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University of Illinois Extension

Cleaning and disinfecting key to flood recovery

July 1, 2013

Rockford, Ill. --The recent rains have created flash flood conditions across the region. In addition to flooded roads and fields, many residents have experienced flooding inside their homes. In many cases, water has intruded into basements in limited areas rather than several inches across the whole basement. These smaller areas require the same thorough cleaning and disinfecting to recover after a flood.

Receding floodwaters and infiltrated water may contain sewage and other contaminants, including pathogens that are harmful to people, according to Stanley Solomon, University of Illinois Extension educator, energy and environmental stewardship, serving the Jo Daviess-Stephenson-Winnebago region.

Mold is the long term concern from the flood damage. Mold can start growing on wet materials in 24 to 48 hours. Thus, it is important to get all materials dried as quickly as possible that were exposed to moisture.

Safety is the most important starting point. Avoid mixing electricity and water! Don't enter areas where electrical equipment or outlets may be exposed to the standing water. Using personal protective equipment is critical for anyone cleaning after a flood.

Solomon recommends rubber gloves, eye protection and clothes that can be immediately laundered (or a protective suit) as a minimum. A proper fitting N-95, N-100 or HEPA-rated respirator/mask is recommend, especially if there is any indication of mold or if there have been overland floodwaters in the home from swollen streams and rivers.

Various water-soaked materials require different treatment plans:

Clean most surfaces with a non-ammonia soap or detergent. After cleaning semiporous materials, disinfect the area using bleach and water solution or another disinfectant. For cleaning surfaces, a mixture of one-fourths cup of bleach with one gallon of water should be adequate. The surfaces should remain wet for about 15 minutes to allow for disinfection. A higher concentration of 1 ½ cups of bleach per gallon is recommended for wood and concrete surfaces that cannot be thoroughly cleaned.

Do not mix ammonia and bleach­--the fumes are toxic! Finally, rinse the area with clean water and dry rapidly. Use fans, dehumidifiers or ventilation to move the moisture from the area.

This is a brief overview of the steps for recovering from the recent flooding. Another important step for many is to evaluate the source of the water intrusion. Can it be fixed to prevent this from happening again?

For additional resources and information, visit http://web.extension.illinois.edu/jsw or call the U of I Extension office in your county. (Jo Daviess 815-858-2273, Stephenson 815-235-4125, Winnebago 815-986-4357)

Visit www.homemoisture.org for a national database that was created by Dr. Kenneth Hellevang, North Dakota State University (NDSU) Extension, and drawn upon as a resource. NDSU has additional flood recovery information at www.ag.ndsu.edu/flood .

Source: Stanley (Jay) Solomon, Extension Educator, Energy and Environmental Stewardship, jssolomo@illinois.edu

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