Would you have any idea what to do if your home was flooded? After the tragedy has passed and the police have given you the all-clear to return home, you must be ready to cope with the water damage that has occurred in your home.

You’ll be in a race against mold growth to clear away the debris once your local police or fire department decides it’s safe to return.

The first and foremost step to do if you have flood insurance is to submit a claim; for that, you get 60 days to submit proof detailing your loss and home contents.

Though you may be tempted to rush back to your house and begin cleaning, be cautious because there may be hidden dangers.

“A flooded home or location should first be assessed to be safe, with no structural, electrical, or other hazards,” says Enesta Jones, an Environmental Protection Agency representative.

Strong winds and floodwaters can knock down power wires. Furthermore, rushing water can erode surrounding subsurface utilities, causing major gas breaches. 

Outside your house, look for a gas odor. It is wise to report any dangling electrical wires and report any evidence to the gas or electric company and the police or fire department.

It is recommended to check for gas leaks or structural damages inside the house, switch off any main gas valve, open all the windows, go outside, and call 911 and your gas company straight away if you smell gas inside. If you find yourself in over your head, do yourself a favor and seek expert assistance.

After a clear and thorough inspection, you can safely apply this method to make your house as clean and tidy as possible. Here are some steps to help you further:

Table of Contents

1. Wear protection

Women with gloves and gears ready to clean up | Image Credit – Chron

The first and most prominent thing to do is wear protection or any safety gear before starting the cleaning process. 

In any catastrophe, it is always preferable to be cautious. There’s more than simply water to be concerned about when your home has been flooded. 

Floodwaters transport the filthy debris that collects at the bottom of storm drains, ditches, and sewer lines. They may leave behind muck and harmful substances in your home when they go.

Contact with sewage or mold, according to the EPA, can trigger allergic reactions and other issues. 

After a flood, Kellogg Schwab, Ph.D., the Abel Wolman Professor in Water and Public Health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, says, “You have to expect that mold is developing.” “Mold can aggravate asthma and induce respiratory distress.”

Wear clothing that protects your entire body to protect yourself. To protect your hands and face from mold spores and dangerous gases, the EPA recommends wearing an N95 respirator, goggles that are tight enough to keep dust and small particles out of your eyes, and long, tight-fitting rubber or neoprene gloves. (You can find some of the items you’ll need for the cleanup below.) 

Keep anyone with a weakened or damaged immune system away from the residence since mold, cleaning chemicals, and sewage from storm runoff can make them sicker.

2. Dry out your homes as soon as possible

Eva Perez wipes her face as she cleans up her home on Eagle Pass on Friday, Sept. 1, 2017, in Houston as a result of flooding from Tropical Storm Harvey | Image Credit – Chron

It is advised to dry out your homes as quickly as possible as when moisture is present; there is a big chance for mold to grow in the place. 

Mold begins to grow in damp locations within 24 hours, and if it’s warm, visible colonies can appear within two days. The first step in eradicating mold from your home is to ventilate it.

Turn on your air conditioner, dehumidifier, and all of your fans if you have power. Let in airflow to get rid of excess moisture and close your windows if you have a dehumidifier and an air conditioner. 

Keep your windows open and, if you have fans, send the exhaust toward an open window. If you don’t have electricity but have a portable generator, take the outlined steps. 

Remember that generators generate lethal carbon monoxide; never use a generator indoors to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. 

And, be sure to situate the generator at least 20 feet away from your home, with the exhaust facing away from your property as recommended by John Galeotafiore, associate director of product testing at Consumer Reports. 

If there is no power, open all of your windows and doors to promote ventilation if the weather permits.

3. Ensure that all appliances and countertops are in good working order

Recovery and Restoration of appliances after flood | Video Credit –
Bens Appliances and Junk

Suppose your plugin or otherwise provide power to your appliances right soon. In that case, their components may be corrupted or destroyed by floodwaters. 

To be safe, Consumer Reports recommends discarding any device that has been submerged in floodwaters, such as your washer or stove. 

If you think an appliance is not ruined, get it inspected by a specialist before bringing it back into service.

“Mold doesn’t develop well on metals or ceramics,” explains Bennett, a Rutgers University professor of Plant Biology and Pathology. However, you should still clean and eliminate mold by wiping everything off with bleach.

If there is no apparent mold, the CDC suggests cleaning most nonporous surfaces, such as the metal on appliances, which you can clean with a solution of 1 cup bleach to 5 gallons of water. 

