40 tips for cleaning up after a flood or water damage

Flooding in your home can come about for a variety of reasons. Maybe your dishwasher or washing machine broke, a pipe burst, or maybe there’s been too much rain. 


Although it might seem like something that only happens in movies or to people who live in flood-prone areas, it can happen unexpectedly.  

There are many reasons why flooding and water damage could impact your home. 8 of these reasons include:

  1. The washing machine or dishwasher leaks during the wash cycle.
  2. The washing machine or dishwasher waste hose comes loose. 
  3. The hot water system leaks. 
  4. External issues, such as sewage backup in the street causing backflow into bathrooms and showers.
  5. A leaking roof in a storm.
  6. A storm-damaged roof, window or wall caused by falling trees (or other structures) allowing water into homes.
  7. Water run-off from the road entering your property during heavy rain.
  8. Over-flow from the neighbour’s swimming pool entering your house during rain. 

No matter the source of the water, there are steps you can take to protect your family, save your home, and prevent health hazards. Here is a collection of our top tips to help you clean up after a flood in your home.

The three types of water that could be flooding your home

There are three different types of water that you may deal with when you have a flooding issue in your home. 

  1. Clean water (category 1) might come from rain or leaky pipes and doesn’t have harmful bacteria growing in it. 
  2. Greywater (category 2) comes from sources like your dishwasher or washing machine and could be slightly contaminated. 
  3. Blackwater (category 3) can come from sewers or flooding from a nearby body of water. 

You should only attempt to clean up yourself if your house is flooded with category 1 or 2 water. For information about category 3 water, or black water, you can read our specialty article. 

What do I do if my home floods?

Here are some immediate steps to take if you find your home inundated with water:

  • Get your family and pets to safety. 
  • Stop the water entering the home if possible and safe to do so.
  • Make phone calls – if it seems to be a problem impacting multiple properties, emergency services should be notified. If it’s isolated to your property, report it to your water company and local council. If you rent, make sure you let the landlord know. 
  • Contact your insurance company to let them know what has happened. 

What should I do when I go back into my home?

Depending on the scale of the problem and whether it’s an ongoing situation, there may be a period of time before you can go back into your home. Here are some tips for how to manage your return to your home:

  • Make sure the property doesn’t pose a danger to yourself or anyone who is cleaning up.
  • Make sure children and pets are kept out of the affected area until the clean-up is complete. This is particularly important if grey water or black water is present.
  • Document everything. Although the first thing on your mind is cleaning up the mess you need to take photos to capture all aspects of the damage. 

Safety and hygiene

  • The water that’s flooding your home may be contaminated, so don’t touch it. It’s a good idea to wear protective gear such as waders, waterproof boots and rubber gloves. 
  • Use a torch when entering a building, never use matches or cigarette lighters.
  • Make sure there are no electrical hazards. Switch off the power at the switchboard. If you’re unsure, consult an electrician.
  • Get an electrician to check electrical appliances before you turn them back on. Most have the electric motor mounted very low to the floor, so even a small amount of water can cause damage. 
  • Make sure you disinfect cleaning mops, brooms and brushes at the end of each cleaning session. A bleach-based cleaning solution is recommended.
  • Clean and dry your dirty boots, waders and gloves and wash your clothes in hot water and soap separately from uncontaminated items at the end of each cleaning session.
  • Any cuts, grazes or wounds need to be treated immediately. Disinfect the wounded area and cover with a waterproof dressing. Keep wounds clean by washing well with soap and clean water at the end of each cleaning session.

How do I clean-up after a flood? General tips

  • Sweep out the water and remove any mud and silt that has built up in the house.
  • Remove all wet items from the house as soon as possible so they can be cleaned and dry properly. This also allows for more airflow inside the house to assist it to dry out.
  • Throw away items that can’t be salvaged. If grey water or black water is present this will include household materials that can’t be effectively cleaned or disinfected such as carpet, upholstered furniture and mattresses. 
  • If plasterboard is waterlogged it will need to be removed and thrown away.
  • Throw away any food and medication that has been in contact with floodwater.
  • Thoroughly wash with soap, detergent or a bleach solution all affected surfaces.
  • Remove kickers from beneath kitchen cabinets so the air can circulate underneath and assist things to dry out.
  • Check under the house to make sure there is no water pooling under there. Use a pump or dig a drain if necessary to remove the water. This is important to allow the house to dry out properly.
  • If it’s not raining, keep windows and doors open to maximise ventilation and drying. On wet days, leave the windows ajar so there is still some ventilation. 
  • Heaters, fans, air conditioners and dehumidifiers can be used, but don’t use too much heat or it can cause wood to warp and split. 

How to clean specific items

Clothes

  • Get the mud and dirt off the clothes before washing them – you might need to hose them off.
  • Add chlorine or bleach to the machine wash cycle to remove mildew (remember that bleach can damage some fabrics).
  • Wash clothes in warm water if possible (check clothing labels).
  • Take ‘dry clean only’ and leather items to a professional cleaner.
  • Once you’ve cleaned the dirty clothes, run the washing machine through one full cycle before washing other clothes – use hot water and a sanitiser.

Paper and books

  • Freeze documents in a frost free freezer
  • Once they’ve thawed, dry them with a blow dryer
  • Photocopy valuable documents as soon as you can
  • Don’t force paper sheets apart, wait until they are dry and come apart easily.

Photos

  • If photos have become wet freeze them to slow down damage
  • Place wet or frozen photos in cold, clear water and separate those stuck together
  • Do not let photos come into direct contact with running water
  • Lay images face up on a kitchen towel
  • Never wipe photos when wet

How can we help you?

  • We can work with you through all the steps mentioned above. We’ll remove the water, help you salvage your personal items, thoroughly dry the home and make sure it’s properly treated to remove harmful bacteria and stop mould growing.
  • We’ll take the stress out of the situation, complete the job to a high standard, deliver superior service levels and work with you to return your property to its prior standard.
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