For immediate release
Extension offers advice for flood cleanup
waters from a hurricane or a heavy storm can cause a multitude of problems.
To help deal with flood-related problems, North Carolina Cooperative Extension
offers these guidelines:
after the flood
- More injuries
occur in the disaster recovery process than in the actual disaster.
Think safety first!
- Be sure that all
electric and gas services are turned off at your individual dwelling
before attempting to re-enter your home.
- Keep children
safely away from flood water, debris and damage.
- Use battery-powered
flashlights or lanterns to examine property. DO NOT use oil or gas lanterns
- Have an expert
check the electrical and gas systems in your home before returning appliances
and equipment to service.
- Beware of slippery
surfaces that can cause falls and injuries.
- Snakes that have
been displaced by high water may seek refuge in flooded structures.
you place your hands and feet as you begin clean-up activities. Wear
high boots. If
you find snakes, isolate them in a small area and seek help. Treat all
snakes as if they are poisonous.
- Stress levels are
high following disasters. Be alert for stress-warning signs in yourself,
your family members particularly children, and your neighbors. Take
breaks during clean-up efforts and recognize that not everything can
be handled at once.
- Flood water may
carry many disease-causing organisms. Wear protective clothing such
as rubber boots, goggles, rubber gloves and water-resistant outer wear.
Consider getting immunization booster shots if you've been involved
in floodwater cleanup.
- Be particularly
cautious about eating and drinking in flood areas. Hands may be contaminated,
and diseases may be transmitted by touching food directly.
Inside your home
- Start cleanup as
soon as it is safe, to prevent further damage.
- Make sure that
the water is safe to drink. Private wells should be inspected to make
sure they are not contaminated.
- Any food that has
come in contact with flood waters should be considered contaminated
and unsafe to eat.
- Sanitize surfaces,
equipment, utensils and other belongings. Liquid chlorine bleach is
an inexpensive, commonly used disinfectant. Make sure that the brand
you choose lists sodium hypochlorite at 5.25 percent as an active ingredient.
Remove all silt and dirt before sanitizing. Chlorine is more effective
in warm water than in cold.
- Kitchen utensils:
Use one tablespoon of liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water. Immerse
for at least one minute. Discard items made of porous material such
as plastic, rubber and wood.
- Sinks: Fill with
two-thirds of a gallon of water. Add one-half cup liquid chlorine bleach.
Let stand five minutes before rinsing.
- Bathtubs, showers,
floors, vinyl, tile, woodwork and appliances: Wash with a solution of
three-fourths cup of liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of warm water.
Let stand five minutes before rinsing.
- Dishwashers should
not be used until the water is safe. Clean and sanitize before using.
- Flood waters may
contain sewage, pesticides, chemicals and unknown toxins. Clothing,
carpet, upholstered furniture, draperies and other interior textiles
should be thrown away. Throw away items that are embedded with fiberglass
- Household textiles
such as towels, sheets and other linens may be disinfected and reused.
Refer to label directions to determine if the item can withstand chlorine
bleach and warm or hot water. Heavier textiles such as comforters or
quilts should be disinfected in the washer one at a time and may require
at least three rinses in clear, warm water.
- Clothing that may
have become contaminated by flood waters should be disinfected. Liquid
chlorine bleach is the cheapest and easiest-to-use disinfectant. If
chlorine bleach cannot be used on a particular garment, use a disinfectant
and an oxygen bleach.
- Separate wet items
to keep clothing colors from running together. Separate clothes requiring
dry-cleaning. Air-dry items before taking them to be dry-cleaned.
- Before clothing
is washed, make sure the water is safe and sanitize the washing machine.
- Remove mud, dirt
and residue and rinse or wash as soon as possible to prevent the growth
of mildew. Mildew is difficult to remove and may damage clothing beyond
- Wash small loads
of clothing or linens with a full water level.
- Pretreat heavily
stained garments. A prewash soil-and-stain remover works well on oil-based
stains such as motor oils. An enzyme presoak works best on protein stains
such as grass and blood.
- Rust or rust-colored
stains are best handled by a commercially prepared rust remover.
- Do not dry items
in dryer until you are satisfied with stain and dirt removal.
- Flood water can
cause major damage to appliances if it gets into motors, insulation,
electrical contacts or switches. Flood-damaged appliances may be salvaged,
but they must first be thoroughly dried out and check by an authorized
service technician before being used. The drying process may take a
week or more.
- Don't use a water
hose to clean mud-caked or dirty appliances. Water may get into places
that were not previously damaged by flood waters.
- Once the appliance
has been checked for use, clean and sanitize. If odor persists, wash
with a solution of one teaspoon baking soda and a quart of water or
a solution of one cup of vinegar or household ammonia in one gallon
- Refrigerators and
freezers with wet insulation probably can't be salvaged.
- Built-in appliances
may be saved by replacing the batt of fiberglass insulation that usually
For more information
on disaster recovery, contact your county's North Carolina Cooperative
Extension center or visit the Web site http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/disaster/.