How do you clean your house after a flood?

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Few things are worse than finding your home flooded, but if it happens, you’ll need to step over all the sadness and anger that may arise at the moment, and put all your efforts in saving everything that’s remained. The longer the water soaks the walls, the harder it will be to get them dry. And, with all the pressure that has been put on them by the flood, you can discover some ugly cracks in the foundation that will only get bigger and bigger if the problem isn’t handled fast.

Even when the water is out, the moisture in the air and walls tends to persist for months, leading to mold growth and causing health problems, and this happens because the owners often focus on making the rooms habitable again and ignore other spaces. Nevertheless, the foundation of the house is just as important, and getting a crawl space dehumidifier with pump to dry it fast is almost mandatory, especially as this area isn’t well vented and prone to growing mold and attracting pests. Furthermore, it should be carefully inspected and possibly encapsulated to prevent further flooding issues.

When confronted with this problem, everything may seem overwhelming. Most people stand before their homes, thinking about where to start. It all looks like a huge mess. Nevertheless, a bit of patience and determination can help you solve it. This article will guide you through the entire process, so read on.

Take Safety Precautions

You will want to rush and see the state of your home. However, don’t. You will need to make sure that it is safe to step inside first. Here’s what you should pay attention to:

Gas & Electricity

Your space is connected to electricity and gas, and these installations could have been damaged by the water, which is actually an excellent conductor for electricity. It is enough to step foot inside when a power cable is hanging loose to experience the not so thrilling thrills of electric current going through your body. On the other hand, if the gas installation is damaged, you can get intoxicated or even start an explosion if you are trying to make some light inside.

So, make sure to turn them off. If the electrical panel is installed outside, just walk to it and cut off the electricity, but if it is placed inside, and you need to walk through water to reach it, don’t do it without proper equipment. In this situation, it is better to let a professional handle it to avoid any accidents.

The Structure of the Building

Take a walk around the house and pay attention to the foundation and the walls. Check for cracks and see if serious damage has been produced. If the basement is inundated, start sending the water out as soon as possible. If the foundation is seriously touched, you may not be able to step inside until making some repairs.

Get the Right Equipment

You are almost ready to start cleaning. Nonetheless, consider that the environment in your house may not be the most hygienic at the moment, especially if the water comes from a sewer. You will be spending a lot of time in there, so dress appropriately to avoid getting in contact with bacteria. Get some long rubber boots and impermeable gloves. Also, equip yourself with a mask and goggles, as splashes can carry microorganisms right into your system.

Document the Damage

Use your phone or a camera to record the incident. Take photos that can show the water level or, if the water has begun to drain, photograph the walls to prove how high it has reached. Also, shoot the objects that have been damaged, make a video if you consider necessary. The idea here is to help the insurance inspector make an image of how important the damage was.

Furthermore, before moving everything around, call your insurer, and wait for instructions. Some companies may send you someone to check the damage. No matter what their policy is, don’t make anything until you have their approval. Otherwise, you risk making the damage seem smaller and get less money to cover the cleaning and restoration.

Get the Right Supplies

Now it’s time to make a run to the store and get everything. Once you’re submerged into the mess, the last thing you will want to notice is that disinfectant is missing from your kit.

So, check out what needs to be cleaned and make a list. Here’s what we suggest:

  • For hard surfaces – Use tri-sodium phosphate and ammonia. Also, if the water is carrying grease, use a solution with grease-removing properties. For mud and silt, go with products designed to remove tough dirt.
  • Furniture and Carpets – Use a mild cleaning product to eliminate the dirt and then rinse it with a chlorine-based solution. Make sure it is diluted, otherwise, it can bleach or damage them.
  • Textiles – Clothes that have been exposed to water and dirt can be easily cleaned with regular all-purpose detergent. You will also need chlorine bleach to sanitize them. If the textiles aren’t compatible with bleach, you can replace it with a pine oil disinfectant.

Warning! Never mix ammonia with chlorine as the mix will release toxic fumes.