If mold is present, mix 1 cup of bleach with 1 gallon of water. Before using, make careful to rinse or clean goods and air dry thoroughly.

4. Keep an eye on the moisture level.

Moisture Meter to measure the moisture level | Image Credit – Ubuy

Use a humidity meter, which costs approximately $15 at hardware stores, to keep track of the moisture level while you’re airing out your home. 

The EPA advises a 30 to 50 percent humidity level to avoid mold growth. Even if floors, walls, and furniture appear to be dry to the touch, mold and germs can form. 

A moisture meter, available for $50 at hardware stores, is another valuable instrument for detecting dampness that isn’t visible.

5. Refabricate Damaged dry wall

Need to refabricate such walls | Image Credit – Escarosa Cleaning and Restoration

If your home’s drywall has more than 10 square feet of total water damage, it is suggested that it be removed by a professional who has dealt with water damage before. 

Any region smaller than that, on the other hand, you can handle on your own. The drywall should be 15 to 24 inches above the apparent water line.

It is advised to score the drywall with a utility knife then punch it in. Check with your local sanitation agency to determine if you need to haul the drywall yourself to the landfill or if you can pile it on your curb for trash pickup.

If the insulation under the drywall is damp, you’ll have to get rid of it as well. Metal and glass, for example, are nonporous and may be cleaned entirely with water and soap and sterilized with a bleach and water solution.

6. Remake floors

Remove the ceramics tiles or wood floors | Video Credit – Home Repair Tutor

Make sure to remove ceramic tile, sheet vinyl, laminate, and solid wood floors as they retain moisture and build up beneath them, even if they appear dry, allowing germs and mold to thrive.

After you’ve disposed of these:

➔ Before laying down new flooring, make sure everything is clean and dry.

➔ Keep a humidity level in your home of 30 to 50%.

➔ Before laying new flooring, use a moisture meter to confirm that the subflooring is at or below 16 percent moisture content (manufacturers recommend a moisture content of 13 percent or less for wood floors).

➔ Be patient—returning your flooring to a reasonable moisture level may take a few weeks.

If you’re not sure when you can reinstall flooring, it is suggested to consult with a contractor or house inspector who has dealt with flooding before doing so.

7. Hire People Who Have Been Through Background Checks

Hire after a background check | Image Credit – Monster Jobs

People should be aware that many scams involve restoring flood-damaged properties following disasters. 

Make sure the restoration company you pick is accredited for mold and water damage cleanup. Check your local government’s website to see if a department deals with flood assistance.

8. Remove debris

Remove debris from house carefully | Image Credit – Junk Removal Blog

Before removing hazardous material, put on your respirator and other safety equipment. 

Removing wet silt and debris from your home with shovels or rakes and putting it a safe distance away is recommended by Jeff Bishop, a former director on the board of the IICRC. 

Wash and sanitize your clothes and shoes thoroughly, and disinfect your equipment with bleach after each usage.

If you have flood insurance, contact your provider to determine what proof is required to support your lawsuit. You need to save pieces of carpet, flooring, and walls, as well as photograph the damage. 

As per the Insurance Information Institute, some insurers may want to check your property remotely through video chat or even use drone footage to assess damage throughout your neighborhood. 

Important Cleanup Process Steps

  1. Before you start cleaning, take pictures of the damage.
  2. All recommended are long-sleeved shirts, long pants, rubber or plastic gloves, and waterproof boots or shoes.
  3. Take anything outside that has been damp for two days or more. Even though you can’t see it, these objects could have mold growing on them.
  4. Any things that absorb water and cannot be cleaned or disinfected should be discarded (mattresses, carpeting, stuffed animals, etc.).
  5. If you cannot wash cloth items in hot water, remove them.
  6. We should clean floors, stoves, sinks, dishes, and worktops with bleach. The maximum amount of bleach to use per gallon of water is one cup. We should never mix bleach with ammonia or other cleaning chemicals. When it’s safe to do so, wash your flood-damaged fabrics (water is back on and secure to use, electricity is restored, the washing machine has been checked for damage, etc.).

(Last Updated on March 22, 2022 by Sadrish Dabadi)

Thinley Doma Ghale holds a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Kathmandu University. She enjoys writing articles on climate change animals and loves to travel and experience new ideas, places, meeting people, and learning from them. As a social science student, research has always been her area of interest.