Cleaning Carpets and Floors After a Storm or Flood

Claudette Reichel  |  3/17/2005 2:36:45 AM

Cleaning water-soaked carpets and floors is difficult under any conditions, but in the aftermath of a storm or flood, contamination by mud, silt, sewage and mildew can compound the problem.

It's best to get professional cleaners to work on carpets and floors, but this may not be possible. In any case, begin cleanup as soon as possible.


Carpets

  • Pull up saturated carpets and rugs, and drape them outdoors.
  • Hose muddy carpets down. Work a low-sudsing, disinfectant carpet-cleaning product deep into soiled spots with a broom.
  • If only small areas of carpet got wet from leaks, pull up and prop the wet carpet to dry. Cut away wet padding.
  • To discourage mildew and odors, rinse the backing with a solution of 2 tablespoons of bleach to 1 gallon of water. Don’t use this solution on wool carpets. Also disinfect the slab or subfloor.
  • Discard and replace foam pads.

Floors

  • Sections of subfloors that separate must be replaced to avoid buckling. When floor coverings are removed, allow subfloors to dry thoroughly, even though it may take several months. Disinfect all wet surfaces with a solution of 1 cup chlorine bleach in 1 gallon water.
  • In wood floors, remove a board every few feet to reduce buckling caused by swelling. Ask a carpenter for tips on removing tongue-and-groove boards.
  • Clean and dry floor thoroughly before attempting repairs.
  • In vinyl floors with wood subflooring, the floor covering should be removed so the subflooring can be replaced. With concrete floors, removal isn't necessary except to hasten drying of the slab.
  • Loose tiles may be replaced if the floor has not been soaked. If water has seeped under sheet flooring, remove the entire sheet.
  • While cleaning, wash exposed skin frequently in purified water. Wear rubber gloves for extra protection against contamination.
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