House Flood? – 10 Cleanup Guidelines

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We’ve spent a lot of time and energy looking at houses.

Before we purchased our last home, we looked for 18 months for a house we could afford that didn’t have water damage.

One of the questions we asked realtors or home owners was if the home had ever flooded, but quickly realized that some people’s idea of a flood vs. what we had in mind were generally two completely different ideas. I finally started to ask people, “Have you ever had a leak in your home?  Like a plumbing leak, toilet, sink, etc?”

Since we had performed mold testing before moving in, and had an inspector check the home with infrared imaging, we thought we were okay, and certainly didn’t think we had a mold issue.

I even remember telling Josh, as we pulled back into our driveway after being at a friend’s house where my allergies were kicked into high gear, “I’m just thankful that we have a safe home to return to.

This “safety” comment was made a year before finding out that three separate places in our home were hiding toxic black mold in the walls and floor.

We had some fun times and good memories in our home that we purchased.  But our time there wasn’t without health complications. Our final few months living there, symptoms were worsening so quickly that it was all we could do to keep our heads above water (no pun intended, ha!).

Safe.  If only I had known.  

I am not angry at the people who didn’t remediate correctly after flooding occurred in that house we called home.  But I am disappointed that people aren’t better informed. So many people don’t know how quickly mold grows, how toxic it is, and how to take care of water problems to avoid ruining the home — and the lives of its occupants.

So what do you do?

You’re away on vacation and something in your home leaks, causing a little flood (when we were home-searching, probably 80% of the people who told us of a water problem said that it had happened on vacation!).

Or the irrigation sprinkler gets turned the wrong way and next thing you know your basement window is breached and water seeps in.

Or, you happen to be in a location where your home floods from a storm or natural disaster.

What are the next steps?

MomsAware has compiled a list of 10 tips to keep in mind:

10 Guidelines for Safe Cleanup of Water Intrusion

  1. Understand that time is crucial. Mold grows within 24-48 hours.
  2. Record details of damage with photographs or videos.
  3. Prepare for difficult decisions. Border on the side of caution.
  4. Keep children and pets away from flooded areas. Those entering the site should wear protective gear such as N95 respirator mask, gloves, and goggles.
  5. Recognize mold. Look for discolored walls or ceilings. Check for foul odors. Does the area smell musty?
  6. Dry out the building. Open doors and windows when possible. Use fans. See the CDC’s fact sheet Reentering Your Flooded Home.
  7. When in doubt, take it out! Discard porous items that cannot be thoroughly cleaned and dried.
  8. Pay close attention to and prepare to discard the following: carpeting and carpet padding, upholstery, wallpaper, mattresses, clothing, paper, wood, and food.
  9. Discard contaminated building materials including drywall, insulation, wood flooring.
  10. Thoroughly clean all hard surfaces with hot water and soap. There are varied opinions regarding the use of bleach. All agree that bleach must never be combined with ammonia as toxic fumes will be released. It is important to note that while bleach does kill bacteria and viruses, it does not kill mold; it merely takes away the color. Other cleaning agents include white vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, borax, tea tree oil, and liquid detergents.

Number 9 is huge.  Many people think they can just pull out fans and get wet drywall to dry completely without removing it.

That’s the approach that was taken in a couple areas of our home, and I can tell you with assurance:

It doesn’t work.

Even in the desert.

It’s not worth taking shortcuts, only to be left with damage that will eventually ruin your home, and maybe even damage the health of the people you love the most.  

When it comes to a flood, I beg of you to take the time to follow these guidelines.  I think you’ll be thankful you did. 🙂


  1. We’ve pretty much done those exact steps. Just get rid of it and fix it the RIGHT way! White vinegar and some baking soda have been our best friends.

    • Sarah, I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with this damage, but thankful you guys are committed to doing things right the first time! 🙂 That man of yours sure is a keeper!


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