Floods are the most common natural disaster in the United States. They can damage the structural integrity of your home, your belongings, and the health of the indoor environment of the home in seconds. Even an inch of floodwater can contain mud and a number of contaminants that can destroy carpeting, flooring, appliances, and furniture. A more severe flood can do much worse damage to ductwork, heating and cooling systems, roofing, and utilities.
Tackling the cleanup process after a flood is a daunting task, and can feel extremely overwhelming. Here are eight tips to keep in mind when beginning the cleanup process of a home flood.
1. Wait for Return Approval
After a storm has passed, you may think that since the weather has stopped it is safe to return home. You will be especially anxious to know the condition of your home and belongings and get to work on the cleanup. However, just because the dangerous weather conditions have stopped, does not mean the area is safe for return. Wait for your local authorities to classify your home and neighborhood as safe for return in order to not create a greater risk for yourself or others.
2. Understand Your Insurance Plan
Be aware that traditional insurance plans don’t cover flood damage. As you tackle your cleanup, take pictures and carefully document all of the damage, whether it’s to a couch or family heirlooms. Having as much evidence of the damage as possible will help you when making an insurance claim.
3. Avoid Wading Into Floodwater
Never drive through floodwaters as it is almost impossible to gauge how deep they actually are. You should also avoid wading into floodwaters yourself, as the water can be contaminated, contain debris, or be covering downed or underground power lines. Contaminated water can lead to life-long illnesses and coming into unexpected contact with debris can cause injuries. Underground or down power lines can electrically charge the floodwaters, creating an even more immediate danger.
4. Wear Protective Clothing
When you re-enter your home after a flood, you’ll want to take as many precautions as possible to protect yourself from injury. Wear protective clothing like heavy work gloves, boots, and long sleeves and pants. When cleaning debris or mold, wear an appropriate mask. If you have asthma or other lung conditions, don’t enter buildings with water leaks, visible mold, or a noticeable mold smell. Be aware that snakes and other animals could have entered your home and take appropriate precautions. Finally, never let children take part in the clean-up.
5. Beware of Electrocution
Before you start any cleanup, check if it is safe to turn off the electricity and then do so. This will protect you from potential electrocution in the case that there are damaged sockets or electrical lines and items. Do not touch electrical equipment if it is wet or if you are standing in water.
6. Air Out the House
Set up a dehumidifier or air conditioner, open as many windows as possible, and allow the house to air out. Set up fans to move the air around and prevent mildew and mold from growing or spreading.
7. Remove Mud & Disinfect
The first step in the cleanup process is to shovel out any mud that was brought in by the floodwaters. Then, even though it may sound counterintuitive, hose off any hard surfaces to remove the mud residue. Scrub all surfaces with hot water and heavy-duty cleaner, followed by a disinfectant that removes germs. Vacuum then wash all floors and walls.
8. Sort Through Personal Items
Any affected items like furniture, rugs, bedding, and clothing should be taken outside to air dry as soon as possible. Mattresses, pillows, and stuffed animals should be immediately thrown out and replaced when possible. Upholstered items should be left out to dry, but then cleaned by a professional. Affected kitchenware, like silverware or plates, should be boiled for 10 minutes and left to air dry. Clean all cabinets before replacing items. For any paper items like books or documents, you can place damaged pages between pieces of freezer paper and leave them in the freezer until you have more time to deal with the restoration process.
When cleaning up after a flood invades your home, it’s important to keep safety in mind. Even though the storm has passed, it doesn’t mean the danger necessarily has. Wait until the authorities have given the all-clear before entering your house, and wear appropriate safety clothing at all times when inside the home. Air it out properly, and throw away any items that cannot be safely cleaned and restored. Avoid using electricity and wading through unknown, potentially dangerous waters. You can even set up a charging station outside the house using the HomePower ONE, to be a source of electricity and reduce the urge to flip the indoor light switches!
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