Flood Cleanup Tips: When the rain stops and water subsides, flood victims can follow a few simple steps to reduce property damage and limit health risks.
Flooding occurs when rising water overflows the natural boundaries of bodies of water, such as rivers and streams, and flows across the ground picking up all kinds of contamination. The water can be contaminated with soil bacteria, decaying insects, animal droppings, oils and fluids from roadways, and fertilizers and pesticides from fields or gardens.
The IICRC offers these tips to clean up after floods:
- Use caution when entering buildings. Make sure electrical power is off and the structure is sound before entering and inspecting a flooded building. Small animals or reptiles may also seek shelter inside a structure, so be cautious when repositioning contents or removing materials.
- Protect yourself. Wear an organic vapor respirator, available from paint or building supply stores, along with rubber gloves, eye protection and protective clothing. Ventilate affected areas by opening windows, and eventually, by placing a fan in a window. Work toward the fan as you clean to minimize cross contamination.
- Know what items to throw away. Porous items that absorb contaminated flood water shouldn’t be restored. Drywall, carpet and pad, mattresses, pillows, box springs and particle board normally should be discarded if wet.
- Wet clothing and many household fabrics may be salvageable. Machine washing, including at least a 10-minute soak in detergent and hot water, should remove most contamination and stains.
- Open pockets of saturation. Remove base molding and portions of damaged walls and wet insulation. Locate the water line and measure 15 inches to 20 inches above it. Everything below that should be removed and discarded. Flooring, such as hardwood, laminate or sheet vinyl, should be removed to expose pockets of saturation underneath for cleaning, sanitizing and drying.
- Clean aggressively. Wall cavities and exposed durable materials (studs, joists) should be cleaned by pressure washing with detergent solutions. After thoroughly cleaning and flushing salvageable materials, apply a disinfectant solution liberally. A water restoration professional may be needed to perform this service safely and effectively.
- Prevent mold growth. Although it takes a few days to appear, mold thrives in a moist environment with organic material (e.g., paper or particle board), and temperatures between 68°F and 86°F. Keep air moving and maintain moderate temperatures as possible.
- Dry out before you rebuild. To prevent dry rot and on-going structural damage, don’t reconstruct or cover wood materials until its moisture content falls below 16 percent. Moisture meters are available online, but it may be best to hire a water restoration professional to confirm proper drying before reconstruction.
- Consider hiring a professional. A professional water damage restoration company has trained technicians, specialized cleaners and antimicrobial agents, and extraction, drying, dehumidifying and moisture measuring equipment.
Sewage Backup Tips: Sewage is one of the most dangerous substances to enter homes or buildings. It contains fungi, bacteria and viruses, many of which are disease-causing. Unfortunately, many people fail to understand the hazards that sewage presents, particularly for the very young or very old, or for those with compromised immune systems or respiratory problems.
The IICRC complied guidelines for professional sewage clean-up called the Standard for Water Damage Restoration (S500).
Here are the key principles homeowners should know about sewage back-ups:
- Sewage contains a variety of pathogenic – disease causing – fungi, bacteria, viruses and parasites. Anyone who works on sewage losses must have updated vaccinations, including one for Hepatitis B.
- Sewage exposure is particularly dangerous for people with weakened immune systems, including anyone under two or over 60, those who are pregnant, ill, recovering from surgery, on prescription drugs or chemotherapy, or are AIDS victims.
- It is not safe to stay in a building that’s flooded with sewage unless the contaminated area can be completely sealed off and placed under controlled air flow so that there will be no cross contamination of unaffected areas.
- Highly absorbent sewage-saturated materials, such as carpet, pad, upholstery, bedding, wicker, paper or even fabrics that can’t be washed in hot water (130°F/54°C) for at least 10 minutes, must be contained and disposed of properly. This goes for sewage-saturated drywall, insulation and several other structural materials too. There’s simply too great a health risk involved if any of these materials are dried in place and cleaned only.
- Only the most highly trained professionals should attempt sewage remediation work. Then, a “third party” indoor environmental professional can provide post-remediation verification or “clearance testing” to ensure that the home or building is safe to re-occupy.
Mold Remediation Tips: The IICRC outlines five major principles of mold remediation.
- Make sure safety and health precautions are taken by cleanup professionals and occupants. Mold-contaminated buildings can be associated with a number of health problems. Anyone involved in the mold remediation process must be protected from exposure through a combination of practices and controls.
- A post-cleanup assessment by an independent environmental expert. An effective mold remediation cannot be developed without first determining the extent of the contamination to be removed. To ensure that remediation work is being properly performed, it is highly recommended that appropriate documentation of the remediation process be kept by project management
- Control of mold before it spreads further. Eliminating mold at the source of contamination is essential. Once mold spores spread through the air, it will be much more difficult to capture.
- Oversee the proper physical removal of the mold. The mold must be physically removed from the structure. Attempts to isolate mold or remove signs of mold on the surface are not adequate. Note that bleach alone cannot kill mold.
- Ensure that moisture is controlled to limit future contamination or recontamination. Mold growth is virtually inevitable if moisture is not controlled. Moisture problems must be identified, located and corrected or controlled as soon as possible.
Tips to control Odor: A survey commissioned by the IICRC indicates that 81 percent of U.S. homeowners agree that the health of their family is directly related to the cleanliness of floors in the home. While a key component to improving air quality is eliminating carpet and rug odors, which in many cases requires regularly cleaning these surfaces, only 15 percent clean their carpet at least once a year.
According to the IICRC, the following four-step process is the best way to successfully remove odor from your carpet:
- Remove the source of the odor, as practical (absorb liquids, scoop solids)
- Thoroughly clean odor-affected surfaces and materials. Cleaning is basic to deodorizing
- Treat the odor source with an appropriate odor counteractant (sanitizer, disinfectant, enzyme)
- Seal restorable surfaces, such as subflooring, if practical
Many sources of odor, including pet urine and tobacco smoke, require specialized procedures and techniques and are best addressed by a certified professional.(IICRC).