The past week has seen many homes and businesses destroyed by floods. The water itself can wreak havoc not only on your personal possessions but also on the structure of the property itself. The best advise is to get professional input at the earliest possible stage to help salvage what you can. For most of us though, the hardest part is knowing where to start or how to set about cleaning up what seems like the impossible.
Remove Excess Water and Mud
The first thing we would advise anyone who has suffered flood damage is to get rid of as much excess water, mud and dampness as possible. Even slight dampness can be a breeding ground for mold. Mold not only damages walls, furniture and fittings etc but is also responsible for reducing the indoor air quality. This can lead to serious respiratory illnesses like asthma so it's really important to minimise the risk of mold.
The quickest way to get rid of standing water is using a pump or a wet/dry vacuum but this may not always be possible if there is no power. The old fashioned way is a bit slower but will be just as effective. Mops, buckets and old towels etc can be used to remove excess water.
There will usually be significant mud deposits left behind so using a shovel to remove as much mud as possible then use a hose or bucket to rinse off mud from other hard surfaces.
Drying Out the Area
A dehumidifier or a fan would be the fastest way to dry out the affected areas. Opening windows to circulate the air will speed things up. Removing items that are water logged like skirting, carpets, timber floors etc. is a must. MDF finished are not likely to be salvaged but solid wood items may be able to be saved. Once all these items have been removed all remaining areas need to be completely cleaned and sterilised.
Sterilising and Disinfecting
The biggest concern we have with flood water is the contaminants it may contain. The possibility of the water containing bacteria from sewers or toilets etc. is high so it is critical to clean every surface thoroughly.
Firstly check that you have running water and that it's safe to use for cleaning - it may need to be boiled first so it's safe.
Choose a heavy duty cleaner to clean all surfaces thoroughly, then use a disinfectant like chlorine tablets dissolved in hot water to make sure that all surfaces are fully sterilised too. Always make sure you wear protective gloves, glasses and clothing to stay protected. We would also advise using a two strap protective mask to avoid breathing in mold spores.
For delph, glass and cookware, clean everything with a heavy duty cleaning detergent first then leave to soak fully in a disinfectant for approx 10 minutes. You should treat metals and silverware in boiling water instead of any chlorine based products as this may react with the metal and cause them to darken.
Mattresses and soft furnishings such as sofas etc that have been damaged by flood water soak up contaminants and should either be cleaned by a professional or disposed of on safety grounds.
Photos, papers and books can be frozen for cleaning later. Wash off excess mud and debris and place into plastic freezer bag and place in a freezer until you have time to treat them. They should be thawed, dried slowly and carefully to protect them from mildew and further damage.
Cleaning up after a flood is difficult. Again we would highly recommend getting the advise of your insurance company's assessor and other professional input from a qualified surveyor or engineer to help ease the distress.