How to Clean Up After a Building Backup

You can significantly minimize the damage to your property and personal belongings by following these basic cleaning guidelines.

Step 1: Assemble cleaning supplies

  • Rubber gloves, rubber boots
  • Cleaning & disinfectant products
  • Eye goggles, dust mask
  • Trash bags
  • Rags, paper towels
  • Mop, pail, broom, hose
  • Shop vacuum

Step 2: Remove furnishings and personal items from the affected area

Raw sewage and flood waters contain illness causing contaminants. Absorbent materials, such as carpets, upholstery and mattresses are at high risk for mold growth and usually cannot be saved. Hard, non-absorbent goods, including appliances, can sometimes be salvaged if they have not been submerged. But they can pose serious shock hazards if not completely dried. It is better to be safe than worry when choosing what to keep and what to discard.

May be salvageable Should always be thrown away
Hardwood furniture Carpeting, padding, rugs
Appliances Upholstered furniture, mattresses, pillows
Irreplaceable photographs Toys, stuffed animals
Bedding, sheets Medicine, medical supplies
Clothing, shoes Cosmetics
Paper products

Step 3: Clean and disinfect one room at a time

Use two buckets for cleaning.

  • Use one bucket for cleaning solution and another bucket for clean rinse water.
  • Rinse your mop, sponge, or rags in the clean rinse water and wring it dry.
  • Re-wet your mop, sponge or rags in the cleaning solution.
  • Replace the clean rinse water often.

Disinfect to kill germs, mildew, and odor.

  • Apply disinfectant solution to the room or item.
  • Allow sufficient contact and drying time.

Cleaning products:

  • Dish washing liquid for lightly soiled items.
  • Laundry detergent for heavier soiled items.

Disinfectant products:

  • Use a mixture of bleach and hot water (4 to 8 tablespoons of bleach to 1 gallon of water) to remove odor and bacteria.
  • Many household products are capable of disinfecting surfaces. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions on the product label.

Never mix bleach with ammonia or other household chemicals. This can create a poisonous gas.

Step 4: Ventilate or dehumidify the house until it is completely dry

  • Open exterior doors and windows.
  • Open interior doors and cabinet doors.
  • Circulate air using several box fans.
  • Run a dehumidifier or air conditioning unit.