Flood Clean Up 101

Flood Clean Up & Mold Prevention: Guides, Links & Tips

Compiled by Jill Iwaskow

 *Please use your own discretion with all of this material.  I have no financial interest in any of this, nor am I personally advocating all the information I share from others or from links.  I am just supplying resources to others that I found helpful over the years that I hope will help others and prevent anyone from getting ill.  Some experts have also been consulted for advice posted here.

Very Basic Do’s & Don’ts For Flood Clean Up
[If possible, hire a certified, reputable professional – see section on tips for hiring a company.]

 For homeowners who decide to do the cleanup themselves, see links to clean up guides below for more detailed instructions as there are many important steps.

 Below is a summary of the key steps, but keep in mind that every job is a little bit different.  Use this as a guideline only.

  • Run plastic along floor from contamination area to outside to prevent tracking contaminants in house. Contain the affected area as best as possible.
  • Wear a mask, boots, gloves, eye protection, Tyvek suit if possible.
  • Turn off appliances if wet, or all electric and gas.
  • Contain the area and remove standing water and debris. Use pumps.
  • Remove all wet materials that have come in contact with floodwaters that are not structural. This includes all carpets, drywall, insulation, ceiling tiles, cabinets, shelving and furniture. (*Check regulations/test if you think you might have asbestos in drywall!)
  • Can use pump in hole in carpet to remove moisture before cutting and removing it.
  • Remove wet materials carefully from house to prevent cross contamination to other living areas.
  • Bag if possible, or rent a dumpster.
  • Dry, dry, dry! Use pumps, fans, heaters if safe to use, open windows, ventilate.
  • Clean all surfaces with Borax (available at most supermarkets and health food stores – use 1 cup Borax to 1 gallon hot water).  Scrub all, including wood framing, joists, metal studs, concrete, windows and doors. If dealing with mold, best to use a professional. 
  • In some cases, not all (if you had sewage water you will need to do this) after cleaning and drying, go over the room with an EPA approved disinfectant to kill the germs and control odors left behind by floodwaters. A pump sprayer is the best way to apply. Follow label instructions. Be aware that all EPA approved disinfectants have risks when you use them. Read the MSDS for any disinfectant you use.
  • The only nontoxic botanical EPA approved disinfectant currently on the market is Benefect (Benefect.com for local suppliers, or sold on Amazon.com).
  • Use a HEPA vacuum for cleaning if possible. Shop vacs spread dust around. HEPA vacs pic up the minute particles you want to remove.  Can shop vac wet residue then HEPA vac.
  • Remember – while keeping the flooded area contained to prevent cross-contamination into other areas, ventilate rooms by opening windows and circulating air with fans or Air Movers for 24 – 48 hours min. Heaters, heat fans, and/or Dehumidifiers can be used in very humid conditions.  Use caution with heaters. 
  • After area is dry and clean, consider moisture testing (with infrared meter by professional) to be sure moisture is out of walls, floor, etc.  If can’t afford tests, use a moisture meter but note that it does not test as deep as professional equipment.
  • Key to mold prevention will be removal of wet materials, clean, dry, rinse, clean, dry, hepa, repeat. Low humidity.  No moisture.

Note for crawl space flooding
(also see “Common Scenarios” tab on crawl spaces, and attachments from experts on crawl space remediation)

  • Remove any and all debris asap, remove standing water as best as possible (pumps, etc), ventilate using fans if possible.
  • Consider remediation if needed, and future use of a vapor barrier system if necessary.
  • If there is standing sewage water, treat with a disinfectant (ideally nontoxic, like Benefect).

Links to Proper Flood Clean Up Guides:

Other Tips for Clean up & Mold Prevention

Have a furnace company clean out the furnace and check it if it got wet.  Change filter.  Check boilers.

Turn off HVAC and seal ducts after flooding to prevent contamination.  It will ultimately need to be cleaned.

