How to Clear up after Flooding

Flooded street
It can take many months to clear up buildings that have been flooded (Photo: Keith Moseley CC)

It seems that instances of buildings being flooded are increasing. Whether the cause of the flooding is rain or or tides, the effects can be catastrophic. If your property has been flooded, there are some basic steps you need to take to clear up. What to do if your building has been flooded:

1. Always think about safety first!


If you are in danger of being flooded, turning of the electricity and gas supplies is an important safety measure. Always keep all appliances out of water. If you have been flooded and these services were left on, turn off the electricity supply. Wear rubber-soled shoes or boots to avoid the danger of electrical shock. If your consumer unit (fuse box) has been flooded, don''t switch the power back on until the system has been checked by a qualified electrician. Before you switch the electricity back on, make sure all appliances are switched off. Any portable electrical appliances that have been in contact with floodwater should also be checked by a qualified electrician.


If your gas meter or a gas appliance has been under water, contact British Gas before switching on any appliance. Even if appliances appear to be working normally, flues may have become blocked by mud. Get all appliances checked by a Gas Safe Engineer.

Flood Water:

Don''t assume that you know what is under flood water! Mud and silt can hide hazards like glass or uneven surfaces. Flood water is very likely to be contaminated. Don''t let children play in it. When cleaning, wear strong rubber gloves. Cover any cuts and grazes with waterproof dressings and use disinfectant.


Throw away any food that has come into contact with floodwater. Throw away any frozen food that has defrosted. (You may be able to claim on the insurance for these losses. ) All food storage areas and crockery need to be washed down with hot water and disinfectant. Be especially careful to disinfect and rinse all cooking areas and equipment - including sinks, taps -- and your hands!

Drinking water:

Don''t drink the tap water unless you have been told it is safe.

2. Insurance - Record Everything

Make sure you have your insurance documents in a safe place. Check your policy and find out what cover you have. You need an accurate record of any damage. Inspect your property thoroughly and make a record of all damage. Photographs or video cameras can give the best information. Be aware that some problems may take a while to show, so keep checking your home for changes. Inform your insurance company. Also contact your local council. If you are a tenant, your landlord, ask them about what help they may be able to offer.

3. Clearing and Cleaning up

Don''t attempt to live in a home that contains standing water. When most of the water has drained away, sweep or shovel away the dregs. Then rinse away all the dirty water, silt and dirt with clean water. Hose down the outside walls. Remove all soft furnishings that are wet. All bedding, curtains, clothes, etc. should be washed on the hottest temperature allowed on the label. Some items may need dry-cleaning. Unfortunately, many may be beyond saving. Once they have become mouldy, many items will have to be thrown away. Wash down all hard surfaces using hot water and disinfectant or soap, and allow to dry. If mould or mildew appears, wash the surfaces down with disinfectant. Mould can cause allergic/respiratory reactions, so wear a face-mask. Clean and oil all hinges and locks to prevent them from corroding.


Kitchen units are usually made of chipboard or mdf. Neither of these materials is good with water, and if units have been submerged, they will need to be replaced. Scrub any surfaces used for food preparation thoroughly with disinfectant that is food-safe. After cleaning, rinse them with clean water.

4. Drying out the Building:

As with condensation, you need to get moisture out of the building. escape. The single most effective thing you can do is to get fresh air moving through the property - this will take the moisture-laden air out and replace it with dryer air. Open the windows and doors and get a breeze moving through the space. Fans can help circulate the air. If it is safe to use, turn on the heating and leave it on. Dehumidifiers can help. If you have covered air bricks, make sure you remove the covers. Non-breathable wall-coverings like vinyl wallpaper can stop moisture from evaporating and may need to be removed. Be aware that it can take months to fully dry out a building. Although it may be hard to resist, don''t redecorate for at least a few months after the walls have dried. Remove floor coverings such as carpets or vinyl flooring that have been immersed to allow the floor to dry. Contact your local council about what help they are offering and about arranging for skips.