Get Cleaning

The first thing you will want to do is evacuate the water. If the level is high, use a pump to suck and lift it until it can be discharged in a safe place. Once most of the water has been extracted, you can continue disposing of it by using a wet/dry vacuum. Make sure to take care of this task within 24 to 48 hours. If the walls stay wet for longer, mold will start forming around the house.

Step 1 – Remove All the Objects and Furniture

Everything that has been soaked needs to be carried outside the perimeter. We suggest making two piles from the beginning, as some objects may be too damaged to be used again, and the last thing you will want is to start digging through them when the time comes. If you suspect or know that the water is contaminated, use plastic bags to contain them, thus avoiding spreading the bacteria around the yard.

To reduce damage, you can use the wet vacuum to suck as much water as possible from the carpets. Also, carry the furniture out and leave it to dray in a clean space but do not expose it directly to the sun. Sudden water evaporation can lead to cracks and discoloration.

Step 2 – Discard the Mud

Many times water brings with it dirt, sand, and grease, and they will settle at the bottom, so when you are done removing the liquids, you will need to move on to shoveling. Do it while everything is still wet, as if it starts settling and drying, you will have a harder time getting them removed. Use a hose to speed up the job if necessary.

Step 3 – Clean the Walls

If the walls are solid with no paneling or wood, use the solutions we’ve recommended to scrub them. Try to remove the signs of flooding as much as possible. In most cases, you will get your walls back, and, after you dry them, some small repairs and fresh paint may be enough to get them to look like new. You may also be able to save wood finishes if you act fast and clean and disinfect them properly.

If your walls have insulation, you will need to remove it along with the finishes as water and mud may be trapped between it and the wall. If it got wet, it is soiled, so make sure it gets discarded.

Use a hose to rinse the walls several times while cleaning. Then, use sanitizers to kill bacteria and make the environment safe again. Work from the bottom and advance to the top.

Step 4 – Scrub the Surfaces

Your home already starts to look better, but there’s still plenty to do. You will need to work hard now to save your floors and wood surfaces. Start by mixing either tri-sodium phosphate or baking soda. Use five tablespoons for one gallon of water. Scrub the floors with it, rinse, and then use a floor cleaning solution to make them shine again. Disinfect them by mixing chlorine with water. The ratio should be 1/2 cup to 1 gal.

Use the same baking soda or tri-sodium solution to clean the woodwork and then disinfect it with the chlorine-based solution. If the wood remains marked, remove the paint by using a paint remover, then use diluted oxalic acid on the stains. The ratio is 3 tablespoons to 1 pint of water. Use gloves and do this operation in a well-vented space as the acid is toxic. Cleanse with water. When the operation is ready, allow it to dry.

Step 5 – Get Everything Dry

The best way to do it fast is to make sure warm air is circulating the house. Turn on your heater and leave it running until the floor and walls are dry. Also, consider running a dehumidifier that can draw the water out of the walls. In situations like this, it is better to pick a high-capacity model, maybe one with a pump that can automatically push the water outside.

Furthermore, good air circulation is a necessity, in this case, so you will want to place fans in strategic places to move the air around the entire house.

What to Save and What to Throw Away?

This is a tough job, as you may find your most precious belongings and memories soaked. Nonetheless, getting rid of some of them may be a matter of safety. Here’s what we recommend:

Discard:

  • Inexpensive textiles, magazines, paper, and cardboard objects that have been damaged and are more likely to be unrecoverable
  • Wet insulation
  • Electrical equipment that has come in contact with the water
  • Cheap furniture made of particleboard
  • Mattresses
  • Food
  • Inexpensive carpets

Save:

  • Antique furniture and objects
  • Expensive carpets
  • High-quality furniture
  • Textiles and bedding that haven’t been completely compromised
  • Expensive books
  • Legal documents

Conclusion

If you’ve followed the steps, you are probably standing in the middle of a clean house, waiting for it to dry. You can take your time now to think of what happened and prepare to follow through with the insurance claims. Patience is once again the key. You’ll do a remodel, and your living space will transform into a home again. However, make sure you’ve understood what caused the flood and see if there are any ways of preventing it. You’ve seen how much work is required to clean and dry everything, so you will probably not want to go through it again.