Flood Clean

Cleaning up when your business or house floods is a long and hard process. Safety and health issues are very important when your property has been flooded. In this article discover how you can get best results cleaning up after a flood.

Floodwater can impact the structure of a building and the health of the inside environment.  Flood waters contain many contaminants and lots of mud. Your expensive equipment, appliances, furniture and household items get ruined all at once, even with just centimetres of water.

After a flood, here is a list of common techniques for sanitizing and cleaning flooded items:

Call your insurer- If your insurance covers flood damage, your broker will arrange a loss adjuster to contact you. Make a list of the items damaged and take photos or videotape as you clean. If you have a pile of refuse on the kerb, take a few photos of that too. You’ll need complete records for insurance claims and any applications for disaster assistance you require.

Contaminated mud- Shovel out as much mud as possible, then use a garden hose or pressure cleaner to wash away mud from hard surfaces.

Clean and disinfect every surface. Scrub surfaces with hot water and a heavy-duty cleaner. Then disinfect with a solution of 1/4 cup chlorine bleach per gallon of water or a product that is labelled as a disinfectant to kill germs.

In the kitchen-

Immerse your glass, china and cups in a disinfecting solution of 2 tablespoons of chlorine bleach per gallon of hot water. Air-dry dishes instead of using a towel.

Disinfect your pots and pans by boiling in water for 10 minutes. Chlorine bleach should not be used in this case because it reacts with many metals and causes them to darken.

Cupboards and counters need to be cleaned and rinsed with a chlorine bleach solution before storing dishes.

Furniture and household items-

Take furniture, bedding and clothing outside to dry as soon as possible. Use an air conditioner or dehumidifier to remove moisture or open at least two windows to ventilate with outdoor air. Use fans to circulate air in the house. If mould and mildew have already developed, brush off items outdoors to prevent scattering spores in the house. Vacuum floors, ceilings and walls to remove mildew, then wash with disinfectant. Wear proper protective masks to prevent breathing mould spores.

All mattresses, wood veneer furnishings, low cost partitions, soft furnishings and carpets should be thrown away.

Upholstered furniture soaks up contaminants from floodwaters and should be cleaned only by a professional.

Solid wood furniture can usually be restored, unless damage is severe.

Photographs, books and important papers can be frozen and cleaned later. They should be dried carefully and slowly. Wash the mud off and store the articles in plastic bags and put them in a frost-free freezer to protect from mildew and further damage until you have time to thaw and clean them or take them to a professional.

Ceilings and walls- Plasterboard on the walls of modern homes and office partitions acts like a sponge when wet. Where the damage is extreme remove board, plaster and panelling to at least the flood level. If soaked by contaminated floodwater, it can be a permanent health hazard and should be removed. If most of the wallboard was soaked by clean rainwater, consider cutting a 4- to 12-inch-high section from the bottom and top of walls. This creates a “chimney effect” of air movement for faster drying. A reciprocating saw with a metal cutting blade works well, but use only the tip of the blade and watch out for pipes, ductwork and wiring.

In most cases plaster and panelling can often be saved, but air must be circulated in the wall cavities to dry the studs and sills.

The insulation must be treated differently. Fiberglass batts should be thrown out if muddy but may be reused if dried thoroughly. Loose or blown-in cellulose should be replaced since it holds water for a long time and can lose its antifungal and fire retardant abilities.

Electrical system-
The system must be shut off and repaired and inspected by an electrician before it can be turned back on. Wiring must be completely dried out- even behind walls. Switches, convenience outlets, light outlets, entrance panel, and junction boxes that have been under water may be filled with mud.

Today with the cost of appliances being more affordable it might be advisable to discard them. More expensive or specialised appliances will need to be serviced, cleaned and sanitized. Running equipment before it is properly cleaned could seriously damage it and/or shock you.. The hard exterior can be hand cleaned. All metallic appliances that have been flooded should be properly grounded to prevent electric shock. Mud or dirt in a grounded outlet or adapter may prevent the grounding system from working, and you could be electrocuted.

After the carpet has been removed the flooring can dry thoroughly which may take several months. Open windows and doors to expose the boards to as much air as possible.

Wood floors-
Wooden floors should be dried gradually. Sudden drying could cause cracking or splitting. Some restoration companies can accelerate drying time by forcing air through the fluted underside of hardwood floorboards. Remove hardwood floor boards to prevent buckling. Remove a board every few feet to reduce buckling caused by swelling. Clean and dry wood before attempting repairs.

Roof damage and leaks-

Defective flashing- Flashing is the sheet metal used in waterproofing roof valleys, hips and the angle between a chimney and a roof. Wet spots near a chimney or outside wall may mean the leak is caused by defective flashing, narrow flashing or loose mortar joints. Look for corroded, loose or displaced flashing on sloping roof valleys and at junctions of dormers and roof.

Clogged downspouts or eaves- Check for choked downspouts. Accumulated water or leaves on the roof above the flashing may cause a leak. Leaf and litter accumulations on eaves sometimes form ridges, which cause corrosion or overflows in future events.

If you have any tips or advice to share please take the time to let us know.

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About the Author

Joanne Wallace is our resident "Safety Guru". Joanne has provided advice on safety management for the past 10 years and written hundreds of articles on safety issues and tips. Joanne has experience in many industries ranging from manufacturing, food processing, timber milling, retail, office and wholesaling providing her with knowledge and experience managing risk and injuries in these industries.

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