If renting equipment, or a company brings their own, make sure it was thoroughly dismantled and cleaned by the company before bringing into your home.

If company reps and crews are coming from other homes that are possibly moldy, at minimum, run plastic down on your walkway area inside your home to the contaminated area. They should be wearing protection, especially on feet to prevent tracking.

Consider using an old throw rug or carpet remnant for people to wipe feet on when leaving contaminated area.

Keep areas that got flooded sealed off, as well as possible, from “safe” areas in your house while cleaning and mitigation and drying out continues.

To prevent future storm  flooding issues, new drainage plans (e.g. French drains, etc) might be necessary.  Note that landscaping work often changes drainage issues.

***See MOLD tab for information on testing, and much more.  And see LOCAL RESOURCES for local referrals and more.

Flood Clean up Tips from McGuckins (local store)
(Note – I need to verify whether boric acid is safe for pets and kids as I heard conflicting information on this which is why people I talk to suggest Borax for clean up, but this might be a possible alternative to using stronger chemicals if trying to prevent mold – remember if there is mold – REMOVE it.  This is for prevention)
From McGuckins:
“Water Removal  – We still have a variety of sump pumps, and advice on how to use them to remove standing water.  Carpet cleaning vacuums can also suck up a surprising amount of moisture.  Keep an eye on buckled walls as you pump out the water.
Air Circulation – Get fans and dehumidifiers running to quickly draw out lingering moisture from cracks and crevices.  This will reduce damage and inhibit mold.
Mold Removal – During the clean-up process of cutting out drywall and pulling up carpet and flooring, the inevitable black mold starts to bloom.  While there are many ways to go about eradicating mildews, the best option is boric acid because it works quickly to change the pH of the affected area, making an environment uninhabitable to mold.  Products like bleach kill the mold you can see but they don’t penetrate surfaces to kill spores deep down.  Mix a pound of boric acid into a pump sprayer with a gallon of water and shake it well to make a homogenous solution.  Pressurize the sprayer and spray as much of the surface area of the previously flooded room as possible (1 gallon of solution will cover 200 square feet, or a 10-foot by 20-foot space).  Allow the spray to dry, and leave the white powdery residue, because boric acid has long-lasting mold fighting (and insect killing) capabilities.  For more information, read an articleabout applications of boric acid after Hurricane Katrina or simply stop by the store and ask our Green Vests in the Garden Department.  Don’t forget to wear respirators and gloves!”

*** Caveat – this is McGuckins advice and I need to verify into on Boric Acid as it is different from Borax, but thought I’d pass along their info

Update –

A few highlights from HealthyChild.com worth sharing (note: there is a lot of discrepancy about whether boric acid, which is much stronger than Borax, can be toxic or not particularly to animals and at what levels, which application, etc):

“Boron is a naturally-occurring element in the earth’s crust and background levels even circulate in the human bloodstream. The EPA considers boric acid as a moderately acutely toxic due to acute effects including oral and dermal toxicity, and eye and skin irritation. The EPA has classified boric acid as a ‘Group E’ carcinogen, indicating that it shows ‘evidence of noncarcinogenicity’ for humans. In reproductive and developmental toxicity studies using rats, mice and rabbits, maternal liver and kidney effects and decreased weight gain as well as decreased fetal body weights were observed. In two studies, at the highest dose levels, no litters were produced. Prenatal mortality occurred at the highest dose levels in the rabbit study. Boric acid does not cause mutagenicity. Boric acid is practically nontoxic to birds, fish, aquatic invertebrates, and relatively nontoxic to beneficial insects. It’s noncrop herbicidal use may harm endangered or threatened plants, and therefore EPA is requiring three phytotoxicity studies to assess these risks.”

1 thought on “Flood Clean Up 101

  1. Hey there…thanks for this very helpful tips on how to do flood cleanups, we are living in a flood zone area and this will be very helpful to me and my family.Keep up the good work!

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