Tips for Cleaning Your Home After Water Damage

Tips for cleaning your home after water damage

Water in unwanted places can cause a lot of damage. Not only can it ruin your prized possessions, but also the house in which they are stored. If you’re able to act quickly, you can minimize the damage and possibly save some of your possessions. Some of your success depends on how long the water’s been around, there might be pieces of furniture that can be saved, and sometimes, even carpet, but any electronics hit by water are probably doomed.

Don’t treat flood water in unwanted places lightly: even if your basement only has an inch of water in it, or is even just damp, it is the perfect breeding ground for mold. Mold growth not only ruins walls, furniture, carpets, flooring, etc., it can lead to poor indoor air quality causing respiratory problems including asthma, and can lead to severe illness. Preventing mold growth is key to keeping your home’s air clean and healthy. So in addition to calling your insurance company, here are a few tips to deal with your flooded basement and minimize the water damage. (Call your insurance company before you do anything, and tell them what you want to do.)

  1. Disconnect the power, unplug any electronics, and remove electronics, furniture and movable items immediately. The faster you get items out of water’s way, the more likely you’ll be able to save them. Definitely move all electrical items first, and if you can, turn off your power leading into the affected area, especially if water rises above electrical outlets. Pull up any carpets (wall to wall and area rugs) and underpadding. You may be able to save the carpet if you get it cleaned and disinfected, however, it may shrink and be better off as an area rug afterwards. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to save the underpadding, which acts like a sponge and absorbs a lot of water.
  2. Get rid of the water. There are several ways to get rid of the water. If you don’t have power, or are worried about loose wires, the old-fashioned, manual way will work. Use old towels, buckets and mops to soak up as much water as possible. As long as sewers in your neighbourhood aren’t backed up, you can pour the water down the drain, otherwise, pour onto your lawn or other permeable surface. A wet/dry vacuum can be used too, note: be very careful to plug it into outlets far away from water. Don’t use an extension cord as the connection could also short out and give you a nasty shock. Water and electricity don’t mix! If your basement or other flooded area is overwhelming and you have power, consider renting (if available) a sump pump from your local Rent-all or hardware stores. Getting rid of all the water and drying out the area is the most important thing you can do to prevent mold growth.

    drywall cutaway, after flood waters are mopped up

    drywall cutaway, after flood waters are mopped up

  3. Dry out the affected area. Once you’ve mopped up all the water, use fans and  a dehumidifier to help dry out the area. If it’s stopped raining, open windows to allow for air circulation and faster drying. You want to dry the area out as soon as possible. If you have a finished basement and the drywall was affected, you’ll probably have to cut away the areas that were touched by water as the drywall will crumble and the paper backing is a good source of food for mold. If you have baseboard trim, take it up first, and if it’s made from pressboard it will likely not be salvageable. If it was wood, you might be able to save it.
  4. Disinfect. After the area has dried out, including wood beams, insulation, drywall, etc., use a good disinfectant to get rid of any bacteria that might have come up through sewers, toilets, etc. Gloves Off Disinfectant, is a non-toxic but powerful disinfectant. Disinfect all areas affected by the flood waters including walls and wood and non-upholstered furniture that sat in flood water.
  5. Prevent mold growth. After you’ve disinfected and let the area thoroughly dry out, apply Concrobium throughout the affected area according to directions. I can’t say enough good things about this product; it is non-toxic, made with distilled water and inorganic salts. You can use it on furniture, walls, floors, basically anything that is susceptible to mold growth. Once a thin layer of Concrobium is applied, let it dry overnight. As Concrobium dries, it forms a thin layer over any mold that may be growing and actually crushes the roots of the spores. Wherever it’s sprayed will prevent any mold from growing, providing continued resistance. If you’re spraying an entire room, you might want to consider renting a mister from a hardware store such as Home Depot. It’s easy to use and very fast.
  6. Dispose of damaged items responsibly: you’ll be tempted to throw everything into a dumpster and send it all away and out of site. But if you can organize damaged goods into piles and take what you can to recycling centres, you will help alleviate the pressure on your local landfill site. Go to your city or town’s waste management website to find out where to recycle old paints, stains, adhesives and other toxic liquids, any damaged electronics from cell phones to TVs and computers, furniture, and even drywall. You can also look through Earth 911 to find recycling centres in your neighbourhood.

