Your home and its contents may look beyond hope, but many of your belongings can be restored or saved.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the New York State Health Department, and the Madison County Health Department recommend the following to help you identify what to keep and what to get rid of in your home after a flood.
Keep items that did not get wet. Items that were not flooded or did not get wet can be kept and do not need any special cleaning or handling.
You may be able to keep most items that dried quickly or items that can be cleaned with soap and water by hand or in a washing machine! As a general rule, materials that are wet and cannot be thoroughly cleaned and dried may have to be discarded because they can become a source of bacteria and mold growth. However, not everything needs to be thrown out. Mold can be cleaned up in many cases. What other items can I keep?
- Items that were kept dry in bins can be kept. Just clean and dry the outer surfaces of the bins.
- Items that can be cleaned, keep, like glass Christmas ornaments.
- Refrigerators and freezers with wet insulation should not be kept, but if there was only a few inches of water, they may be ok but will need to be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
- Ovens and ranges are usually salvageable but should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
Items that should be thrown away when you can see or smell mold and/or the items have been underwater, may include:
- Porous items (items that absorb water) that cannot be cleaned well should not be saved
- Carpet, carpet padding, and rugs
- Upholstered furniture, mattresses and box springs
- Computers, microwaves, window A/C units and other electronic items with fans that were in moldy rooms
- Papers and books
- Disposable filters in your heating/cooling system
Can I save wood furniture, hard flooring, plastics, ceramics, and other non-porous items that came in contact with flood water? Yes, but they need to be cleaned and dried properly. Clean off dirt with a moist rag and clean using a non-abrasive household cleaning product (like a liquid or powder kitchen cleanser) or liquid dish soap mixed with water. After cleaning, dry items in warm dry area out of the sun. (Direct sunlight will cause uneven drying and shrinking of items.) Some items like chair legs may come apart or veneer may peel away and need to be re-glued after drying.
Surfaces that were in contact with flood water should first be cleaned and then disinfected with a solution of one cup of unscented bleach to 5 gallons of water (or 3 tablespoons of bleach to one gallon of water). Also clean and disinfect surfaces that that come into contact with food, children’s play areas, and toys.
How do I protect my health when cleaning up after a flood?
- Wearing N-95 dust masks when cleanup causes airborne dust.
- Wear eye protection when cleaning can create dust or flying debris.
- Wear rubber gloves and wash your hands often using soap and water. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
- Do not mix household cleaning products, which can create dangerous fumes.
Any of the items mentioned above can be purchased at your local hardware store. In addition, if you have not had a tetanus vaccination in 5 years, get the vaccination from the Health Department or your health care provider. The vaccine protects you from a serious infection by bacteria that enters through breaks in the skins like a cut. Tetanus can be fatal, but can be prevented with the vaccine.
Our message is, if you do things right, your flooded house can be cleaned up, dried out, cleaned, repaired so you can safely move back home.
For more information about recovering after a flood, go online to:
Madison County Health Department, www.healthymadisoncounty.org,
New York State Department of Health www.health.ny.gov/environmental/emergency/flood/, Environmental Protection Agency www.epa.gov/iaq/flood/index.html
Center for Disease Control and Prevention www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/floods/