How To Clean A Flooded Basement

Cleaning a flooded basement is no fun. Here are some tips that can help make this task more manageable and efficient.

If your basement leaks after a heavy rain, or if your sump pump occasionally backs up or stops working, you know what it's like to face a major disaster. The basement floor may be covered in water or there may be puddles here and there. Within hours an unpleasant odor begins to form and you can only guess how long it will be before mildew and mold sprout in sundry locations.

Cleaning a water-logged basement is a challenging job. Messy, smelling, and time-consuming, it's a chore that most of us would prefer to hire out. Alas, our household budgets don't always support the recruiting of professional cleaners, so we're often on our own.

The first thing to do is enlist help if at all possible. A spouse or a sturdy child or two can ease the strain of moving things. If you must work alone, take it easy as you slide furniture out of the way.

That will be your first chore, by the way. Assess the extent of the water damage. Then begin moving furniture to the dry side of your basement, if there is one. Stack things atop one another if need be. If you can't find a dry area, then push everything to one part of the basement, leaving the other free for cleaning.

Discard all damaged items. These may include stacked newspapers, boxes of magazines, piles of folders, or children's stuffed animals if they were left on the floor or stored in cardboard boxes that were infiltrated by flood waters. Evaluate damaged valuables that you are reluctant to part with and see if they are salvageable. A trip to the dry cleaner or a cycle or two in the washer may redeem them yet. But if mold has begun to appear, it may be best to get rid of them and find replacements if possible.

Pull up carpeting or rugs for cleaning or removal. If the water damage is minor, you may be able to spread areas of the carpet on bricks for air circulation that will help to dry them out. If both rug and padding are saturated, though, they may be difficult to dry and hard to clean afterward. If you decide to try, you can call a professional carpet cleaning service or rent a carpet cleaning vacuum and do the job yourself. Wait until it thoroughly dries, and then clean the carpet by following manufacturer's directions. If you eventually find mold or mildewed areas, however, it may be best to get rid of the carpet and put down an area rug instead. Mold and mildew can contribute to allergy problems as they grow and circulate through the house's vents.

Next, assess any furniture damage. Fabric chairs or sofas that got wet may need to be professionally cleaned. If the damage is extensive, they might need to be replaced. If you have home owner's insurance with flood coverage, these items may be replaced by insurance so you won't have to pay for them yourself.

Be sure to check papers, files, books, and other items that were stored in the flood area. Hopefully these were kept in waterproof and airtight containers to prevent damage. If not, request replacement documents and store them in appropriate containers. This temporary loss may help to prepare you for the future in providing experience about protecting valuables.

Finally, prepare to clean the floor, walls, and other areas that may have been water damaged. For concrete floors, use a mild bleach solution to kill bacteria or germs. Check with a home supply dealer for the right concentration of bleach or a suitable commercial cleaner for the walls and floor. Ventilate the basement as you work, opening windows and running a fan to avoid inhaling chemical fumes. Allow the air to dry completely before moving things back to their original places. For the future, consider storing fewer things in an area that is prone to flooding.

Cleaning the basement is never a fun job, especially when it is under water. Line up your tasks and keep at it until everything is done so your life can quickly return to normal.

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