How to Clean Up a Basement After a Flood

If you have to do your own post-flood basement cleanup, take precautions against hazards to your health before you enter the basement. A flood can bring contaminants into the home in addition to setting the stage for rot and mold. Even a small amount of water can make the basement unsafe, because the water may be conducting electrical current. Water and electricity are a deadly combination. Flooding can compromise not only your electricity but also your appliances that run on natural gas.

Mop and bucket (Image: Anetlanda/iStock/Getty Images)

Things You'll Need

  • Waders, rain boots or nonslip footwear

  • Face mask or respirator

  • Sump pump

  • Shovel

  • Hose with a high-pressure nozzle

  • Household detergent

  • Chlorine bleach

  • Push broom or scrub brush

  • Dehumidifier and fans

Make It Safe and Pump It Out

Step 1

Call your electric company and have the electricity turned off, and have your natural gas company turn off the gas, before you enter your basement after a flood. Even a small amount of water can cause electrocution, and gas emitted by water heaters or furnaces after their pilot lights go out can result in asphyxiation or explosion.

Step 2

Borrow, rent or buy a sump pump if a large amount of water is standing. Use a generator or car-battery-powered pump if the flood waters are near your home's electrical box.

Step 3

Wear waders, rain boots or nonslip footwear, and don a face mask or respirator. Pump flood water out of the basement at the same rate as it recedes outdoors to keep the pressure on the walls equalized. Do not remove the water faster, or the walls may collapse and the floor could buckle.

Clear It, Scrub It, Dry It

Step 1

Keep windows and doors open as you work to circulate fresh air. Dispose of items that you can't sanitize and restore, such as papers, books, upholstered furniture, carpeting and mattresses. Discard any food that isn't sealed in impermeable packaging.

Step 2

Remove all salvageable items. Wash any clothing, linens and other textiles as soon as possible to reduce the risk of mildew stains.

Step 3

Clear out mud and other debris with a shovel. Spray the walls and floor with a high-pressure nozzle to clean off the flood water residue. Scrub stubborn stains with detergent and water using a push broom or sturdy brush.

Step 4

Clean hard surfaces such as floors, paneling, shelving and counters with detergent and water. Mix a half-cup of chlorine bleach into 4 gallons of water. Wash the basement surfaces again to help remove odors.

Step 5

Use dehumidifiers and fans to speed the drying process. Shut the windows and doors while you're running dehumidifiers so they can remove moisture more efficiently.

Step 6

Make an appointment with a licensed electrician to inspect your home before you have the electric company restore power. Call your natural gas company for a safety inspection. Some companies will inspect gas appliances and relight pilot lights at no charge.

Tip

Contact your insurance agent immediately if you have flood coverage or a rider that might cover cleanup and any necessary repairs from water damage or sewage.

Complete the cleanup within 24 hours, if possible, 48 hours tops, to reduce the risk of mold.

Equipment rental companies or janitorial suppliers may rent pumps, dehumidifiers and large fans.

Warning

In the case of pre-1972 homes, which may contain lead paint, look into hiring a firm that's EPA lead-safe certified to perform the cleanup and any needed restoration.

Wash hands thoroughly before handling food.

Don't turn on any electrical equipment or appliances that are wet. This could result in serious injury from electric shock and could cause a fire.

Discard toys unless their materials will withstand boiling or immersion in a bleach solution.

References & Resources