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How to Clean Up Your Flooded Basement

Last Updated: February 28, 2018

A flood emergency can happen at any time. A flooded basement can be caused by all sorts of things, including a broken sump pump, storm sewer backup, a burst washing machine hose or even a failed water heater tank. No matter what causes a flood, there are important steps a homeowner can take to begin the flood cleanup process.

If flood water inside your home is pumped out promptly, your walls, as well as your carpet, flooring, ceiling and personal property can quickly become damaged, creating an unsafe environment of breeding bacteria, mold growth and rotting wood. The flood restoration process consists of two major phases: flood water removal, and flood cleanup, which includes the drying process.

Step 1. Remove the Flood Water

If there is only a relatively small amount of water, you may be able to mitigate some of the flood damage by beginning the drying process on your own. Remove as much flood water as possible with wet-dry vacuums and pumps. Squeegee water into floor drains. If floor drains are clogged, try plunging or use a drain snake to remove the clogs. If you don’t own water removal equipment, you can typically rent a pump from a tool rental store. (Remember, diesel and gasoline engines create deadly carbon monoxide exhaust fumes. Never use gasoline-powered pumps indoors).

After water removal, dry out the affected area with fans and dehumidifiers to prevent mold and mildew from forming. If possible, open doors and windows to help maximize air circulation.

Remember, water removal is just the first step. Simple drying techniques are often not enough when removing water after a flood. The approach you take to water damage restoration will depend heavily on the types of rooms and belongings affected.

Step 2. Clean Up

Upholstery, carpets, walls and floor coverings are porous which means a basic cleaning will not suffice and more extensive disinfection, deodorizing and flood restoration is required. Surface cleaning only removes visible contamination. Microorganisms are often left behind, which can potentially cause health problems and unpleasant odors. All surfaces affected by water damage must be thoroughly cleaned, disinfected and deodorized in order to properly eliminate mold, bacteria, fungi and other viruses.

Everything that came into contact with the floodwater must be cleaned. You don’t need to purchase anything special. Most household cleaners will be effective for flood cleanup. After cleaning walls and nonporous surfaces with a household cleaner or detergent, follow up with a disinfectant to prevent future mold or mildew growth. A diluted bleach solution (½ cup liquid chlorine bleach to a gallon of water) can work for this as well. For large areas, you can use a garden spray pump or similar tool. Let everything air dry.

Fabric and paper items may or may not be salvageable, depending on the length of exposure and any sentimental or financial value. Best practice is if in doubt, throw it out. Old toys, books, cardboard boxes, blankets, throw pillows, clothes, and the like should not be kept unless they can be safely bleached. Important papers, books, and photographs can actually be frozen and dealt with later, once the water is removed and the area is drying out. Place a sheet of wax paper in between pages and store safely in a frost-free freezer to address later.

In many cases, carpet and padding often cannot be cleaned well enough to prevent the growth of mold and mildew. The same goes for subflooring made of plywood or particle board. If your basement is finished, you may need to cut out and throw away the affected drywall and remove any affected insulation. You may also need to remove baseboard trim. (Pressboard will likely be ruined, but solid wood trim may be saved.)

Step 3. Disinfect the Flooded Area

Many homeowners are tempted to quickly move past the flood damage and jump straight into rebuilding, but rushing through the flood cleanup process before everything fully dries usually leads to problems. Though time consuming, it is imperative that you disinfect every surface in order to prevent mold and mildew. In moderate to severe flood situations, allow a week or more for visible moisture to disappear. It can take as long as two weeks or more for unseen moisture (such as behind walls or inside air ducts) to fully evaporate.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the water floodwater restoration process, call a professional water cleanup service like Roto-Rooter, to begin the water cleanup and drying process with professional grade drying and dehumidifying equipment.

Call your insurance company. Remember that Roto-Rooter will work directly with your insurance company to make this difficult time as easy on you as possible.

Roto-Rooter’s water restoration technicians are IICRC certified. They will perform water extraction; remove unsalvageable contents, such as carpet and other flooring, drywall, paneling, shelving, cabinets; and clean the affected areas before apply disinfecting and deodorizing agents. Roto-Rooter will thoroughly dry the structure and haul away harmful and water-damaged debris.

The water damage restoration professionals at Roto-Rooter are experienced at getting your home or business back to normal as quickly as possible and Roto-Rooter is available when you need service most, 24/7/365.

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