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Disaster Relief: Priorities for Cleanup and Repair

Publication Number: IS1699
View as PDF: IS1699.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 what repairs are necessary.
    • You may want to repair only temporarily until extensive work can be done.
  • If basement is flooded, start pumping the water in stages. Pump 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

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

__ Hoes

__ Sponge mop or a mop that is easily squeezed out

__ Water hose

__ Wheelbarrow

__ Dolly

__ Bushel baskets

__ Wash tubs (for soaking objects)

1U.S. manufacturers have removed phosphate from laundry detergents.

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

For More Information

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

Creating a Healthy Home: A Field Guide for Clean-up of Flooded Homes
An illustrated 18-page booklet created through a cooperative effort of the National Center for Healthy Housing, NeighborWorks America, and Enterprise Community Partners.

A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home
Photos and instructions may be viewed online, or a booklet may be downloaded, with EPA recommendations.

Flood Cleanup and the Air in Your Home
Basic safety and cleanup information in an easy-to-read booklet with color illustrations. Also available in Spanish.

Recover after a Disaster
Red Cross online guides

Recover and Rebuild

Information Sheet 1699 (POD-03-16)

Reviewed by Dr. David Jones, former Associate Extension Professor, Forest Products.

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