Main Content

Cleaning up After a Flood

Release date: 
July 15, 2003
Release Number: 

Charleston, WV -- That sinking feeling hits when you first see your home or business mired under debris and your important papers and possessions soaked through with water after a flood. But before you wade in to salvage essential items and to clean up, consider your personal safety and be cautious.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) advises the homeowner to take the following steps:

  • Wear protective clothing. Rubber gloves and boots will help protect you from bacteria and possible infections.
  • Avoid putting your hands near your face or mouth when working.
  • Be sure the main power source to your home or business is turned off.
  • Check for shifts in the house or building and cracks in the foundation.
  • Open doors and windows to help dry out the rooms.
  • Remove any standing water. Basements should be pumped out slowly, about one-third of the water each day. Water soaked grounds can cause a collapse of basement walls.
  • Clean up mud, silt and other debris before they dry out.
  • Hose down walls as quickly as possible and follow up with a second hosing with water containing bleach or a disinfectant. Disinfect surfaces, like shelves.
  • Appliances that contain insulation cannot be easily cleaned. Have them checked by a service person before attempting to use.
  • Remove all soaked materials and furnishings. Fully upholstered furnishings and mattresses cannot be cleaned and should be destroyed to avoid health problems.
  • Carpets and rugs may be cleaned. Permanently attached carpeting should be removed before attempting to clean. Clean items out of doors or have them done professionally.
  • Items like sheets, bedspreads, curtains and draperies should be washed with very hot water and detergents, or professionally dry-cleaned.
  • Any flooded food items should be discarded unless they are in undamaged cans or commercially sealed glass jars. Sanitize the container before opening it.
  • Sanitize pots, pans, utensils, dishes, glassware and other items you intend to keep.

"When cleaning up after a flood, we want residents to take the necessary precautions to ensure they are returning to a healthy indoor environment," said State Coordinating Officer Stephen S. Kappa. "They have suffered enough from the storms and floods."

For more information, residents may call the Office of Environmental Health Services at 304-558-2981, 1-800-368-4358, or your local health department.

Last Updated: 
January 3, 2018 - 12:53