Cleaning a flood-damaged home is a daunting task–not to mention a messy and potentially dangerous one. Colorado State University Cooperative Extension is helping with the clean-up by offering homeowners expert information.
Laurel Kubin, Colorado State Cooperative Extension director in Larimer County, offers several tips to help with flood clean- up.
The first step in the clean-up process is to examine your building for structural damage. Check foundations for settling, cracking or undermining. Examine walls, floors, doors and windows to determine what repairs are necessary. You may want to make temporary repairs until extensive work can be done.
Get your electrical system operational as soon as possible. If the switch box is in a flooded area of your home, do not turn electricity on until water has been pumped out. Also have electrical appliances serviced as soon as possible to assure they are safe to use.
Unless you are absolutely certain your home water supply is not contaminated by flood water, purify all water before drinking, food preparation, brushing teeth or washing dishes. Purify water by heating the liquid to a rolling boil for 10 minutes to kill any disease-causing bacteria. Add a pinch of salt to each quart of boiled water to improve taste.
If the basement is flooded, start pumping the water in stages. Pump about a third of the water each day. You may experience more damage by pumping water from the basement too soon or too quickly rather than letting the floodwater remain. Water in the basement helps brace the walls against extra pressure of waterlogged soil outside. If water is pumped out too soon, walls may be pushed in, or floors pushed up.
Shovel out mud and silt while it’s still wet. Hose down walls to remove as much silt as possible before it dries. Start at the upper limit of flooding and work downward. Floors and walls may need sanitizing, particularly if sewage has entered the basement. Scrub and disinfect walls and floors, but be sure to wear a mask and gloves when cleaning.
Turn on your heating system to speed up the drying process. Before operating the heat system, make sure the entire heating system is clean and dry.
Dry out walls and floors next. If necessary for proper drying, strip walls open up to the water level. Drill holes in exterior siding to release moisture. Complete drying may take months.
Clean and dry household items, furniture, carpets, clothing, dishes and bedding before use. Disinfect and treat items for mildew as needed.
Do not use food that comes in contact with flood waters. Some foods can be salvaged if properly packaged. Consult your local Cooperative Extension office or Public Health Department if in doubt.
Give special attention to cleaning children’s toys, cribs, playpens and play equipment. Boil any items toddlers or babies might put in their mouths. Discard stuffed, waterlogged and non- cleanable toys.
For complete information on flood clean-up, contact your local Colorado State Cooperative Extension office found under county government listings in the phone book. You can also access thousands of fact sheets using "Put Knowledge To Work," a CD-ROM available at the Cooperative Extension Resource Center, (970) 491-6198.