Cathy Rust writes about green building materials, and where to find them in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa. You can find her blog at



17 responses to “Tips for Cleaning Your Home After Water Damage”

  1. Free Energy says:

    I do trust all of the ideas you’ve offered to your post. They are really convincing and will definitely work. Nonetheless, the posts are too quick for newbies. May just you please prolong them a little from subsequent time? Thanks for the post.

  2. Just found this website about mold removal, removal of moisture damaged items or water restoration methods and much more tips on the exact type of services we provide in Cincinnati Ohio.

    I am very glad that I found this blog because so far the tips and methods have been well wrote and interesting getting this side of view on things as we are sort of a pioneer in this business being in business 15 years.

    I will also be using this blogs articles as a reference to some of the facts and information we have on our site so thanks for the information and please feel free to check us out at Mold removal Cincinnati Ohio

  3. Helen says:

    Hello, I have a pinhole leak in my wall that is getting fixed as I type. Pretty sure it started yesterday morning and I found it yesterday morning. I can see some water damage on my wall in my bedroom but no mold growth. The molding is coming off in this area. The plumbers have opened up the other side of the wall in the garage and are fixing the leak through there. Since there is water damage from the inside out is it necessary to take out the drywall and insulation or could we just dry it out with fans then use concrobium? Thank you.

  4. Thanks for the great tips. Water damage for home owners are an absolute nightmare to deal with.

  5. Great step by step on what to do when you have unwanted water or water damage to your home. It’s so crucial to ensure jobs like this are done correctly. The CDC does a good explaining how serious of a health risk mold can be to your family. Check it out…

  6. Water damage can be the worst nightmare any homeowner could have. Thanks for the share!

  7. Great post! Been reading a lot about recovering form carpet damage. Thanks for the info here!

  8. Jacqueline.A says:

    I think while cleaning, due respect and regards to ‘safety’ should be taken. I second these thoughts! You cannot plan cleaning with power plugs one and being vulnerable to accidents. Precaution has to be the key. Well thanks for sharing these very useful tips, I am glad I came across this post.

  9. As a Water Damage Expert I could not agree more with and thank you for this post. Many times uninsured homeowners attempt to tackle flood damage themselves. The biggest problem I see is failure to thoroughly dry the structure. A small residential dehumidifier is not going to remove enough moisture quickly enough to prevent mold growth. You would need several placed throughout the affected area to match the effectiveness of a commercial dehumidifier. Contact a professional in your area that will offer advice on steps you can take. Believe me it will be time well spent.


    • A few weeks ago our sewer backed up. We only have a concrete floor in the basement. But I have an eagle hand carved from wood. Its very big, its an 8 foot wing span! I recently noticed mold on it!!!! It didnt get wet it hangs on the wall but I want to clean it but not ruin it. Its the only thing I have left of my fathers! Donna

  10. It is a very helpful step by step process to remove unwanted water. Thank you for sharing all of these it is very informative.

  11. Watergon says:

    Good information, but here’s a quick and important TIP–

    Your homeowner policy covers most forms of flood and water damage. You can get professionals to do the work for you and they will bill your insurance. Your insurance adjuster, if you think about it, doesn’t have much incentive to educate you on everything you are entitled to with your policy.

    But you are entitled to a lot.

    Call a water damage professional for more info.

  12. Michael says:

    Is bleach a good cleanser to use to fight germs and mold after a basement flood?

  13. AllyJones says:

    Thanks for the great tips! I live in the Midwest and my basement flooded a few weeks ago after it rained for three days straight. Fortunately, we got most furniture and other household items out in time. Unfortunately though, the floors (carpet included) and walls were damaged. I have looked for various tips online and found many including this one: Please share any other suggestions/tips. Don’t allow your kids and pets to play or stay in areas where it was flooded. Wear a protective mask if you have respiratory problems when cleaning flooded areas.

  14. Mike says:

    Great tips for cleaning up after water damage. I’ve never tried Concrobium before, I’m going to look that up this weekend. Thanks!

  15. larry says:

    our home was recently flooded. we was able to save the floors to our trailer but the sheet rock was well gone. was wondering how do i get old sheetrock that has been dried to my OSB floor off. if anyone know please let me know

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