How to Clean Flood Damaged Items: Everything You Need to Know

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: March 21, 2024

Dealing with any type of home water damage can seem overwhelming. Whether it’s the result of broken pipes or torrential rain, you need to clean up your flooded house right away.

Suddenly, you realize it’s more than soggy drywall and wet carpets. All your belongings are soaked too.

Do you know how to clean flood-damaged items and salvage personal treasures?

Prioritize and Get Organized

It doesn’t take long for flood damage to ruin your belongings. Moisture rapidly degrades materials and leaves everything vulnerable to mold and mildew. You need to quickly prioritize your cleaning goals.

Go through your most important items first. Set aside special photos, albums and books. Artwork, fabrics and clothes are a priority too. Next, take a look at furniture, appliances and electronics.

Plan on indoor air-drying as many belongings as possible. If the weather isn’t too humid, open windows throughout the house. Otherwise, set up fans and dehumidifiers to reduce indoor moisture while you follow these recovery guidelines.

Preserve Papers and Photos

preserve books

Paper Records

Spread out papers on top of clean materials that can soak up moisture. Change out blotting papers, towels and pads as your documents and records dry.


Carefully rinse photographs in clean water, and air-dry on paper towels or plastic screens. Photos can also be hung by corners until dry.


Place paper towels between book pages. Replace with fresh sheets until books begin to dry. Finish by standing books upright with pages fanned open.

Power Tip: If you can’t take care of paper items right away, try to delay further damage. Slip wet papers, books and photos into plastic bags, and store them in the freezer.

Save Special Artwork

Whether water-damaged artwork has sentimental or monetary value, it belongs in the hands of professionals. Contact recovery experts who know how to salvage art and collectibles, like ART of North & Central Chicagoland.

They apply special technologies to the process restoring everything from canvas and frames to mixed-media artwork and personal heirlooms.

Wash and Clean Fabrics

• Clean and disinfect the washing machine by running a full cycle using chlorine bleach, hot water and detergent.

• Use a garden hose to rinse mud and debris from water-damaged fabrics.

• Run textiles through a pre-wash cycle with cold water and heavy-duty detergent.

• Finish by washing belongings on the safest hot water setting. Repeat as needed to remove stains and dirt.

• Treat dry-clean fabrics by brushing off dirt and debris before taking things to a professional dry cleaner.

Treat and Dry Wood Furniture

• Hose floodwater off wood furniture. Wipe down with turpentine or wood alcohol to prevent mold growth.

• Sunlight can warp wet wood furniture, so let it dry inside for several weeks or even months.

• Speed up the process by leaving warped drawers in place and removing furniture backs.

Power Tip: Upholstered furniture is very difficult to clean and dry. How long can furniture sit in water before being ruined? Well, fabrics and padding quickly develop mold and mildew. Let a cleaning and restoration contractor take care of this type of furniture.

Be Careful With Appliances and Electronics

• Trying to salvage appliances and electronics on your own can be very hazardous.

• Never unplug appliances or electronics while standing in water or wearing wet clothes.

• If you suspect a stove or water heater gas leak, leave your home immediately, and call 911.

• Stay safe by scheduling a licensed technician to inspect water-damaged appliances and electronics.

Follow Flood Damage Cleanup Precautions

• Assume all flooded areas are dangerous. Always proceed with caution.

• Make everything safer and easier to handle by wearing rubber gloves as you work

• Move ruined items outside to prevent mold spores from spreading through the house.

• Don’t throw anything away before your insurance adjuster makes an assessment.

• Never risk your health trying to remove standing water after heavy storm flooding or a sewage backup.

Enlist the Help of Restoration Professionals

Often, water damage restoration work requires special equipment and techniques that aren’t available to homeowners. Ask your insurance agent to recommend an IICRC-certified restoration company.

cleaning up water damaged belongings

Industry-trained technicians can often salvage water-damaged furniture, heirlooms, paper documents, electronics and more. A restoration contractor can also guide you through the insurance claims process.

We Help You Deal With the Worst

We know how hard it is to see treasures and belongings affected by flooding. We help homeowners deal with water-damage cleanup and restoration every day. You don’t have to face it all by yourself.

Our teams bring years of experience to the water damage restoration process. We take care of you with understanding and personalized service. When you need help with the worst, call ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba. We’re here for you 24/7 at 773-647-1985.