Thoughts On Clean Up

Flood waters and standing waters pose various risks, including infectious diseases, chemical hazards, and injuries.

My Thoughts on Clean Up

Floodwaters affect a home three ways:

  1. The water damages materials. Wallboard will disintegrate if it remains wet too long; wood can swell warp, or rot; electrical parts can short out, malfunction, and cause fires or shock.
  2. Mud, silt, and unknown con­taminants in the water not only get everything dirty, they also create a health hazard.
  3. Dampness promotes the growth of mildew, a mold or fungus that can grow on everything.

The following steps work on all three of these problems. It is very important that they be followed in order.

Lower the Humidity  

Everything will dry more quickly and clean more easily if you can reduce the humidity in the home. There are five ways to lower the humidity and stop the rot and mildew. You may have to delay using some methods if you have no electricity.

1. Open up the house

If the humidity outside is lower than indoors, and if the weather permits, open all the doors and windows to exchange the moist indoor air for drier outdoor air. Your body will tell if the humidity is lower outdoors. If the sun is out, it should be drier outside. If you have a thermometer with a humidity gauge, you can monitor the indoor and outdoor humidity. On the other hand, when temperatures drop at night, an open home is warmer and will draw moisture indoors. At night and other times when the humidity is higher outdoors, close up the house.

2. Open closet and cabinet doors

When it comes to furniture, remove the drawers to allow air circulation. Drawers may stick because of swelling. Don’t try to force them. You can speed up the drying time by opening up the back of the cabinet to let the air circulate. You will probably be able to remove the drawers as the cabinet dries out.

3. Use fans

Fans help move the air and dry out your home. Do not use central air conditioning or the furnace blower if the ducts were under water. They will blow out dirty air, that might contain contaminants from the sediment left in the duct work. Clean or hose out the ducts first.

4. Run dehumidifiers

Dehumidifiers and window air conditioners will reduce the moisture, especially in closed up areas.

5. Call a contractor

There are contractors who specialize in drying out flooded buildings. They have large fans and dehumidifiers that can dry out a house in a few days. Look in the yellow pages under Fire and Water Damage Restoration or under Dehumidifying. Be careful about contractors who inflate prices after a disaster, out-of-town contractors who inflate prices after a disaster and out-of-town contractors who request payment in advance.

Sort Contents and Discard Debris

You have three types of contents that should go to three different places:

  1. Items you want to save.  Move these to a safe, dry place, such as the second story or outside. The longer they sit in water, the more damaged they become. In some cases, you may only be able to move them to one room while you clean the other rooms. Don’t leave wood furniture in the sun or it will warp when it dries. To save an area rug, lay a sheet or some other material on top so the colors will not bleed. Clean it promptly.

  2. Things you don’t want to save.  Put things you don’t want to save outside to dry until the adjuster comes to confirm your losses. Take pictures or videotapes and list each item for the record. If you are not sure whether to throw something out, set it aside until your adjuster arrives.

  3. Garbage.  Get rid of food and anything else that could spoil or go bad immediately. Don’t let garbage build up. Garbage piles will cause yet another health hazard by attracting animals and insects. If your insurance adjuster has not come, tell your agent or adjuster that you need to get rid of potential health hazards. That person will tell you how to make sure that your losses are covered. Then throw the stuff out, preferably in sealed plastic garbage bags. 

  4. Refrigerated and Frozen Foods. Get rid of food and anything else that could spoil or go bad immediately. Don’t take chances with frozen food if electricity went off unless food is still thoroughly frozen and contains ice crystals. As a rule, food will remain frozen for up to three days in a closed freezer without power. Don’t refreeze thawed food. However, you can cook and then freeze raw meat that was partially thawed and then refreeze it.

  5. Dispose of discarded items properly. Do not burn or bury them. There will usually be more frequent garbage pickups after a flood. Your local TV and radio stations will have announcements concerning trash pickup schedules and drop-off sites.

Be patient

Drying your home could take several weeks. Until your home is reasonably dry, damage caused by mildew and decay will continue. The musty odor will remain forever if the home is not thoroughly dried out well.