What do you do after your home has been flooded?
After the flood but before re-entering your home.
The flood water in your home or other property may contain sewage or other contaminants. Although this will be very diluted and present a low risk there are some precautions that you should take:
Cleaning up the house after the flood
- Contact your insurance company before throwing anything away. Make a list of all damaged goods, including food. Take photos/videos if possible.
- Don't switch on electrical appliances that have been in contact with the flood water until a competent electrician has checked them.
- Cover open cuts and wounds on exposed skin with a waterproof plaster. Wear strong rubber gloves whilst cleaning up.
- Remove soft furnishings and fittings that are damaged beyond repair.
- Remove as much dirty water and silt from the property as possible including cupboards, under cupboards and the space under stairs and floorboards if you have these. This may require pumping out.
- Wash down all hard surfaces with hot soapy water several times until visually clean.
- Use a domestic disinfectant, following manufacturer's directions as to concentrations, to wash over all hard surfaces after cleaning.
- Food preparation surfaces, storage cupboards and refrigerators should be washed down with food safe disinfectants such as Milton, Dettox or similar.
- Heating and good ventilation will assist the drying process.
- Clothing, bedding and other soft/fabric articles including children's' toys should be laundered on a hot wash (60°C and above, but check washing instructions first) which will destroy any germs that may be present.
If the flood water contained oil and diesel this should mostly flow away with the flood water and silt. Any remaining oil and diesel contamination in accessible areas can be removed by using a detergent solution and washing the surface down after initial cleaning has been carried out. In inaccessible areas such as under floorboards it may present an odour problem but is not necessarily a health hazard.
Further advice should be sought from Environmental Health if the odour persists or if you are particularly concerned about it for other reasons.
Returning to your home
It is recommended that you only fully re-occupy your home once the above cleaning has been carried out. There may be additional works to be carried out eventually as advised by your insurance company, housing officer, landlord or builder. If you decide to return to your home before this further work is completed you should:
- Try to have some heating on at all times, consider the use of a dehumidifier
- Ensure the property is well ventilated. Leave windows open as much as possible. Remember security though!
- Ensure that if you have air bricks to any under floor spaces that these are unblocked to give cross ventilation to these areas.
Food Preparation and Storage
- Make sure that all shelves and storage cupboards and refrigerators where food is stored are cleaned and disinfected.
- All crockery, pots and pans should be thoroughly washed with very hot soapy water before using. If any of these are badly chipped or damaged do not use.
- Ensure the water taps are cleaned and disinfected before using them for the first time
- Take particular care in preparing food; always wash your hands before starting.
Other Health Issues
- If you follow the basic advice above you should not experience any additional health problems. However, if you are concerned visit your Doctor.
- While in the property floorboards and walls will continue to dry out. Any loose material and dust resulting from this should be vacuumed up on a regular basis.
- Very young children should avoid playing directly on timber floorboards or any damaged tiled floors if possible.
- Help for vulnerable and elderly people returning to their houses may be available from the Social Services.
- Wash your hands properly if you have been in contact with flood water or silt.
- Take particular care when preparing or eating food.
- Contact your insurance company (if relevant) and make an inventory list of all damaged goods, including food. If you can, take photographs or video of the damage.
- Put contaminated flood-damaged food in black plastic refuse sacks, seal and put out when your next refuse collection is due. Check with insurers before disposal.
- Wash taps and flush them though before using them.
- If you accidentally ingest (swallow) mud or contaminated water and you become ill contact your doctor and tell him your house was flooded.
- Replace manhole covers dislodged by the flood.
- Don't be tempted to try and salvage damaged food - including tins as they may be contaminated with sewage or chemicals left from the flood water.
- Don't switch on electrical appliances, which have been in contact with the flood water unless a competent electrician has checked them. Southern Electricity will be checking mains supplies.
- Don't eat garden or allotment vegetables that have been covered by floodwater.
Additional Repair Works
- Eventually other necessary works may have been identified by your insurers or builders. These will possibly be carried out after the property has substantially dried out. However if plaster walls and partitions have been affected badly and do not dry out in a sound condition the plaster and boards affected will have to be removed, walls dried out and re-plastered. Otherwise redecoration of sound walls is all that will be necessary.
- Any areas showing signs of mould should be treated - fungicidal products are available from DIY Stores.
- After about six months it would be advisable to check timber floors for any evidence of rot or shrinkage. Any necessary repair work can then be made.
- Fitted units, particularly in the kitchen, made of chipboard may not dry out well and will become damaged by absorbed water. Sanitisation of these is difficult and therefore may have to be eventually replaced.
- Check for structural damage to your property and if you think there is damage or danger seek advice from your insurers, builder or building control officer.
We acknowledge and thank North Cornwall, Elmbridge Borough Council and West Oxfordshire District Council for advice found on their websites.