Cleaning up after a coastal flood is different from a burst pipe or other freshwater flood the salt in the water can cause extra damage that may need to be addressed. You might notice your lawn “burns” weeks after the storm has subsided, and the windward side of your home and garden might have more damage than other areas. This may be heartbreaking for gardeners, but it’s also a sign of just how severe the damage might be in your home, even though it’s not immediately noticeable.
First, strongly consider having professionals clean up after a flood. The DIY approach is back-breaking, frustrating and dangerous. It’s important to clean and make your home livable as soon as possible to avoid potentially lethal black mold from forming. If you’re going attempt to clean up yourself, put safety first and make sure everyone has a face mask, hand wash soap, safety glasses, waterproof gloves and clean washing water. It’s quite possible that the flood water has brought in extremely unclean water that’s on the same level as raw sewage, so always assume all water is contaminated.
Don’t Take Anything for Granted
Turn off the house power before entering the home, preferably by tripping the main circuit breaker. Only use battery powered tools because you never know when water may be “live. ” At the bare minimum, invest in large plastic tubs, large garbage bags, and have a friend available who’s willing to let you use their washing machine (yours will likely “wash” things with contaminated water). Finally, don’t start cleaning up until you’ve taken plenty of photos for insurance purposes.
Make sure that any flood dangers are clear before starting the cleanup sometimes storms come in surges. If you think cleaning up once is a nightmare, try doing it back-to-back. When it’s time to get down to business, start by getting all clothes and linens removed, put them in a waterproof bag or bin and washing them at a friend’s house. These are the items that are easiest to clean and most quickly ruined with mold.
A Big Job
Next, remove “soft furnishings” such as beds, sofas, rugs and similar items. These items are porous and may not be salvageable including many children’s toys. These items can’t be saved and should be destroyed or scheduled for a dump pickup, but make sure they’re out of the house so they don’t pollute the air. Non-porous items from crockery to china dolls can be saved, but only if they’re packed up and immediately scrubbed with detergent and brushes.
Use an anti-microbial solution on all non-porous items and run as many items in the dishwasher as possible. This is no time to be sentimental; after all, these items have effectively been in a sewer so any scrubbing isn’t going to exacerbate damage, but it will sanitize them. More sensitive items like DVDs can’t be washed, of course, but a good wipe down with anti-microbial products is enough to make them usable again.
Unfortunately, most electronics will have to also be destroyed which includes everything from laptops to TVs. Heavy furniture, such as built-in wooden bookcases, can also be sanitized depending on how porous it is. This may require disassembling and reassembling items to ensure that there’s no sewer water stuck in the cracks only you (and your insurance company) can decide what’s salvageable and what’s not.
Once the house is barren, it’s time to sanitize the walls, floors and even ceilings depending on the severity of the flooding. Check to see if the insulation of the home was damaged, but be careful about wildlife that may have sought shelter in your home. Snakes are common house guests in a flood. The items you’ll need for a good house scrubbing include detergent, a pressure cleaner or mop and bucket, scrubbing broom, drying towels and anti-microbial liquid.
As you can see, recovering from a flood is a huge undertaking, and it’s easy to get fed up and skip a few key steps or not sanitize as well as necessary. It’s always best to have a reputable company take care of this for you as well as have proper flood coverage in place. Preparing for the worst is the best thing you can do to get back to normal after a natural disaster.