How to Clean Up After a Flood: 5 Essential Tips to Reclaim Your Home

Author: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Last Updated on

The recent devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey serves as a sober reminder. Here in Chicago, we see our share of destructive weather every year. Just this past spring, torrential rains across the city left area houses flooded, and how to dry out was something everyone needed to know.

Are you ready to tackle cleaning the house and your belongings after floodwaters soak your home?

This past spring, our flood restoration services helped so many homeowners recover from the aftermath of our severe weather. Dealing with the damage from a deluge is never easy, but our overview outlines the essentials of how to start drying out after a flood.

Cleaning Up After a Flood: 5 Tips for Reclaiming Your Home and Belongings

kitchen flooded due to burst pipe

Whether you’re recovering from drenching downpours or a house flooded by burst pipes, we want you to be prepared. When you’re faced with cleaning up after a flood, these tips can make a very hard job a little easier.

1. Start Drying Interiors Right Away

Mold is often one of the biggest problems in a house that’s flooded. Knowing how to dry out interiors doesn’t eliminate fungal growth, but you can minimize the damage.

• Set up fans in every room to circulate air and speed up the drying process.
• Don’t open windows to outside humidity that can promote mold growth.
• Resist running the AC because it spreads airborne spores and contaminants.
• Use push brooms to move standing water on floors and direct it outside the house.
• Hang salvageable carpeting outside to dry, but don’t try to save soaked padding.
• Tear out sheetrock at least 1 foot above the high-water mark.

Power Tip: Save ruined carpet and sheetrock samples for your insurance adjuster.

2. Carefully Inspect Wet Furnishings

Closely inspect wet furnishings, but don’t haul off damaged items that can’t be cleaned or repaired. Pile them outside so that the insurance adjuster can see exactly what you’ve lost.

• Solid wood furniture dries in four to six weeks and usually needs refinishing.
• Dispose of anything made with particle board including veneered furniture.
• Inspect damage to sofas and chairs by removing fabric coverings and padding from frames.
• Clean and dry metal springs and frames, and seal them with rust-inhibiting paint.
• Wash upholstery, or bring in a cleaning contractor who specializes in restoring water-damaged furniture.

3. Quickly Take Care of Soaked Clothes

All types of fabric begin to mold and mildew after being soaked by floodwaters. Sort through your clothes as quickly as possible separating washable items from dry cleaning.

• Wring out everything, but don’t store damp clothing in plastic bags.
• Loosen deep dirt from washables by rinsing several times in cold water.
• After repeated rinsing, soak badly soiled clothes in cold water and detergent for 24 hours.
• Finally, launder all rinsed clothing using both detergent and disinfectants in the wash cycle.

Power Tip: Most shoes will air-dry, so don’t risk shrinkage by tossing them in a hot dryer.

4. Think Twice About Beds

Depending on their material, pillows can be saved if they aren’t too wet. Badly soaked mattresses are breeding grounds for mold and mildew, so think twice before trying to salvage water-damaged beds.

• Brush dirt off pillow covers, and check them for frays and tears.
• Machine or hand wash pillows in warm water with detergent and disinfectant.
• Feather pillows are safe in the dryer, but let foam and polyester pillows air-dry.

5. Don’t Start the Car

If your car took on floodwater, it needs a tow to the garage and an inspection from your mechanic. Never try to start a car that’s been even partially submerged.

• Contact your auto insurance carrier about damages right away, and ask about towing and rental coverage.
• Open the hood, trunk, all doors and interior compartments, and disconnect the battery.
• Clean out as much water and mud as possible from floorboards and seats.
• Pull out mats and carpeting, and finish cleaning with a wet vac.
• Leave everything open, and set up fans around the car to speed up drying.

Power Tip: If floodwaters reached your car’s dashboard, your adjuster will probably consider it a total loss.

You Have Our Support 24/7

servicemaster water damage expert

You can only do so much to keep floodwaters from soaking your house and belongings. Home flood prevention makes a big difference, but you have to be ready to respond after the rains move out. We hope our list helps, and we welcome your cleanup ideas through our Comments Section.

We’re here to support you with our flood restoration services 24/7. When you’re dealing with the aftermath of a deluge, you want a proven leader among Chicago flood cleanup companies. You can always depend on ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba to answer your first call.