Cleaning up

It is important to wash and disinfect every part of your home that has been covered by floodwaters. You must assume all floodwaters are contaminated with sewage.


Put together a clean-up kit containing useful items such as a broom, mop, bucket, and cleaning supplies.

In most cases household cleaning products will do the job. Always check the label for directions.

Tackle cleaning one room at a time. Make sure you are working in a well ventilated area.

Treat all items exposed to floodwaters as contaminated and wash your hands with a disinfectant soap after handling these items.

Get a qualified electrician to assess electrical items and your home's electrical system before you start using them again.

Hot-water systems

Only a qualified repair person should repair a flooded hot-water system. It may operate OK for a while, but hidden corrosion damage might make it stop working safely.

Floors and walls

Wash out mud and debris using a hose at medium pressure.

Clean your surfaces using two buckets: one filled with water, the other with soap and water. Rinse your sponge or mop in the first bucket, keeping most of the dirty rinse out of your cleaning solution.

After a day or two, you may need to go over rooms or objects again. Use a disinfectant to kill germs, mould, fungi and mildew.


It will take several weeks to completely dry out your house.

On dry days, keep all doors and windows open.

If your heaters are safe to use, turn them on, leaving the windows open.

Ignore mould growing on wet linings until drying is complete. It can then be removed.

Food and kitchen items

Throw out all foods exposed to floodwater except those in sealed cans.

Follow all of these steps before using this canned food:

Step 1. Remove the paper labels.

Step 2. Write on the cans with a permanent marker so you can tell what's in them.

Step 3. Disinfect the cans in a solution of three-quarters of a cup of household bleach per five litres of water for two minutes.

Step 4. Rinse the cans in clean water.

Do not treat aluminium cans with bleach solution.

Disinfect your dishes and glassware.

Throw away porous items immersed in floodwaters like wooden spoons and chopping boards, and plastic and rubber items.

Only use your dishwasher once your water is safe to drink and your sewer lines work. Clean and disinfect your dishwasher first.

Clothing and linens

Throw out damaged bedding and pillows. Feather and foam rubber pillows can be washed.

Brush dirt off fabric items then rinse thoroughly in cool water to remove mud. Dry in the sun to remove odours.

Rinse leather and suede jackets in cold water. Dry leather away from heat and sun.

Clean your washing machine by running it on empty for a 15-minute cycle with hot water and disinfectant.


When weather permits take all furniture outdoors, but keep it out of direct sunlight to prevent warping or fading.

Scrub mildew from wood furniture using a mild alkali, such as four to six tablespoons of baking soda to five litres of water. Rinse with clean water and dry.

Valuable books and papers

Separate the sheets of paper as soon as you can and allow them to dry. Do not try to unfold wet paper because it tears easily.

Small bundles of paper, such as from filing cabinets, can be placed in a freezer to stop mould and deterioration. When time allows, bundles can thaw and sheets can be separated and dried.

Place books on end to dry and keep the pages apart. After airing, pile and press them to keep the pages from crumpling.


Do not let your photos dry out, as when they dry they will stick together and will be impossible to separate.

If you cannot work on them in the first 48 hours, stack the wet photos between sheets of wax paper and freeze them in a sealed plastic bag. When you have time to do it properly, you can defrost, separate and air dry them later.

Separate wet or frozen photographs in a tub of cold, clear water. Do not wipe the wet front of the photographs. Lay the images face up to dry.

Back to top