After a Flood: How to Protect You and Your Family

Page archived as of November 23, 2015

Severe flooding can pose several hazards, including ingestion of contaminated food or water, or contact with contaminated surfaces, injury resulting from structural collapses or electrical shock resulting from exposed wiring, especially in wet conditions. The following are actions you can take to ensure that you and your family remain safe and healthy after a flood:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly and often and practice basic hygiene
  • Have bottled water available for drinking and hygiene if there is no running water
  • Discard any food and beverages that have been in contact with floodwater, even those in sealed containers, including cans
  • Do not enter flooded buildings unless accompanied by structural and/or electrical experts

Buildings Affected by Floodwaters: Safety and Clean-Up

The interiors of flood-damaged dwellings are potentially hazardous. Items in these buildings should be considered potentially contaminated with bacteria, viruses, molds and chemicals from the floodwaters. Absorption into soil, water, floors, walls, household items, and furnishings must be prevented as much as possible. If using a pump to divert sewage/flood waters, do so via sewer line clean-outs and not into a storm sewer system. All surfaces can then be properly disinfected and cleaned. Interior cleaning should be performed in the following manner:

  • Keep all windows open for ventilation
  • Dispose standing water/sewage inside the structure
  • Discard water-damaged porous or spongy materials such as books, mattresses, box sprints, upholstered furniture, ceiling, wall and flooring coverings including carpet, wet insulation, wooden kitchen utensils and cutting boards
  • Discard any food and beverage containers that have been in contact with flood waters
  • Wash and disinfect all contaminated household items, solid wood furniture, appliances, and other items with disinfecting solution of ¼ cup chlorine bleach to 1 gallon clean water. Allow contact of 5 minutes with solution.
  • Soak cooking and eating utensils for 30 seconds in a bleach solution of 1 teaspoon of household bleach added to 1 gallon of water
  • Wash and disinfect all food contact surfaces with ample amounts of the above-mentioned bleach solution


  • Cavities in walls, floors and ceilings must be opened, cleaned, decontaminated and thoroughly dried

Walls, Floors and Ceilings

  • Discard drywall and paneling that contacts floodwater
  • Remove stainless steel wall panels and set aside for re-use later
  • Discard insulation that contacts flood waters
  • Discard all absorbent floor coverings including carpet and carpet pads
  • Thoroughly scrub floors and woodwork within 48 hours, using a stiff brush, water, detergent and sanitizer (a solution of 1 cup bleach per gallon of water)
  • Discard ceiling tile or other absorbent materials contaminated by floodwater

Note: If any materials are still wet or moist after 24-48 hours, you should assume they have mold growing on them and discard them


  • Discard flood water-contaminated upholstered furniture such as chairs, stools, and couches
  • Discard any furniture that cannot be effectively cleaned and sanitized
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