First steps to flood recovery

2013-04-25T12:12:00Z First steps to flood recoveryPurdue Extension | Purdue University Calumet
April 25, 2013 12:12 pm  • 

If you are one of the victims affected by the recent floods, Purdue Extension has the following advice as you make decisions for your family’s belongings.


When in doubt, throw out food that may have been damaged or spoiled in the flood. Keep only foods in undamaged commercial cans, and even then, sanitize the cans before using the food inside.

To clean and sanitize cans:

·Mark the contents on lids of cans with indelible ink, and remove paper labels.

·Wash the cans in a strong detergent solution, using a scrub brush.

·Immerse the containers for 15 minutes in a solution of 2 teaspoons chlorine bleach and 1 quart of room-temperature water.

·Air-dry the cans.

Keep in mind that molds starts to grow as quickly as within 48 hours.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency offers the following suggestions for salvaging keepsakes.

Flooded Photographs

·Evaluate the condition of photos to see if they are beyond repair.

·Remove photos that can be repaired from plastic or paper enclosures and frames.

·Carefully rinse the photos with cool, clean water as necessary.

·Do not touch or blot surfaces.

·Air-dry wet photos. Hang them with clips attached to the edges, or lay them flat on absorbent paper. Don't allow photos to touch each other.

·If there are too many photos for immediate attention, keep the photos in a container of clean water. This will preserve your photos for 48 hours. If you need more time, you can freeze them. If possible, insert freezer or waxed paper between each photo before freezing.

For more information on Photograph Salvation and Restoration, go to

Flooded Books

If rinsing is necessary, hold the book closed.

·For partially wet or damp books, stand them on their top or bottom edge with covers opened at a 90-degree angle, and allow them to air-dry.

·For very wet books, lay them on a flat, clean surface. Insert paper towels or other absorbent materials through -out the book. But don't insert so much that you stretch the binding.

·If there are too many books to air-dry in 48 hours, wrap each book in freezer or waxed paper, pack them spine down in sturdy containers, and then freeze them.

Large Electrical Appliances

Appliances submerged in floodwater are often not repairable, and even those that are repaired will have a shortened life expectancy. And it's not economical to repair such small appliances as microwaves, televisions, and radios. Use the following guidelines to begin salvaging appliances.

·Disconnect the power to the building or to the circuit that feeds the appliance before unplugging it from the wall. Water can short-circuit an appliance so parts that don't normally conduct electricity can shock you.

·Make a diagram or list of all switches, contacts, motors, and wiring before disconnecting them.

·Rinse and flush all parts with clean water, and allow them to dry for several days.

·Dry and lubricate hinges, bearings, and other moving parts to prevent rust.

·Use spray-on drying agents to get rid of moisture on contacts and motors.

·Consult the diagram you've made as you reassemble the appliance. Appliances that have absorbent insulation, such as ovens, freezers, refrigerators, and water heaters, need to have wet insulation replaced. Water heaters also require special care when flushing the pipes. Be sure to flush hot water lines last so sediment doesn't end up in the water heater.

Follow these steps to begin dealing with wet insulation in your appliances, water softener, filters, and purifiers.

·Remove insulation, and consult the owner's manual for details. Be sure to wear gloves when removing the insulation.

·Clean the area, and install new insulation. Duct insulation can replace old fiberglass insulation.

·If the insulation can't be removed, it's best to discard the appliance. If that's not an option for you, and you're sure the floodwater was not contaminated, drill holes in the outer casing so the insulation can dry faster. Make sure the appliance is unplugged and do not drill through wires.

·You don't have to remove the foam insulation from newer refrigerators and freezers.

Carpets and Flooring - Wallboard and Insulation

It's best to have professional cleaners work on carpets and floors, but if that isn't possible, there are some steps you can take. Remember to clean and dry the floor thoroughly before attempting any repairs.

·Pull up saturated carpets and rugs, and drape them outside.

·Spray off muddy carpets with a hose. Use a broom to work a low-sudsing, disinfectant carpet cleaner into soiled spots.

·To discourage mildew, rinse the backing with a solution of 2 tablespoons of bleach to 1 gallon of water. Do not use this solution on wool carpets; instead, try pine-oil cleaners.

·Disinfect the slab or subfloor, and allow it to dry completely. (This may take several months.) Replace any section that separated.

·Discard and replace carpet padding.

·For wood floors, remove a board every few feet to reduce buckling. Replace the boards once the floor is dry.

·Remove floor coverings with wood subflooring, and replace the subfloor. You don't have to remove vinyl covering concrete floors, but doing so will hasten drying and prevent mold.

·Replace loose tiles over soaked flooring. This may mean a few tiles or the entire sheet.

·Because wallboard and porous insulation can harbor bacteria and mold that can be harmful to humans, replace any that came into contact with floodwater.

For more information regarding flood recovery, contact Purdue Extension in Lake County by calling (219) 755-3240 or visit the web site:

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