In response to ongoing flooding from Hurricane Irene, the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) offers the following cleanup and safety tips for families returning to flooded homes:
- Damage from floods is typically only covered by flood insurance.
- Take extensive photos and video for insurance claims.
- If you need evidence of damaged items, remove them from the home and save swatches (carpet, curtains, etc.) for your insurance adjuster.
- Check for building stability before entry; sticking doors at the top may indicate a ceiling at risk of collapse.
- Take pictures of damage throughout the building and around the property. Assess stability of plaster and drywall. Bulging or swelling ceilings indicate damage. Press upward on drywall ceilings. If nail heads appear, drywall will need to be re-nailed but can be saved.
- Check foundation for any loose or missing blocks, bricks, stones or mortar.
- Empty basement water at a rate of about one-third per day to avoid structural damage to foundation by rapid pressure change.
- To avoid warping, dry all wood doors by removing from hinges, lying flat with wood shims between and allowing to air dry completely. Remove all knobs and hardware first and disinfect.
- Remove wet drywall and insulation well above the high water mark.
Home Air Quality Considerations and Mold Prevention
- Clean and disinfect heating, air conditioning and ventilation ducts before use to avoid spread of airborne germs and mold spores.
- Use fans and sunlight to dry out interior spaces.
- Remove all wet carpets, curtains and fabrics. Allow to air dry completely.
- Wash and disinfect all surfaces including cupboard interiors, doors, walls, window sills and tracks with a solution of one-half cup of bleach or bleach alternative to two gallons of water. Remove sliding doors and windows before cleaning and disinfecting the sliders and the tracks.
- Clean and disinfect concrete surfaces using a mixture of TSP (trisodium phosphate) and water. Mix according to manufacturer’s directions and apply to entire surface.
- Remove wallpaper and coverings that came into contact with floodwaters. Don’t repaint or repair until drying is complete and humidity levels in the home have dropped.
- Liquid cleaners can remove mud, silt and greasy deposits. Liquid detergents work on washable textiles. Use diluted bleach or bleach alternative if item is safe for bleach.
- To avoid growth of microorganisms, household items should be dried completely before they are brought back into the house. Although the drying process can take a long time, homeowners should be patient because it is necessary to keep a home’s air quality healthy. Some household items may take longer than others to dry such as upholstered furniture and carpets.
- The National Archives Website has information on how to clean your family treasures. Although it may be difficult to throw certain items away, especially those with sentimental value, experts recommend that if you can’t clean it, you should dispose of it, especially if it has come into contact with water that may contain sewage.