Cleaning Up After a Flood

Every day when I think the weather can't get any weirder, it does.

Watch the evening news, and you can see floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, and record heat (Usually all in the same day in the U.S.).

Cleaning up a flooded house

For those of you who are flooded right now, you need to act fast to prevent mold and from growing on everything you own (That can happen in only 2 days!) and preserve the air quality in your home. Our basement flooded several years ago during a "100-year storm", and we were stuck cleaning it up ourselves. Insurance wouldn't cover the damage because it was "an act of God." And the disaster clean up companies were too busy, so we cleaned it up ourselves.

Luckily, I had gone through several Healthy Housing trainings at work and already knew about flood cleanup.

Here are several tips from the EPA:

"If you have evacuated, you and your family should wait to re-enter your home until professionals tell you it is safe, with no structural, electrical or other hazards."

In the Flood Cleanup: Protecting Indoor Air Quality booklet, the EPA asks people to carefully read it because

"...reading these resources could save your life."

Please read ALL of the booklet - I'll just highlight a few of their cautions here. Clean up may be too hard (or dangerous!) so don't hesitate to call a professional disaster company.

EPA flood clean up tips

Call insurance and document

Yes, your insurance company may be swamped - but you pay your bill every year, so call them and see what they will cover. Also, take pictures of your home and everything in it BEFORE you start to clean up.

Beware of carbon monoxide poisoning

Some people may use a portable generator when the power goes out. But - don't EVER use them indoors! Carbon monoxide gas can kill you in minutes. Your generator needs to OUTSIDE and VERY FAR AWAY from your home.

Gear up

Protect yourself from the dirty flood water, which can have bacteria, chemicals, dirt, and sewage. Poor air quality can be a disaster for those of us with asthma.  At the very least, you should wear an N95 respirator, gloves, and goggles. Don't skip the mask - especially if you have asthma.

Use a wet vac

It's surprising how handy those vacuums are at sucking up water. We also use a moisture meter to check the level of water in the floors and walls. It may LOOK dry, but the meter can tell you if it actually IS dry.

Watch out for asbestos and lead

Both of those were used in new house construction, but now we know how unhealthy they are. If your home was built before 1978, it has lead paint.  If it was, call the Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-LEAD (5323). For asbestos, call the EPA’s Asbestos Abatement/Management Ombudsman at 1-800-368-5888.

Sort and toss

Hard surfaces (metal, plastic and glass) can be cleaned. But things that can soak up water (drywall, carpet, furniture, etc) needs to be tossed. If they are still wet, they can grow mold.

Use a flood clean up guide!

The Flood Clean Up Guide has links to other detailed information too, so please read the booklet (it's only 6 pages!)

One thing I learned after our flood was patience. It takes time for cement to dry out so you can re-carpet. It was hard to wait, but since my 3 kids and I all have asthma, I want it done right.

We only have one set of cranky lungs, and we need to protect them!

Has anyone had to clean up after a flood? What did you learn? Drop your comments below.

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