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After a flood - clearing up

Find out how to remove mud and water after a flood and the precautions you need to take. This includes checking electrical appliances and wearing protective clothing

Before you start to clear up after a flood

Before you start to clear up, you should:

  • find out if it’s safe to return to your property
  • speak to your insurance company to find out if they will organise for professional cleaners to clear up your home

If you have been evacuated because of flooding, you’ll be told it’s safe to return home by someone from either:

  • the emergency services
  • your insurance company
  • your local council
  • your water and sewage company

Check your electricity supply and electrical appliances

Before you start clearing up:

  • check that the electricity supply has been switched off at the mains
  • if you aren’t sure the electricity is turned off, get a qualified person to do this
  • don’t touch sources of electricity while standing in floodwater.
  • get any electrical appliances that have come into contact with floodwater checked by a qualified electrician before using them again

Protecting yourself while cleaning up

Make sure you wear protective clothing when you clean up following a flood. Floodwater can be contaminated with sewage, chemicals and animal waste, so you’ll need to disinfect anything that comes into contact with it.

You should always:

  • wear protective clothing, like a  waterproof jacket and trousers and rubber gloves
  • use a face mask
  • wash your hands with disinfectant if you have been in contact with floodwater, mud or handled items that have been in contact with floodwater
  • make sure any open cuts or wounds on exposed skin are covered by a waterproof plaster

Looking after your health while cleaning up

Clearing up after a flood can be stressful and you can get ill from pollution or sewage in flood water. If you start to feel unwell, call NHS Direct or contact your GP.

Follow the links below for more advice about looking after your health after a flood.

Getting rid of floodwater

Once the water levels are lower outside than inside your property, you can begin to get rid of the water using a pump or bucket. You can hire or buy a pump and generator from a DIY shop. Make sure you put the generator outside to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning from the exhaust.

Cleaning surfaces in your home

You will need to do an initial clean and follow this by disinfecting all surfaces that have come into contact with the floodwater.

You can clean surfaces that have come into contact with floodwater using a brush, hot water and a household cleaning fluid. Don't forget to clean enclosed spaces under kitchen units or floorboards. If the floodwaters have been contaminated with oil or diesel, you’ll need to use a detergent like washing up liquid

Once you have finished cleaning, use household disinfectant on everything that has come into contact with floodwater.

Contaminated clothing and bedding will need to be washed at a high temperature.

Drying out the building

Drying out can take weeks or months, depending on how serious the flooding has been and the type and thickness of the building materials. You can use your gas or central heating to help dry out the house once the heating system has been checked by a qualified engineer. For best results the temperature should be set at between 20-22 degrees centigrade.

You can speed up the drying process by keeping the building well ventilated by opening as many windows and doors as possible and using a fan. However, if you use a dehumidifier to remove water from the air in your home, you will need to keep external doors and windows shut.

Major redecoration work – get professional advice

Get professional advice from a builder if you need to do any major redecoration or repair work on your home following a flood. Make sure you choose a builder recommended by your local council or insurance company. Follow the link below for step-by-step advice on how to choose a good builder.

Altering your home to protect against future flooding

Follow the link below to find out what changes you can make to your home to protect against flooding.

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