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Disaster Relief: Priorities for Cleanup and Repair

Publication Number: P3676
View as PDF: P3676.pdf

Priorities for cleanup and repair vary according to the kind and seriousness of damage. Buildings may not be habitable during repair.

  • Examine building structure.
    • Check foundations for settling, cracking, or undermining.
    • Examine walls, floors, doors, and windows for necessary repairs.
    • You may want to repair only temporarily until extensive work can be done.
  • If basement is flooded, start pumping the water in stages. Pump out about a third of the water each day.
  • Get the electrical system working.
    • If the switchbox is in a flooded basement, do not turn electricity back on until you have pumped out the water.
    • Take electrical appliances to a qualified service repair center as soon as possible.
  • Get the water system working. Disinfect wells and water system.
  • Shovel out mud and silt before it dries.
  • Before they dry, wash down flooded walls and floors with hose. Start at upper limit of flooding and work downward.
  • Scrub and disinfect walls and floors.
  • Start heating system, if possible, to speed up drying.
    • Before operating the heating system, you may need to clean, dry, and recondition it.
    • Make sure chimneys are clean before starting the system.
  • Dry out walls and floors.
    • If required for proper drying, strip drywall up to water level.
    • Drill holes in exterior siding.
    • Complete drying may take months.
  • Repair buckled walls and floors.
  • Clean and dry household items, furniture, carpets, clothing, dishes, and bedding. Disinfect when necessary.
  • Treat items for mildew as needed.
  • Care for damaged trees, shrubs, and lawn.
  • Repaint, repair, and refinish as necessary.

Supplies and Equipment for Home Cleanup

Cleaning Supplies

__ Non-phosphate detergents1

__ Bleaches2

__ Disinfectan­­­ts

__ Ammonia

__ Scouring powder

__ Rubber gloves

__ Strong boots or heavy-soled shoes

1United States manufacturers have removed phosphate from laundry detergents.

2Use bleach sparingly, if at all. New EPA recommendations caution against its use.

Equipment for Small Jobs

__ Buckets

__ Tools (crowbar, hammer, screwdriver)

__ Sponges and cloths

__ Scrub brushes

__ Scoops

__ Throw-away containers for garbage, and a container to carry from house to street

__ Water hose

Equipment for Large Jobs

__ Buckets

__ Tools

__ Brooms

__ Shovels

__ Hoe

__ Sponge mop or a mop that is easily squeezed out

__ Water hose

__ Wheelbarrow

__ Dolly

__ Bushel baskets

__ Wash tubs (for soaking objects)

For More Information

Booklets with more detailed information and illustrations about flood and mold clean-up can be downloaded online. Use the links listed here, or search by title and sponsoring organization.

Publication 3676 (POD-07-21)

Reviewed by Rubin Shmulsky, PhD, Professor and Head, Sustainable Bioproducts. 

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