pages should be copied and the original discarded. Musty books should be placed in a seal container after being dried.

Examine Food After a Flood: Be sure to examine food carefully after a flood. Contamination may occur if floodwater has covered, dripped on or seeped into food. No amount of floodwater is safe to consume. Remember, when in doubt, throw it out!

If you are storing drywall for no more than a few days, you can stack it vertically against a wall. Make sure it is close enough to the wall at the bottom so the drywall does not apply too much pressure to the wall but far enough away so the stack does not tip over. Roughly 5 inches of space between the wall and drywall at the bottom should be adequate.

Where & How to Store If the drywall will not be installed for more than a few days, it should be stacked on a flat, dry surface. If storing drywall in a home, place stacks in the rooms where you plan to install it to reduce the amount of weight on the floor in one spot. Stack the drywall with the finished side up and ceiling drywall on the top of the stack because it will be used first.

Do not store drywall directly on a concrete floor because water will wick up through the floor and damage the drywall. If stored off the floor, drywall will need to be braced to prevent it from bowing in the middle.