Getting through an extreme weather event is stressful. Once you are able to survey the damage, you can begin phase two of a natural disaster – the cleanup. First, if your home is not structurally sound after a natural disaster, do not enter! Cleaning up after a natural disaster is considerably different than your typical daily cleaning. You will need special equipment, protective gear, and different cleaning techniques to effectively clean after a natural disaster.
Use Proper Safety Gear and Products when Cleaning up After a Natural Disaster
Extreme weather events often leave the area strewn with debris and other hidden dangers. You will need protective gear to prevent injury and exposure to disease. For example, we suggest wearing steel toe boots when walking through questionable areas. A thick long-sleeved shirt, rubber gloves, and protective gloves will limit your exposure to debris or contaminated flood waters. You may also need plastic tubs or buckets to remove standing water inside of your home.
Remove Floodwater Quickly to Prevent Mold Growth
Floodwater often contains dangerous bacteria, raw sewage, and other nasty surprises, so take extra precaution if your home is flooded. To prevent mold growth, ensure your home is as dry as possible after a weather event (within 48 hours is best).
Discard anything that is porous, damaged beyond cleaning or anything that cannot be quickly dried. Items to get rid of may include furniture that is not properly upholstered, pillows, books, wall furnishings and carpeting. Drywall and insulation may also need to be tossed out if too much water has compromised it.
A wet/dry vacuum can operate without cleaning solutions to extract water from hard and soft surfaces. However, do not operate any electrical equipment in standing water to avoid electrocution. Instead, bring in a professional with a sump pump to extract the water quickly.
Sanitize Everything Before Using it Again
Disinfect children’s toys that may have come in contact with floodwater. As mentioned, floodwaters harbor nasty diseases that can get your children very sick just from playing with a favorite toy. A solution of 50% white vinegar and 50% water is an effective disinfectant for children’s toys in this scenario.
When cleaning up after a natural disaster, it is best to dry and disinfect all surfaces. This includes your flooring, countertops, appliances, sinks and your various plumbing fixtures. You can use the solution above in a spray bottle or bucket to disinfect hard surfaces.
Wash clothing and bedding thoroughly, preferably with hot water and detergent plus a few extra rinse cycles to remove contaminants.
Make sure to thoroughly wash any exposed cuts or sores once you’ve completed your cleaning. If your community is under a boil water order, bring the water to boil for one minute and allow to cool before attempting to use it on your body
Do not overextend yourself! Use teams or professionals to move heavy objects
Although there are some things you can do yourself, it may be best to wait for professional service crews to come around to remove large debris. Trying to remove oversized debris yourself can result in injury and damage to the home. Be sure to get rest and prioritize which jobs are doable and delegate accordingly if you are fortunate enough to have help.
Cleaning up after a natural disaster can be daunting so be sure to get support wherever possible. If you do not feel up to the task, hire a cleaning crew with experience in disaster cleanup. With the proper equipment and aid to each project and before you know it, your home will be well on its way to making a full recovery.