Many insurance policies will cover the cost of professional cleanup if you cannot move a big mess yourself. Check your policy. If you must do it yourself, take "before" photos or videotapes.
Pump or bail water out of the house as soon as safely possible. Shovel mud out before it can dry. Open the windows to let the house air out and give the walls and floors a chance to dry. Scrub floors and walls with a stiff brush and mild soap.
- Unplug as a safety precaution.
- Clean the outside thoroughly with a grease cutter, then with detergent and water.
- Clean the inside with conventional oven cleaner.
- Unplug appliances as a safety precaution.
- To remove odors, wash the inside with detergent and water. Make sure you wash the plastic gasket that seals the doors. Rinse with a cloth and clear water. Wipe dry.
- If odor remains, wash with a solution of 1 teaspoon of baking soda per quart of warm water. Or, you can use a cup of vinegar or ammonia to a gallon of water.
- If an odor is stubborn, spread about 3 ounces of powdered activated charcoal on a piece of aluminum foil or in a shallow pan. Put it on the refrigerator or freezer shelf. Foods can be stored with the charcoal.
- Keep the charcoal in the refrigerator until it becomes wet. Then, replace the charcoal. Repeat the process until the odor is gone. Keep all foods and beverages covered.
These appliances should be sanitized if they have been immersed in flood water.
- Unplug the appliances as a safety precaution.
- Pour a disinfectant into the empty washer. Run a 15-minute cycle using the hot water setting.
- Unplug the dryer and wipe the drum and dryer door with a cloth dipped in disinfectant solution. Rinse with a cloth dipped in clear water.
- Leave the dryer door open until all parts are dry -- preferably overnight. When dry, the dryer can be used again. Leave the dishwasher door open until all parts are dry.
- Clothes baskets, work surfaces and containers where clothes will be placed also should be sanitized.
Do not immerse flood-soiled clothing in hot, soapy water. If flood waters carried red or yellow clay, the hot soapsuds will set rust-colored stains. Here are the procedures for cleaning flood-soaked clothing.
- Washables: Brush off loose dirt and rinse several times to remove as much mud as possible. Machine wash clothes when no more dirt can be rinsed.
- Disinfect clothes: It will be necessary to sanitize clothes because flood water may be contaminated with sewage. There are four types of disinfectants that can be used, depending on the type of fabric.
- Disinfectants such as Roccal or Zephrin are safe for all fibers, won't damage wool or silk, but may cause color changes. These disinfectants should be added at the beginning of the rinse cycle. For top-loading washers, add 4 tablespoons of Roccal or 2 tablespoons of Zephrin. For front-loading washers, use 2 tablespoons of Roccal or 1 tablespoon of Zephrin. Those products are available in drugstores and dairy or janitorial supply houses.
- Liquid chlorine bleaches (such as Clorox or Purex) are safe for all fibers except wool, silk and water-repellant fabrics. Add bleach before putting clothes into the machine, or dilute bleach in 1 quart of water before adding it to the wash cycle. Do not use bleach in the rinse cycle.
- Pine oil disinfectants (such as Fyne Pine, King Pine, Pine-o-Pine or Texize-o-Pine) are safe for washables, except wool and silk. Make sure the product contains at least 80 percent pine oil. Add at the beginning of the wash cycle, preferably before putting clothes into the washer. Dilute in 1 quart of water before adding it to the machine. Use cup in top-loading washers and cup in front-loading automatics.
- Phenolic disinfectants (such as Pine-Sol, Al Pine or Sea-Air) are safe for washables, except for wool and silk. Use 1 cup in top-loading machines and cup plus 2 tablespoons in front-loading automatics. Add disinfectants in the wash or rinse cycle.
- Mildew: If mildew stains remain after washing with soap and water, wash with a solution of 1 tablespoon bleach to a pint of lukewarm water. Before bleaching, spot-test colored garments.
- Dry Clean Clothing: Let garment dry slowly at room temperature. Shake and brush well to remove dirt. Tell the cleaner the cause of stains and fiber content, if possible.
- Flood-soiled mattresses should be sent to a commercial renovating company. Even after renovation, flood odor may not completely leave. It may be cheaper to buy a new mattress.
- If you decide to keep your mattress, it should be sterilized at a mattress company.
- Feather pillows, if the ticking is in good shape, can be washed. Brush off surface dirt. To let water circulate through, open a few inches of the seam to opposite corners of the pillow. Turn edges, sew loosely with a strong thread or fasten with safety pins. Wash in machine or by hand in warm suds 15 to 20 minutes. Use a disinfectant in the wash cycle. Do not wash more than two pillows at a time if using an automatic washer. Rinse off at least three times in clear, warm water.
- Spin off water or gently squeeze out as much water as possible. Dry in an automatic dryer at moderate heat with several bath towels to speed drying. Or, dry in a warm room with a fan or put across two or three clotheslines.
- For foam pillows, remove cover, brush off surface dirt. If no manufacturer's instructions are available, soak in cool water, then wash in warm suds by hand. Rinse in lukewarm water. Squeeze out excess water. Dry away from heat or sunlight.
- Move wooden furniture outdoors and take out as many drawers or working parts as possible. Do not force stuck drawers with a screwdriver or chisel. Remove the back and push out the drawers. Clean away all dirt and mud. Return the furniture indoors so it will dry slowly.
- To remove white spots, rub a turpentine-wrung cloth over furniture. Dry immediately with a cloth. Polish.
It may be impossible to salvage water-soaked furniture. If a piece seems to be worth the effort, you'll have to clean and oil the springs, replace the stuffing and clean the frame.
Books and papers
- Place books on end with leaves separated. When they are partially dry, pile and press books.
- Alternate drying and pressing until thoroughly dry.
- If books and papers are very damp, sprinkle cornstarch or talcum powder between the leaves to absorb moisture. Leave on for several hours, then brush off.
- When papers and books are almost dry, use an electric iron on low heat on the pages. Separate the pages to prevent musty odors.
- When books are completely dry, close them and use C-clamps to help them retain their shape.
- Photocopy any important papers because they may quickly disintegrate, even though they've dried out.
- Never open an electronic appliance to dry it inside. A television is especially dangerous. It has a tube that retains electric voltage.
- Unplug the appliance and let it dry thoroughly. After moisture on the outside has dried, plug it in. If you see smoke or hear crackling sounds, unplug the appliance and take it to a repair shop.
- If the power indicator lights come on, leave the appliance on for about 10 minutes, then turn it off for about 30 minutes. Repeat the process, leaving the appliance on for an extra five minutes.
- VCRs often have moisture sensors that refuse to let the machine play a tape until dry. Don't despair yet; keep following the procedures above.
- If the appliance does not come on, unplug it and take it to a repair shop.
Rugs and carpets
- After shampooing, dry rugs or carpets quickly. Hang rugs on a line if possible, or lay them out flat in a warm, dry place. Use an electric fan to speed drying.
- Even though the surface seems dry, any moisture remaining at the base of the fiber tufts will cause mildew or rot.
- If you must walk on the carpet before it is dry, put down brown paper towels. Vacuum again when dry and brush the nap in one direction.
After a hurricane, your swimming pool may be a haven for mosquitoes and a repository for debris. Here's how to remedy those problems: